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Coat-of-Arms (Basque Country, Spain)

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[Coat-of-Arms (Basque Country, Spain)]
image by Antonio Gutiérrez, taken with permission from the S.E.V. website

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Evolution from 1936 to nowadays

Let me try a complete history of the basque coat-of-arms. The emblem was initially decreed on October 19th, 1936 (published October 21st) by the Provisional Government of Euzkadi. The text of this Decree is already on FOTW-ws. With the arrival of the new regime in 1939, the emblem, along with the flag and the autonomy, were suppressed. The symbols continued in use by the Basque Government in exile.

On January 4th, 1978, following the establishment of the democratic government in Spain, was instituted the Consejo General del País Vasco (General Council of the Basque Country), by Royal Decree-Law No. 1/78, published in BOE of January 6th. The Agreement of November 2, 1978 restablished the 1936 emblem.

Four years later (in 1982) came the request of the Navarran governement regarding the presence of the Navarran coat-of-arms on the basque emblem, resolved by the Constitutional Court in 1985 (also on FOTW-ws). This sentence was observed by the Basque government, and an Agreement of March 25th, 1986 modified the Arms, removing the Navarran chains leaving the fourth quarter plain red. The Decree 690/91, of December 17 oficialized the previous Agreement. Another Decree, the 117/93, of April 27 established the official design of the emblem.

There are some differences between the older and the new design, as follows:

  1. On the first quarter both the designs of the castle and of the arm with sword were changed. Besides the castle is now on top of a grey rock, and the arm and sword are light blue in colour.
  2. On the second quarter the field changed from red (gules) to argent, the bordure from argent to gold, the crosses form green (sinople) to red (gules) and the ground (terrase) from green (sinople) to maroon.
  3. On the third quarter the field changed from argent to gold, and the ground (terrase) has been removed, leaving only the trees and the waves.

Antonio Gutiérrez, 10 Dec 1999

The Arms of Navarre in the Basque Coat-of-Arms

António Martins mentioned that the coat-of-arms referred image by Dave Martucci might be the coat-of-arms of the Autonomous Government of the (Spanish) Basque Country 1936-1939, which was created by the Decree of 19th October 1936 concerning the adoption of the coat-of-arms and flag, shortly before the start of the Spanich Civil War, and disappeared at its end. He also suggested it might be the initially proposed coat-of-arms for the Basque Autonomous Community, which was later rejected by a 1981 Constitutional Court sentence which said the arms of Navarre could not appear on the Basque coat-of-arms (at least until Navarre decides to join the Basque Autonomous Community). It wasn't in 1981 that the Constitutional Court rejected the "Navarran coat of arms" out of the Basque coat of arms, but in 1985. It is the STC 94/1985 of 29th July. (Source: Boletín de Jurisprudencia Constitucional 52-53, Agosto-Septiembre 1985. Cortes Generales. Secretaría General del Congreso de los Diputados. Secretaria General del Senado. ISSN 0211-5921). The request of the Navarran governement was transmitted in 1982. The decision concerning the Navarran coat of arms is quite long (13 pages DIN A4). I cannot explain all but the judging was based on several points:

  • the Spanish Constitution which allows the Communities to adopt their own emblems
  • the fact that the Foral Community of Navarre is juridically speaking quasi a community
  • the fact that the Basque Community spoke only about the flags and historical ensigns in his statute of autonomy
  • the fact that a red shield with golden chains and an emerald is undoubtfully associated with Navarre through history
  • the fact that the presence of the Navarran Arms in the coat of arms of the Basque governement is a vindication of Navarre by the Basque Government.
There are other points taken in consideration, but many concern particular points of Spanish legislation and special specifications concerning Navarre.

Pascal Vagnat, 24 Oct 1998

The coat of arms on official Basque Government flags no longer includes the arms of Navarre, following a legal suit from the Navarre Government (Navarre being an Autonomous Community, on the same legal footing as the Spanish Basque Country), who claimed that the usage of the arms of a region on the flag of another was illegal. The Constitutional Court (highest Court of Justice in Spain) agreed, and the Basque Government had to leave the 4th quarter empty, with a red background as had previously shown, but without the chains that stand for the ancient Kingdom of Navarre.

José Gabriel Barbero, 27 Jan 1999

Coat-of-Arms 1936-1939 and 1978-1986

Coat-of-arms charges are:

  1. Álava [gold bearing a castle tower, an armored arm holding a sword rising out of the ground and a lion all on a green mound];
  2. Biscay [the Guernica Oak on a green mound in front of a white cross on red with a border of white bearing eight green saltires];
  3. Guipúzcoa [three green trees over blue and white waves on a gold field]; and
  4. Navarre [gold chains on red].

Dave Martucci, 07 Mar 1998

The leaves are oak leaves, since the national symbol is the tree of Gernika which is an oak.

Mikel, 21 Aug 1999

Coat-of-Arms and Flag Decree of 1936

Here is the translated text of the 19th October 1936 Decree:

The Provisional Government of Euzkadi has amongst its functions that of providing the public entity which it represents with the insignia and emblems that the Basque Country shall use in official life. Amongst them must be the Government's emblem and the flag or banner. Both of uniform and compulsory use, symbols of that new entity which emerged to public official life with the announcement of the Autonomy Act approved in the terms foreseen in the Constitution of the Spanish Republic of December, 1931.

"Presently the Euzkadi territory is integrated by Araba, Gipuzkoa and Bizkaya [sic], the incorporation of Nabara [sic] to that territory being foreseen in the Act. Thus the emblem of the Government of Euzkadi must contain, removing all attributes standing for monarchical or lordly powers or symbolizing fratricidal fights of the Basque lands, the arms of Araba, Gipuzkoa, Bizkaya and Nabara, in a single blazon of four quarters surrounded by a wreath of oak leaves, a reminder of the tree of the Basque freedoms, that of Gernika.

"The flag must be that which gathers Basque unity and which the use, ever more frequent in the Basque lands, has sanctioned as such symbol of their unity. Designed by Arana-Goirítar Sabin [sic – Sabino Arana, no idea why his name is after his surnames here], creator of the name of Euzkadi and of its flag, its description is stated in the provisions' part of this Decree.

"Unanimously, the Basque Provisional Government, elected in the person of its President by the suffrage of leaders designed in a popular vote, and integrated by all those political fractions which fight for freedom in the Basque Country, has approved, in consequence thereof, the one [flag] ordered in the present:

"1st article.- The emblem of the Government of Euzkadi shall consist of a coat-of-arms with four quarters, surrounded by a wreath of oak leaves and integrated in their order by the arms of Araba, Bizkaya, Gipuzkoa and Nabara, in their own colours, eliminating from them all attributes of monarchical or lordly institutions and of fratricidal fights among Basques, and adding the symbols of its primitive freedom as it appears in the present design [a design accompanying the Decree?].

"2nd. article.- The flag of Euzkadi shall carry, on a vermilion red field, a bright green saltire, and over it a white cross, which shall reach the corners and side centres, respectively, of the flag. The width of these figures shall be of 0.43 metres each for a flag of five metres by 2.80 metres, proportionally reducing or enlarging the measures according to the total size of the flag.

"3rd article.- All Corporations and Official Centres are hereforth compelled to use this symbols as the only representing Euzkadi, raising the described flag on their façades and in those of school buildings, jointly with the Republic's flag, as an expression of the acceptance of the current laws, in such days as it is compulsory to deck them [the buildings].

"Given in Bilbao [sic – not Bilbo], this 19th October 1936.
"The President of the Provisional Government of Euzkadi
"José A. de Agire" [sic – in Spanish it is Aguirre, in modern Basque Agirre]

I have always wondered why the quarters in the Basque Autonomous Community coat-of-arms are not exactly the same as the traditional coats-of-arms of the three provinces. These are the ones depicted here (wrong colours though) and show, for Guipúzcoa/Gipuzkoa, "a chief per pale gules, a king in his throne holding sword and sceptre all proper, and gules, twelve cannons or," for Álava/Araba "a bordure azure, with the motto Contra malhechores en aumento de la justicia [Against wrongdoers in defense of justice] or" and for Vizcaya/Bizkaia "two wolves passant sable carrying a fleece each," all of which are missing in the current official coat-of-arms. I realise now all of these may be "monarchical or lordly attributes."

Santiago Dotor, 28 Oct 1998

Here is the Decreto of 19th October 1936 concerning the adoption of the coat-of-arms and flag by the Basque Provisional Government:

El Gobierno Provisional de Euzkadi tiene entre sus funciones la de dotar a la entidad pública a quien representa, de los distintivos y emblemas que haya de utilizar el País Vasco en su vida oficial. Entre ellos han de figurar el emblema del Gobierno y la bandera o pabellón. ambos de uso uniforme y obligatorio, símbolos de esa nueva entidad surgida a la vida pública oficial con la promulgación del Estatuto de Autonomia aprobado en los términos previstos por la Constitución de la República Española de diciembre de 1931.

"Integran al presente el territorjo de Euzkadi, Araba, Gipuzkoa y Bizkaya, previéndose en el Estatuto la incorporación a ese territorio, de Nabara. Por esto el emblema del Gobierno de Euzkadi ha de contener, eliminando de él los atributos que significaban poderes monarquicos o señoriales, o simbolizaban luchas fratricidas de las tierras vascas, las armas de Araba, Gipuzkoa, Bizkaya y Nabara, en un solo blasón de cuatro cuarteles cercado por una corona de hojas de roble, recuerdo del arbol de las libertades vascas, de Gernika.

"La bandera ha de ser aquella en la que se ha recogido la unidad vasca y que el uso, cada vez más general por toda la extensión de las tierras vascas, ha sancionado como tai símbolo de la unidad de éstas, Formada por Arana-Goiri 'tar Sabin, creador del apelativo de Euzkadi y de su bandera, su descripción se hace constar en la parte dispositiva de este Decreto.

"Unánimemente, el Gobierno Provisional Vasco, elegido en la persona de su Presidente por sufragio de mandatarios designadas en elección popular, e integrado par todas aquellas fracciones políticas que luchan por las libertades en el País Vasco, ha aprobado, en consecuencia, la que se dispone en el presente.

"Art.º 1.º.-El emblema del Gobierna de Euzkadi consistirá en un escudo de cuatro cuarteles, circundado de una corona de hojas de roble e integrado por su orden, por las armas de Araba, Bizkaya, Gipuzkoa y Nabara, en sus propios colores, eliminando de ellas los atributos de institución monárquica o señorial y de luchas fratricidas entre vascos, y agregando los símbolos de su primitiva libertad según figura en el presente diseño.

"Art.º 2.º.-La bandera de Euzkadi llevará sobre fondo rojo bermellón, un aspa verde vivo y superpuesta una cruz blanca, las cuales llegarán respectivamente hasta los ángulos y los puntos medios de los lados de la bandera. La anchura de las bandas de estas figuras será de 0,43 metros cada una para un pabellón de cinco metros en horizontal y 2,80 metros en vertical, reduciéndose o ampliándose proporcionalmente las medidas según el tamaño total de la enseña.

"Art.º 3.º -Todas las Corporaciones y Centros Oficiales quedan obligados al empleo de estos distintivos como únicos que representan a Euzkadi, izándose la bandera descrita, en sus fachadas y en las de los edificios escolares, junto a la bandera de la Republica, en expresión de la legalidad vigente, los días en que se halle dispuesto el engalanamiento de los mismos.

"Dado en Bilbao, a 19 de octubre de 1936.
"El Presidente del Gobierno Provisional de Euzkadi."
José A. de Agire

Pascal Vagnat, 24 Oct 1998

Coat-of-Arms used by nationalist parties

The ~Bat names (qv. Euskadi vs. Euskal Herria) identify Basque coats-of-arms as well as territories.

The Zazpiak Bat (qv. Coat of arms of the Baque country) consists of six quarters (representing seven territories - image):

  1. Navarre/Navarra (both Nafarroa/Navarra and Nafarroa Beherea / Basse Navarre)
  2. Gipuzkoa/Guipúzcoa
  3. Bizkaia/Vizcaya
  4. Araba/Álava
  5. Lapurdi/Labourd
  6. Zuberoa/Soule

The officially used Laurak Bat can be seen at the Basque Country Government Official Website. The fourth quarter is plain red, "waiting" for Navarre to incorporate to the autonomous community.

Santiago Dotor, 21 Oct 1998

This is another case of "wishful" or irredentist heraldry and/or vexillology. The historical Basque Country is made up of six provinces, divided between France and Spain since centuries ago. This coat-of-arms shows not only the arms of the three provinces composing the current Basque Country proper (Spanish autonomous region), but also those of Navarre, which is mostly in other Spanish autonomous region (Comunidad Foral de Navarra) and has a smaller part in France (Lower Navarre). I wonder why the arms of the two other parts of the french Basque Country (Lapurdi and Zuberoa) do not appear on this coat-of-arms. Santiago Dotor referred the void red quarter, meaning "Navarre is missing" in the Basque Autonomous Community coat-of-arms, another example of irredentist heraldry. So, the coat-of-arms referred image by Dave Martucci must be some historical all-Basque arms.

António Martins, 21 Oct 1998

This page [broken link] at the Partido Nacionalista Vasco (EAJ/PNV) website shows a version of the Zazpiak Bat arms [broken link] with never-before-seen crest and supporters. It is placed beside the text about the PNV's youth (Euzko Gaztedi) but no reference is made to this Achievement.

Santiago Dotor, 09 Dec 1999

Victor Lomantsov described the zazpiak bat as "greater arms of Basques of Spain and France" known since 1897. I wonder where did he find this date. The reason being that if that coat-of-arms does not predate 1897, then it might very well be one more of the Arana brothers creations.

Santiago Dotor, 25 Oct 2000

I have found this date in article (in Russian language) about St. Pierre and Miquelon written image by Yu. Kurasov.

Victor Lomantsov, 25 Oct 2000