September 18, 2009

Bars in the wind

With occasion of the Day of the People of Minorca, on which we commemorate the incorporation of the island to the Catalan Crown, on January 17th 1287, I have remembered that a year ago, there was an intense debate at, on Pau Gener’s blog Sa tanca de s’era with occasion of an article where there was not even a flag. Because of this, I thought that it would not be bad to revise the possible origin and meaning of our flag, ensign or standard or how you would like to call this National symbol.

To begin with, do not believe that I shall start with the legend of Wilfred the Hairy, marking with his four bloody fingers on a golden shield what it was the emblem of the Counts of Barcelona, but before then and examining this Iberian statue from the 5th Century bC, marked too with the four bars.


Iberian statue and some representations of the territory occupied by the Iberians

What could represent the four paly that you can see in this Iberian figure? It results curious to verify that the actual Catalan Countries coincides in great part with the territories populated by the ancient Iberians, from the Northern Pyrenees to Granada, for all the Mediterranean coast, following the maps. We are, then, a Nation with roots that go into the ages a long time before the arrival of the Romans.

To start by the hypothesis that relate Iberians with Jews, it must be mentioned that following the Cabalists, the origin of the four paly of the Catalan flag is the four letters of the name of God in Hebrew, what is known as the tetragrammaton:

The Tetragramme are the four letters of the name of God. In Hebrew there are no vowels, thus the name Jahve or Jehova is written YHVH. The tetragrammaton bears a concept of God, or better said, the Creator of everything visible or invisible –something not perceivable by the sight, smell, taste and tact. The name YHVH is a term that defines and regulates the creation process. One process that, at the same time, is marked by four phases: plough, sow, collect and elaborate. As well, sow, germinate, grow, flourish. There is one time for every thing. The creation process has four phases.

These four letters or energies make reference to the four elements of the Creation: Air, Water, Earth and Fire. There is a reference to the Cardinal points: North, South, East and West, that frame all that we call space. The four seasons of the year, Spring, Summer, Autumn and Winter, the four basic foods to keep life…

The Cabalists do never pronounce the name of God for respect and never wrote the four sacred letters that are the expression of the name of God. What they did was to represent the sacred name, the Tetragrammaton with a sign. The name “tetragrammaton” comes from the Greek “tetra” that means four and “gramma” that means graphic or line. These four lines had a colour related with the letters YHVH; this was red on golden background. Therefore, the signal that represents God for the Cabalists, or the Tetragrammaton, is the four red paly on golden background.



It is logical to think that the symbolism of these symbols has something to do with the Kabala, and with the Tetragrammaton in particular, due to the study of the Kabala being introduced in the 11th Century AD in Catalano-Provençal lands.

In fact, this representation, known as the ensign or “senyera” is the emblem of Catalonia and Provence. If we add the idea of that the 4 paly represent the name of God to the theories about the origins of the lineage of Wilfred the Hairy, the genealogical tree of whom would take us to the same Jesus Christ and the Exilarchs of Babylon and the Kings of Judah, we would have the dynasty of the House of Barcelona with Catalan Counts and Kings as heirs from the royal blood of Jesus Christ, and carriers of the name of the Lord in their royal sign. A very big provocation and a threat to the Roman Catholic Church and their version of the Son of God’s life as per their official Gospels (by the way, four) and that would explain the support of the French King given by Rome in his invasion of Occitania and the integration of the Castilian dynasty of the Trastamara to the Catalan Crown at the Caspe Compromise of 1412. Naturally, this hypothesis about the royal blood of Jesus Christ so popular nowadays in books and cinemas are always presented under the French point of view, hiding the Catalano-Provençal context of this story.

But let’s continue with the symbolism of the four paly. Jordi Salat presents the meaning of the four columns. Salat says that these four columns measured “two meters diameter and twenty meters high crowned by a ionic capital, erected in 1919 at the Mountain of Montjuic by the architect Josep Puig i Cadafalch (1867-1956) and were demolished in 1928 by General Miguel Primo de Rivera because they were a Catalan national and cultural symbol related to the Hellenic culture, comparing, in a certain way, the Mountain of Montjuic of Barcelona with the Mount Olympus in Athens”. To Jordi Salat, these columns, that must be restored, represent a distorted, forbidden and hidden History that is founded in the vernacularism that joins the universality that we must rediscover, and relates these four columns with the Tetragramma and the four elements.


Perspective of the four columns in front of the Palau Nacional (National Palace), initially called El Palau de l’Antic Saber (the Palace of the Ancient Knowledge) with the four red and five yellow rays.


Different perspectives of the Four Columns of Puig i Cadafalch at Montjuic, with a virtual reconstruction behind the actual fountain. Bottom right, demolishing of the Columns during the Primo de Rivera’s dictatorship.

Naturally, the strength of all this universal symbolism does not please a lot of people who, after more than 30 years of democracy still hinder the restitution of these columns and more of all Hellenic architectonic group that Puig i Cadafalch had in mind.

Besides its symbolism, the four paly might have acquired a practical functionality, becoming the standard of the Catalan Counts and Kings. The diversity in the number of paly found, following the History of the flag of the Catalan Countries, and collected in the article Royal ensign (Wikipaedia), would not be arbitrary, but they might have had the function of indicating the number of States that were under the sovereignty of the House of Barcelona.

What is most surprising is that this possibility is possible if we interpret the ensign exactly inversely as we do it normally; it would not be the red paly over golden background but the golden paly over red background.

imageThree golden paly: Barcelona-Besalu-Provence, and later, Barcelona-Counties-Aragon and Barcelona-Aragon-Montpelier.

The three bars (golden) started their popularity and diffusion when Ramon Berenguer III the Great married Douce of Provence in 1112, and acquired all an extensive inheritance in Occitania. They attributed then the three golden bars to Barcelona, Besalu –that had been joined to the Crown the year before, 1111- and Provence. The existence of the three bars is testified by the stamps of Ramon Berenguer III.

imageFour golden bars: Barcelona-Aragon-Montpelier-Majorca

The conquest of Majorca began in 1228 and altered the three paly because, from a study in the stamps, it seems to be deduced that there were four bars since that time. However, we enter a period of confusion regarding the number of bars or paly because portolans, paints and other documents do not coincide, and flags with three bars appear with frequency, as well as five, seven and eight. In the paintings in the Palau d’Aguilar in Barcelona, dated at the end of the 13th Century, where the conquest of Majorca is represented, the flag appears with two, four, six and seven red bars and three, five, seven and eight yellow.


Five golden bars: Barcelona-Aragon-Montpelier-Majorca-Valencia.

With the conquest of the Kingdom of Valencia by James I, a new golden bar would have been added to the royal stamp. This ensign of five golden bars is the one that implies the presence of four red bars.


Return to the three golden bars: Barcelona-Aragon-Valencia to Peter II and Majorca-Roussillon-Montpelier to James II, due to the partition of the territories between the two sons of James I the Conqueror.

At James I’s death, the Kingdoms were divided between his two sons: the eldest, Peter II the Great received the central core, with the dynastical capital of Barcelona and the adjacent Kingdoms of Aragon and Valencia. The second son, James II, received the Kingdom of Majorca, the Counties of Cerdanya and Roussillon and the Lordship of Montpelier. As James II possessed the feudal Kingdom of Peter II, the flag used by both was the same. The return to the two bars would explain the reappearance of documents of this type with date posterior to 1241, as James I adopted the five bars.

imageFour golden bars: Barcelona-Aragon-Valencia-Sicily

Peter the Great had conquered Sicily in 1282 and it would suppose to add, again, a forth golden bar. Peter died in 1285, succeeded by his son Alfonso. The Kingdom of Sicily passed to another son called James. Possibly, the number of bars remained as that because King Alfonso died in 1291. His brother James of Sicily was proclaimed King in his place in 1295, who renounced to Sicily, receiving Corsica and Sardinia instead. The conquest of Sardinia to the Genovese was lengthy, completed in 1325, not long before his death in 1327. He was succeeded by his son Alfonso and this by his son Peter, 1335, who acquired Majorca in 1342, and the Roussillon and Cerdanya in 1344 (Montpelier was sold by James III to the King of France in 1349). In the royal stamps, there are always four golden and three red bars.

image Five golden bars: Reincorporation of Majorca and their possessions?

The rejoining of Sicily had place in 1377. With this, Peter dominated the Principality, five Kingdoms (Aragon, Majorca, Valencia, Sardinia and Sicily) and other territories (Counties, Duchies, Viscounties and Lordships) that equalled at least to a Kingdom, therefore, the golden bars had to be at least seven but, effectively, only one was added, totalling six. The sixth bar disappeared after 1392, when Peter’s son and successor John gave the Kingdom of Sicily to his son Martin. At the reign of John II (1458-79), it appears again the sixth golden bar stamp, possibly referred to Barcelona, Navarra, Aragon, Sicily, Valencia and Majorca.

imageSix golden bars: Barcelona-Aragon-Valencia-Sardinia-Sicily?

With no doubt, the number of bars and its relation to the States of the Catalan Crown must be fully investigated. The confusion that has appeared in some moments might indicate that there was no unique criterion, but in view of the destruction of our History, it could be a symptom of manipulation. In front of the official fixation of the four red bars (or five golden?) as a ensign independently of the number of States, we might ask ourselves if at any moment we must count the number of golden as well as the red bars with the increase of the number of possessions that the Catalan Crown experimented in the Iberian peninsula, in the Mediterranean and America.

imageimageEnsigns with eight golden and seven red bars.

We must not forget how many golden bars has the actual flag of the iconographycally Catalan style Spain. Only daughter from Castile. Casual?


To finish, is obliged the visit to the information about the symbols of the Balearic Islands by Gabriel Bibiloni, amongst them, it is included a document about the actual official flag of Minorca. And do not miss the photo collection of shields with the paly, some of them taken from historical buildings of Ciutadella.

Official flag of Minorca.


imageAnd finally, we celebrate the Centenary of the Estelada, wishing that it becomes a Historical flag of a time in which our Nation had to recover the lost freedom.

Estelada” at Es Vergers, in the outskirts of Mahon.

From "Es Poblat d'en Talaiotic"


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