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Historical Flags 1931-1939 (Spain)

(Second) Spanish Republic, República Española

Last modified: 2015-07-28 by ivan sache
Keywords: spanish republic | red cross | coat of arms: quartered (castle: yellow) | coat of arms: quartered (lion: red) | coat of arms: quartered (chains: yellow) | crown: mural (yellow) |
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[Spanish Republic 1931-1939 (Spain)] 3:5
image by Luis Miguel Arias, 17 September 2002
Flag adopted 27th April 1931, abolished in parts of the territory 29 August 1936, abandoned 1 April 1939

See also:


The Second Spanish Republic lasted from 14th April 1931 to 18th July 1936 (military uprising) or 1st April 1939 (Republican defeat).

Santiago Dotor, 10 May 1999

The flag of the Second Spanish Republic was a tricolour red-yellow-purple in horizontal stripes of the same dimension, unlike the traditional red-yellow-red Spanish flag. In the middle the arms.

Alessio Bragadini, 1996

Calvo and Grávalos 1983 [cag83] has an excellent picture of the Republican flag (with the arms), no. 563 on p. 201. In it, and in other Republican flags there, it is clear that there is nothing, no crown, no eagle, nothing, on top of the pillars (an Air Force flag has an Air Force symbol above the entire arms). The inscription concerning flag 563 reads:

El Decreto de 27 de abril de 1931 (Colección Legislativa del Ejército, numero 201) en su artículo 2o definió la Bandera Nacional como compuesta por tres franjas, roja, amarilla y morado, llevando en el centro de la segunda el escudo que, a falta de mejor definición, se señaló como el que habia figurado en las monedas de cinco pesetas de 1869, ésto es: Castilla, Leon, Aragon, Navarra sin la esmeralda, y Granada en punta, acoladas la columnas de Hércules, sin coronas, y basadas en tierra y con un unico listón entrelazándolas con la leyenda "Plus Ultra," al timbre corona mural. Este decreto fue desarrollado por la Orden Circular de 6 de mayo siguiente (Colección Legislativa del Ejército, número 230), en la que en su artículo 2o se detalla que la bandera de endrizar en fortificiones, campamentos y edificios tendría las dimensiones de 135 de ancho por 225 de largo.

Norman Martin, 15 Jan 1998

My translation:

The decree of 27 April 1931 (Legal Collection of the Army, number 201) in its second article defined the National Flag as being composed of three stripes, red, yellow and purple, bearing in the center of the second stripe a shield which, for want of better definition, was identified with the one that had appeared on the five peseta coins of 1869, that is: Castile, Leon, Aragon, Navarre without the emerald, and Granada in the point, supported by the pillars of Hercules without crowns and resting on land and with a single interlaced ribbon with the legend Plus Ultra, the crest a mural crown. This decree was elaborated by the Circular Order of 6 May following (Legal Collection of the Army, number 230), which in its second article specified that the flag to be flown on fortifications, camps and buildings would have dimensions of 135 in width by 225 in length.
This description reveals a difference between the arms of the republic and the present ones which I had previously overlooked: the pillars in the current arms rest, not on land, but on waves – very odd when one thinks about it.

Vincent Morley, 15 Jan 1998

The purple colour became identified in the early 20th century by Republicans with the colour of a legendary pendón (banner) used by Castilian Commoners when they fought against Charles V. Apparently nobody realised that the so-called pendón morado de Castilla ('purple banner of Castile') – which as I say was purpure and not purple – in fact displayed the colour of the royal Castilian standard. So incorporating it as a "Republican" colour is a bit paradoxical...

Santiago Dotor, 01 Dec 1999

A Circular Order of 6th May 1931, issued after the adoption of the Republican red-yellow-purple triband, published in the Colección Legislativa del Ejército (Army Legislative Collection) no. 230/1931, fixed the dimensions of the flags to be flown on coastal fortresses and other military and official buildings as 1.35 m × 2.25 m which implies 3:5.

A Circular Order of 10th November 1932, published in the Colección Legislativa del Ejército no. 593/1932, fixed the dimensions of flags for naval fortresses and castles as 3.6 m × 5 m, which implies 18:25, because flags according to the dimensions in the 1931 Order could not be seen from ships.

Luis Miguel Arias, translated by Santiago Dotor, 17 Apr 2002

The National Flag and Ensign was a red-yellow-dark purple tricolour, 3:5 proportions, with the arms centred on the yellow stripe.

Luis Miguel Arias, translated by Santiago Dotor, 17 Sep 2002


Official coat-of-arms Coat-of-arms as used on flags
[Official coat-of-arms 1931-1939 (Spain)]      [Coat-of-arms as used on flags 1931-1939 (Spain)]
both images by Luis Miguel Arias, 17 September 2002

A shield with squared-edges topped by a mural crown and quartered with the coats of arms of these four regions: Castile (a castle), Leon (a lion), Navarre (golden chains in asterisk shape on a red field), Aragon-Catalonia (vertical yellow-red stripes), clockwise. Left and right of the shield are the "Hercules columns" with the motto "Plus Ultra."

Alessio Bragadini, 1996

The coat-of-arms was the shield quartered (1: red with yellow castle; 2: white with red lion rampant; 3: four red vertical bars on yellow; 4: red with the Navarre chains; and in the center of the bottom a fruit named granada (pomegranate), for the Islamic kingdom). To the right and left of the shield are two columms with a ribbon written on them PLUS (left) and ULTRA (right); and above the shield a golden mural crown.

Norman Martin, 15 Jan 1998

The Coat-of-Arms of the Second Spanish Republic was very similar to the present day one, with the following differences:

  • the crown was of the "mural" or "embattled" sort, resembling a castle wall with four towers;
  • there were no crowns on top of the columns/pillars and these rested on "land" rather than on "sea" (ie. waves);
  • no Bourbon escutcheon in the center of the shield;
  • the arms of Navarre lacked the emerald in the middle of the chains;
  • the coat-of-arms appeared in the middle of the flag, not towards the mast as nowadays.

Santiago Dotor, 15 Sep 1998

The coat-of-arms above is drawn according to the Order of 6th May 1931 and illustrated in the graphical annex to that Order filed in the Colección Legislativa del Ejército (Army Legislation Archive). The actual model used for the image has been the one which appeared on the header of the Diario Oficial de la Guerra (Official War Bulletin), which is very similar to the one in the said graphical annex. The colours are taken from the latter. The second image is a detail of the arms as used on the flag, with yellow and white instead of gold and silver.

Luis Miguel Arias, translated by Santiago Dotor, 17 Sep 2002

Present-Day Use

On the news the day before last were shown a few demonstrations in Europe to end the occupation of Iraq. While they showed the Spanish footage I noticed at least two Second Republic flags (with COA).

Is this a common occurence by (what I guess to be) the left in Spain? One of the reason it stayed with me was the fact that last year, someone reported seeing a Canadian red ensign being flown during a pro-war rally. I wonder if we are seeing the beginning of a trend in those two countries.

Marc Pasquin, 17 Feb 2004

The Republican flag is shown regularly since many years now. I would have to delve in my clippings to be specific but I remember the funeral of a killed GRAPO member with said flag on the coffin (during the nineties?) and, much more recently, Spanish authorities being angered by its use during demonstrations against the war in Iraq.

Jan Mertens, 17 Feb 2004

I was wondering if the republican flag was used by the left in general or if it was by a specific group. Given that the Republic was governed by a coalition, I can't see which organisation would identify with it more then with their own flag (socialist, communist, anarchist, etc...)

Marc Pasquin, 18 Feb 2004

Civil Flag and Ensign

[Civil Ensign, Spanish Republic 1931-1939 (Spain)]
image by Jorge Candeias and António Martins-Tuválkin, 05 May 2010

The civil ensign was established in the Decree of 27th April 1931 as "the same as those previously described [war flag and ensign] but without the coat-of-arms".

Luis Miguel Arias, translated by Santiago Dotor, 22 Dec 2004

Ceremonial Colour of the Navy

A nice picture of the "Bandera de la Escuadra" – which I believe equates to "Ceremonial Colour of the Navy" – during the Republican period (1931-1939) is shown at the Naval Museum website.

Santiago Dotor, 09 Feb 2005

Contemporary Republican Flag Variant With Red Five-Pointed Star

[Flag Variant With Red Five-Pointed Star, Spanish Republic 1931-1939 (Spain)]
image by Jorge Candeias and António Martins-Tuválkin, 05 May 2010

Francisco Santos has located and scanned a photo from the Galician newspaper "A Nosa Terra," of 2000.02.24, showing a red-yellow-purple (or dark blue?) triband with a large red star over all, waved by a crowd (at Suso Vaamonde's funeral) along with regular Galician independentist flags (normal Galician flag with red star over all, as seen on our site at ). Looks like the Spanish republic, but I'd expect no star, or a three-pointed star.

António Martins-Tuválkin, 19 Apr 2003

Contemporary Republican Flag Variant With Wider Center Stripe

[Flag Variant With Red Five-Pointed Star, Spanish Republic 1931-1939 (Spain)]
image by António Martins-Tuválkin, 25 Dec 2010

I saw recently in TV footage of demonstrations in Madrid the flag of the Spanish Republic without the emblem but with its middle stripe double wider, clearly an unintentional influence of the later (and current) design. The current use of the 1931-1936 flag by left-wing sympathisers, especially after 1975, is well known - being the plain Spanish equivalent of the anti-establishment spirit behind the use of regional and nationalist flags in “historical communities" - but this error in proportions is, I think, new, possibly atypical and ephemeral, but very interesting in its psycho-vexillological roots and vexillo-political effect.

António Martins-Tuválkin, 25 Dec 2010