Navarre: The Crest

01/04/2021

The Crest of Navarre has a red backdrop in the shape of a shield with a green emerald in the center. Circling the emerald is a carbuncle. The carbuncle has golden chains that reach outward and are linked around the perimeter. Above the red backdrop of the shield sits a royal crown. This crown is a tribute to the ancient Kingdom of Navarre.

The question however, is how did this end up becoming the crest and flag of Navarra?

The Battle of Tolosa Plains

The battle of Tolosa Plains (Las Navas de Tolosa) took place in 1212 against the Moors. The Almohads had defeated the king of Castille, Alfonso VIII, in 1195. After this defeat Pope Innocent III called upon the Christian kingdoms of the Iberian peninsula to crusade against the muslims.

The forces of the Kingdoms of Castilla-Leon, Aragon, and Navarre combined with Portugese troops in Toledo. This army was unable to navigate the Sierra Morena mountain range until a local shepherd showed them a secret route about which the Almohads were unaware. This thin gorge provided safe passage through the mountain range and the ability to take Almohads forces by surprise.

Legend has it that the Caliph had a bodyguard of slave warriors for protection. These warriors were chained together and used as a human shield by the Almohads leader. King Sancho VII and the Navarre forces broke the chains of this defense. The leader of the Moors fled leaving behind many jewels and an army that sustained heavy losses.

The chains and emerald on the Navarre crest is tribute to the success of this battle. The victory of the Kingdom of Navarre and the great Christian crusade.

Basque Coat of Arms (Autonomous Community)

The Basque coat of arms is the official crest for the Autonomous Community of Basque Country. It consists of a shield wrapped in a wreath of oak leaves. The shield is split into quarters. The top left has the province of Alava's coat of arms. The top right has a coat of arms for the province of Biscay. The bottom left is the province of Gipuzkoa and is represented by part of their coat of arms. The fourth quarter represents the province of Navarre.

Unlike the other three provinces on this coat of arms Navarre is represented with a red space. There is no representation for Navarre in this crest but the red quarter. There was a time where the emerald and chains were on the Basque coat of arms. However, the Navarre government mounted a legal challenge that Basque country was illegally using their coat of arms.

Although Navarre is part of the Basque Country Autonomous Community it is also considered its own Autonomous Community. Navarre successfully argued in court that an Autonomous community should not be allowed to use the coat of arms of another Autonomous community. After this decision was made by the Constitutional Court of Spain, Navarre's crest was removed and left void.

Zazpiak Bat

Zazpiak Bat is a saying that has its roots in the nineteenth century. Zazpiak translates from Basque to "the Seven'' and Bat translates to "one." The meaning of Zazpiak Bat is that the seven Basque provinces between Spain and France are one entity.

The Zazpiak Bat coat or arms is a blazen. This shield has six of the seven provinces represented on it. This seventh province is the French Basque province of Lower Navarre and it's coat of arms is the same as that of Navarre.

Navarre is the top left of the shield. Next to it is Gipuzkoa with the province of Biscay being represented on the top right. The lower part of the crest has Alava on the far left, Labourd in the center and Soule on the right.

The Crest of Spain

Spanish forces conquered Navarre in 1512 and incorporated the Navarre crest into the Spanish coat of arms. The Spanish coat of arms is of two pillars above water on either side of a shield. The shield shows three fleur de lis in the centre of it referencing the House of Bourbon. The Bourbon Kings ruled over France and Navarre in the 16th century. The bottom of the crest has a small pomegranate flower to represent the Kingdom of Granada. The rest of the crest is dominated by historical symbols representing the four kingdoms of Spain.

The top left symbol is of a castle to represent the Kingdom of Castille. The top right is a lion wearing a crown to represent the Kingdom of Leon. The bottom left symbol is made up of yellow and red vertical stripes to represent the Kingdom of Aragon. The bottom right symbol represents the Kingdom of Navarre. It is the blazon of the Navarre crest. The green emerald surrounded and eight golden chains on the crest of Spain can also be found on the Spanish flag.

Navarre, once the cradle of Basque civilization, is now a unique community that is part of Basque Country but also autonomous from it. This is symbolized by the development of the Navarre crest and the way Navarre protects its use.

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Photo credit:

1:  Escudo de Navarra (oficial).svg (by Miguillen) Public Domain.

2; NavasDeTolosaMonument by SuspirodelMoro licensed by Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported

3: La Carolina - 025 By Luis Rogelio HM licensed by CC BY-SA 2.0

4: Dossier: Los símbolos de las Comunidades Autónomas. Boletín de Documentación CEPC by Heralder is licenced byCC by 3.0

5: Zazpiak by SanchoPanzaXXI licensed by CC BY-SA 4.0

6:This file is made available under the Creative Commons CC0 1.0 Universal Public Domain Dedication.

7: Flag of the Basque Country By Frankie688 under license by Attribution-Share Alike 2.5 Generic

8: Chartered Community of Navarre (Spain) by Heralder licensed by CC BY-SA 3.0

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