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The bear with the strawberry tree: the story of the symbol of Madrid

Gaston de Persigny
Gaston de Persigny
Gaston de Persigny - Reporter at The European Times News

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DISCLAIMER: Information and opinions reproduced in the articles are the ones of those stating them and it is their own responsibility. Publication in The European Times does not automatically means endorsement of the view, but the right to express it.

What do the animal and the tree have to do with the history of the Spanish capital?

In the heart of Madrid, where a number of roads depart in all directions, is one of the busiest places in the Spanish capital – Puerta del Sol. This is a place through which all tourists and many protesters in the country pass.

At one end of the square stands a special monument – a figure of a bear raising its paws to a strawberry tree. For many, this statue and its meaning remain a mystery, but if you look closely, you will see that it is present in many places in the city, not only here, because it is part of the coat of arms of the city.

The bronze statue was made in 1967 by order of the Spanish government. Although only 4 meters high, it weighs 22 tons. But at first glance, Madrid has nothing to do with bears or strawberry trees. Where does its symbolism come from?

How do the bear and the strawberry tree appear on the coat of arms of Madrid?

The bear has long been part of the coat of arms of Madrid. The first documents in which it is written that Madrid troops carried a flag with a bear and the seven stars of the constellation Ursa Major, is from 1212. Probably this comes from the ancient Roman name of Madrid – Ursalia, which translated from Latin means “Land of Bears”. “. Numerous bears that lived in the area at the time were captured and used for Roman spectacles – fighting with wild beasts.

Ten years later, the strawberry tree appeared on the coat of arms – for the first time on the seal of King Alfonso VIII. This seal was placed on a document that put an end to the land ownership dispute between the city council and the church. The document stated that the trees and forests (symbolized by the strawberry tree common here) would be owned by the city, and the animals and plains (symbolized by the bear) would be owned by the church. This royal decision resolved the dispute and later became the official coat of arms of Madrid.

Nowadays, there are no more bears around Madrid, as in almost all of Spain. They are found in the wild only in parts of Asturias.

The fruits of the strawberry tree cause a slight intoxication if eaten raw

What is a strawberry tree?

The strawberry tree was once a tree typical of the Madrid area, and people believed it cured the plague. Today it is almost non-existent.

It is different from the strawberries we know. Its fruits are small, red and round and taste like figs. They are mainly used for jams and liqueurs. Fully ripe fruit contains a certain amount of alcohol and can cause mild intoxication. This may explain the popularity of the tree in the Middle Ages.

Photo: The fruits of the strawberry tree cause a slight intoxication if eaten raw

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