Catalan flags explained

An easy guide to Catalan Flags

Catalan people are friendly, open-minded and love democracy and fundamental rights. Catalans, diverse as they may be, feel very proud of their culture and history and have a long record of resisting repression and fighting against absolutism and fascism.

If you have been in Catalonia recently, you may have noticed that Catalans —in pro-democracy and pro-independence demonstrations, in their vehicles or in their balconies— proudly show and wave their flags…. But, come to think of it, they look quite different! Contrasting colours, disparate layouts and patterns… So why all these different banners and emblems? Let’s find out!

Understanding Catalan flags

The pro-independence movement is an inclusive, grass-roots, radically democratic movement that brings together people from all walks of life and different ideologies who agree upon two principles: Catalan people deserve the right to decide their own future and fundamental rights must be guaranteed. Such heterogeneity is reflected in the different flags (not all of them necessary pro-independence). So here are the main flags (and some not so well-known) that you may come across:

The senyera

This is the official flag of Catalonia and one of the oldest to still be flown in Europe. Not necessarily pro-independence, but it is the one you will see in Public buildings and representing official events. Some people call it the ‘autonomist’ flag meaning that it stands for stagnation. It is a vexillological symbol based on the coat of arms of the Crown of Aragon, which consists of four red stripes on a golden background. Pronunciation: /səˈɲeɾə/ Senyera means Pennon, a flags carried during the Middle Ages.

The ‘blue’ Estelada

The Catalan word estelada (pronunciation: /əstəˈɫaðə/) can be translated into English as starlit flag, or starry flag. This is probably the most popular of all Catalan flags. It is actually an unofficial flag typically flown by Catalan independence supporters to express their wish for an independent and free Catalonia. The design of the Estelada, by Vicenç Albert Ballester, was modelled on the Cuban and Puerto Rican flags.

By the way, here is the first ‘estelada’, with a blue rhombus, the old version of the current blue design:

The ‘red’ Estelada

The main difference from the blue estelada is the colour of the emblem. But there is more to this flag than meets the eye. The ‘red’ estelada is a favourite among left-wing political pro-independence parties while the ‘blue’ one is a favourite among nationalist pro-independence parties.

The ‘black’ Estelada

This flag was used by 14th century Catalan soldiers Almogavers . It includes a white x-shaped cross as a symbol which represents Santa Eulàlia, one of Barcelona’s Saint patronesses who was crucified in this kind of x-shaped cross. This flag was used to commemorate the Tercentenary of the War of Succession (a European conflict of the early 18th century which deeply marked the history of Catalonia). The Black Flag, meaning no surrender as opposed to the white flag is becoming very popular. In the awful siege of Barcelona and Cardona, in the war of 1714, a black flag with the words “Viurem lliures o morirem”(literaly, We will live free or we will die”) flough on the walls.

The ‘green’ Estelada

Green version used by ecologists and animalists.

The anarchist Estelada

Anarchist pro-independence Catalan flag

The ‘white’ Estelada

Estelada used by the PSAN (1968-1977), Marxist Unification Movement (1977-1978), Catalan Workers Bloc (1978-1982) and Left Bloc for National Liberation (1979-1982).

LGTB Estelada

Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender estelada.

Catalan Republican Flag

Catalan Republic flag to commemorate the referendum on 1 October — also known by the numeronym 1-O . This wonderfully designed flag is becoming very popular. It looks like a little work of art.

Recommended post:

Tocat del Bolet is a blog that aims to promote and share Catalan language and culture throughout its most typical expressions, in a fun and informative way.

Thank you for your attention. We look forward to your comments and questions. Nuts ~Tocat del bolet, Catalan culture crossing borders! Share this post!

7 thoughts on “Catalan flags explained”

  1. Thank you for your simple explanation of all the different flags. I would wear patches of all these flags together on a jacket. I do not like the last one, however, It’s very “poster” and our female looks mad and kind of offputting, a depiction, not a flag. But yet who am I to criticise? Anyway, thank you. my father was of Catalan ancestry and my dear friend, 93 years old is as well. I am sad that the Catalan language and customs have been so badly ignored and attacked, banned by Madrid officials. No ethnic language should be made obsolete or antiquated or blocked by a government, I think. A language is history. It is special, a comfort and one’s roots, if these are one’s roots. Thanks again. One day, I wish to visit your land. For now, cheers from northern NY in USA.

    1. Brilliant site! Just watching ,on TV, Le Tour in the Catalan Pyrenees. Can now make sense of the multitude of Catalan flags and banners along the course.

  2. Very helpful. I’m in Barcelona and am seeing lots of the estelada with the blue star. I didn’t realise there were so many variants. We should try varying the Union Jack!

  3. The way this page says that Catalans are “open-minded and love democracy” is generally untrue in my experience.

    Whenever I discuss the notion of independence (which I’m not for or against) I’m met with frostiness and defensiveness and told “you’re not from here so you can’t understand”, despite building my life in Barcelona and having gone through the drama that was Brexit. This mentality shows a close-mindedness that isn’t welcoming of people that simply want to understand their motives and have a mature discussion on the matter. You could say it’s undemocratic. I’ve also met many people who even refuse to speak castellano, despite knowing it, with people who are foreign (like me) and at least trying to learn a local language.

    Anyways I’m glad to have read the information about the flags so I can better understand them. I knew a lot about them but was unsure about some. I really don’t like the “Catalan Republic Flag” with the lady. Pretty ugly design if you ask me. Stick to the original. It’s one of the oldest in Europe for a reason.

    1. Hi Ryan, thank you for your contribution. We like people to speak their minds and you are very welcome to Catalonia. As Catalans we will be happy to explain to you —in the language of your choice (English, Catalan or Spanish)— anything you want to know. We see that you want to learn about the place where you live, which is nice. It shows empathy and a willingness to integrate. Since you live in Catalonia, if you want to make the effort to learn a little bit of Catalan (at least the basic words) you will see how many doors and hearts will open. Again, you are very welcome! Thanks again for your comment.

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