We have inadvertently penetrated by now deeply into the 12th century, an era in which Christian Madrid must have grouped together and experienced a considerable upsurge in numbers. However, the absence of informative documents on this early period prevents us from knowing what was the extent and significance of the new inhabitants and their accommodations in the different sectors of the city.

Perhaps there were no royal dispositions in form of documents, but there certainly was a constant flow of people throughout that century, and perhaps more so in the first half.

The widening use of land surface, which goes always with an increase of population, made necessary the construction of a new wall in the second half of the 12th century. This was much wider than the previous one, and it would take in and protect an urban expanse four or five times greater than that occupied by the Moslem "medina", which the Christians had taken over by the last years of the previous century.

At beginnings of the 12th century, in 1126, Alfonso VII decrees that the land around the Benedictine monastery of San Martín, be repopulated. This was a monastery that had been founded by Alfonso VI. In medieval documents of somewhat later time, frequent reference is made to that area outside the walls as a neighborhood of free people, by which we then have, loud and clear, a manifest assertion of the repopulation.

Coast of arms of the Castilian-Lonese kingdom.

Leon Pinelo, a writer of the 16th century but at least nearer to the original documents than later writers, says that King Alfonso VII repopulated the town of Madrid with Castilian and Leonese people.

Very shortly before this monarch decrees the creation of the populated barrio, which became the San Martín district, he granted in 1123 a concession to the people of Madrid, for their enjoyment and usufruct, the use of all pasture and woodlands situated between the Guadarrama Sierras and the city of Madrid.

This decree was to cause long and grievous disputes and confrontations with the people of Segovia, for the latter believed they held age-old, traditional rights to such lands and were ill-disposed to hand them over to another group.

These territories, which ostensibly were far-extending and rich, would soon become known by the name of Real de Manzanares. There is no explanation for this concession to Madrid, nor why the king, aside from his personal predilection for the people of the city, should do this, more than for the needs of a population that was growing spectacularly and could thus count on ample natural resources, meadowlands and fuel to assure themselves of support and prosperity.

Through all the 12th century, the people of Madrid began to receive and to be beneficiaries of a series of privileges and royal patents granted in favor of their Municipal Council

The most ancient of those grants date around 1145 and will be repeated in following years up to the transcendental year of 1202, and then, enriched and touched up, they are compiled and approved by Alfonso VIII, having the agreement of the legal court by which the city will be ruled.

It is logical to suppose that up to this time the people of Madrid must have been subject to the famous Fuero (Charter) of Toledo, of an earlier date, but at beginnings of the 12th century the Council must have considered the city had attained sufficient importance and prosperity, as to possess a charter of its own, which in our day is known as the Fuero (Charter) of Madrid.

A little later, and perhaps in acknowledgment to the monarch for having accepted and signed a charter made in the interests of Madrid, a participation by the city in military groups that were striking at the army of the Almohades in the celebrated battle of the Navas de Tolosa, was great, according to writers of the chronicles.

And thanks to the texts alluding to the battle, we know what was blazoned on the banner of Madrid in 1212: a bear rampant (four paws) on field of silver

We will not here go into the contentious story of whether the people of Madrid fled in terror at the first onslaught of the Moslems, as some ancient writer affirms, or if their participation in the famous battle was one of glory and heroism, as other authors and local tradition would like us to believe.

Tradition too leaves for us a portentous phenomenon, which occurred in the confrontation at Las Navas, and whose leader was that venerated man of Madrid, Isidro the Laborer.

Legend wants to tell us that the mythical shepherd who gave warning to the Christians, enabling them to win the encounter, was none other than San Isidro. Possible it is that we should judge this strange account as fantasy, purely out of an itch for exact proofs, if it were not that during the last years of the reign of Alfonso VIII a curious incident took place.

By local tradition, the monarch, in order to reward the holy man of Madrid for his intervention, paid for and gave to the parish church of San Andrés, which at that time possessed the mummy of San Isidro, a new repository-chest, of wood painted in Gothic style with peaked-lid, which today we can see on view in the new Cathedral of the Almudena.

It is probable that this chest, a beautiful piece of primitive ingenuity, may be later than the beginnings of the 13th century

Responding to the vigor of times that this city was experiencing, it was natural that two of the most influential, prestigious religious orders of the Middle Ages, should want o plant their bases in Madrid.

The Franciscans and the Dominicans, were in every town of any importance, and being of very differing characters, chose places far from each other, in order not to compete.

The monastery of San Francisco was founded, by tradition, in the year 1217, outside the walls and to the south of the town, on the heights of Cerro (Hill) de las Vistillas, where it still is today although much modified.

Legend has it that Saint Francis of Assisi was passing through Madrid on his way to Africa, but he became ill just at the time he came to Madridd. He had to remain there until he recovered; meanwhile he founded the monastery.

For its part, the Monastery of Santo Domingo, founded in the year 1218 and in its first years an establishment for men, but living a rather bland life, the Order, after receiving the Papal bull of 1220, decided to make it a convent for women.

The Dominican monastery was established on a hill to the north of the city, near the hill of San Martín, and set out very soon on a course of purchases and acquisitions, which would convert it into a real machine for the extension of its domains.

In time, those domains became enormous, as much outside the walls as within the city, with houses at rent. They formed a colony, in which lived no freemen or bourgeoisie, but were made up of servants, buildings, and farms which depended on the monastery. This disappeared as a consequence of the revolution of 1868, as did so many other local monuments.

Shortly after these institutions were founded, there happened in the city a very curious event, relatively normal in those days in which possession or proprietorship of designated lands was still a process of consolidation, but which, although scarcely remembered today, became all important in the formation of symbols and emblems of the city, i.e. such a question as the origin of why the coat of arms of Madrid is as it is today.

They relate that, toward the year 1222, the clergy of the city (in a meeting of clergy of the parishes of Madrid) and the City Council got involved in a dispute for possession of the grasslands and woods of the district included in the territories of municipal or local jurisdiction.

Each one of the two bands challenging each other, defended age-old, traditional rights to the surrounding lands, for these lands represented an undeniable source of wealth.

Tradition says that the king intervened, settling amicably the problem in a manner worthy of King Solomón, by ceding ownership of the meadowlands to the clergy and of the woodlands and mountains to the council, and this decision was respected by both parties. From this quarrel was derived the medieval coat of arms of the city, although we do not know if it was an immediate consequence or if it came slowly.

What is certain is that, from that time, the coat of arms of the local clergy continued the same as the old one of the city: a bear rampant with four paws grazing, on a field of silver, which we now know was the emblematic standard of the men of Madrid on the fields of Las Navas de Tolosa.

The City Council, however, modified its insignia or emblem, perhaps to make a statement on their new and now legitimate properties, for it depicts a bear on foot, on hind legs, eating fruit from the branches of a tree. Such it is as we know it today.

Coat of arms of the city of Madrid.


- King Alfonso VIII (1155 - 1214) grants to the city its Charter in 1202,
the so-called "Fuero de Madrid."

- Iron-worker of the 14th century, carrying hammer and pincers.

- Worker of the 13th century.

- A leper-woman with a wooden rattle to warn of her presence
when she enters towns.

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