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
Coast of arms of the
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
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
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
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
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
- 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
when she enters towns.
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