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El Bierzo Region (Castile and Leon, Spain)

Comarca del Bierzo

Last modified: 2011-01-07 by eugene ipavec
Keywords: spain | castile and leon | leon | el bierzo | bierzo | map: outline | nationalist | proposal | cross: saltire (red) | crown: royal (closed) | votive cross | cross: yellow (votive) |
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[El Bierzo Region (Leon, Spain), unofficial flag]
image by Wikipedia User:HansenBCN, 15 Aug 2008

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Administratively, El Bierzo is a comarca – a subprovincial administrative area – occupying about 25% of Leon province, most of the NW part of it. Here is a map of Leon province with its comarcas. However, I believe that Bercian autonomists / separatists / etc. also consider parts of Ourense province (Galicia).

Santiago Dotor, 22 Sep 1999

El Bierzo achieved officially the status of Comarca by Law of the Autonomous Community of Castile and Leon in 1994, with a very low degree of self-government in some local matters. The term comarca refers to a traditional division, generally with common geographic, cultural and even economical links. El Bierzo is the first such territory to achieve official status by Law in Castile and Leon. The administrative organ is called Consejo Comarcal del Bierzo (this is their Official Website).

As many other nationalist claims all over the world, there are some reasons in the Bercian claim: historical – a province of Villafranca del Bierzo, approximately with the same boundaries, existed for a few years [after the first provincial partition which took place] in the early XIX century – , linguistic (Galician is spoken there [though only by ca. 5% of the population]), economic (higher developed industry, mining and agriculture than in the rest of the province), etc.

Antonio Gutiérrez, 22-23 Sep 1999


The new flag is presented here:

La bandera oficial del Bierzo, la del Consejo Comarcal, ha cumplido ya 5 años pues su diseño actual se aprobó el 14 de abril de 2000.
... which probably means that the flag was adopted on 14th April 2000.

Valentin Poposki, 12 Apr 2006

As shown in a photo (contributed to Wikipedia by "FCPB," 20 Dec 2008) of the El Bierzo Council building, the flag is a mix of the first two proposals, quartered white-white-blue-blue by a red saltire and charged in the middle with the coat of arms. A big copy of the flag is shown on a photo published in El Bierzo Digital on 25 May 2007, taken during a street demonstration calling for the return of the Peñalba Cross (see below).

The replica of a lance pennant (photo, contributed to Wikipedia by "FCPB", 25 Jan 2008), kept in the local museum, is said to be the origin of the El Bierzo flag.

The Peñalba Cross represented on the coat of arms is a votive cross offerred by King Ramiro II of León (reigned 931-951) to the now-disappeared Santiago de Peñalba monastery. The cross rewarded apostle St. James (Santiago) for his support during the Battle of Simancas, won in 940 by Ramiro over the Moors. The Peñalba Cross is similar to the Los Ángeles Cross shown on the coat of arms of Oviedo; however, as opposed to most votive crosses of the time, made of gold, the Peñalba Cross is made of brass.

The Cross was kept in the Santiago de Peñalba parish church (the former monastery church) until 1879, whenit was transferred into the León Museum. There have been recent petitions for the "devolution" of the Cross, that is its repatriation to El Bierzo.

Source: El Diario de León, 30 Oct 2009, including a large photo of the Cross

Ivan Sache, 28 Aug 2010

Unofficial Variants

Photos available in the PB website, taken on 27 Apr 2010, show, hanging on the wall, the official El Bierzo charged with "EL BIERZO" written in white letters in the blue triangle (to be placed in another subsection of the main section). Oddly enough, the writing, to be read from top to bottom on the flag placed vertically, would be upside down on the flag placed horizontally. A more elaborated version of the flag has "REGION" in the white triangle and "EL BERZIO" in the blue triangle, to be read horizontally.

Photos taken during the 8th Extraordinary Congress of the PB, held on 15-16 December 2007 in Ponferrada, shows an updated version of the party flag (to be placed in the PB section). The flag is similar to the graphic shown on the same page. The map of the claimed El Bierzo Council is charged with a countercoloured "B", "Partido de' is written in blue letters on the top of the flag, and "El Bierzo", in bigger, white letters, is written all along the bottom edge of the flag.

Ivan Sache, 28 Aug 2010

Unofficial Former Flag

[El Bierzo Region (Leon, Spain), unofficial flag]
image by António Martins

In the Bierzo region [NW Leon, unofficial capital Ponferrada] a diagonally parted flag, white top hoist and light blue lower fly is very frequently used.

Jaume Ollé, 20 Jun 1999

Official Proposals

[El Bierzo Region (Leon, Spain), official proposal]    [El Bierzo Region (Leon, Spain), official proposal]
both images by Antonio Gutiérrez

Procedures to officially adopt flag and arms began on March 31st 1998, with two proposals for the flag: the known white-blue one (objected by various political groups other than the Bierzo Party, for obvious reasons) and a new pattern, white with a red saltire. The proposed arms include a cross (similar to the Cruz de los Ángeles of the Oviedo coat-of-arms), mining tools and vineyard leafs. No official adoption to date.

Description of the coat-of-arms: "Gules the Peñalba cross Or, a bordure componny of eight Argent a vine leaf Vert, and Azure two mining tools in saltire Or. Crest: royal crown." (Translation of coat-of-arms description from Spanish to English provided image by Santiago Dotor). The approximate size of the coat-of-arms on both flags is 2/5 of hoist (1st proposal) and 1/2 of hoist (2nd proposal).

Antonio Gutiérrez, 22-23 Sep 1999

A public opinion poll about the new flag offered three possible designs: the ones already sent to the list and a new one, a mixture of both. [The results can be seen here.]

Antonio Gutiérrez, 01 Oct 1999

Bierzo Party

Partido de El Bierzo

[Bierzo Party (Leon, Spain)]
image by António Martins

The Bierzo Party uses a variation [of the white-blue flag], with the regional Bierzo map in the center drawn in a counterchanged outline.

Jaume Ollé, 20 Jun 1999

I believe that the map outlined in the Bierzo Party's flag is not exactly the one shown in the comarcas map referred above. This map which I found in a website about Celts in El Bierzo looks very much like what I remember.

Santiago Dotor, 22 Sep 1999

I note that this is in Northwest Spain - are the sky-blue and white a reference to the flag of Galicia?

James Dignan, 28 Aug 2010

A partial answer to our question is to be found on the website of the El Bierzo Party. The El Bierzo Party (PB; "Partido de El Berzio" rather than "Partido del Bierzo," spelling to be corrected) was founded on 23 April 1979. Following an internal crisis, the party was refounded in 2000, defending an ideology called "Nuevo Bercianismo" (New Bercianism); the party currently claims a membership of 1,000.

In the 1983 municipal elections, for which the party had not been registered yet, members of the party competed as "Independientes del Bierzo" (El Bierzo independent candidates) and already used the white-blue flag. The colours seems to have been borrowed from the sports club Deportiva Ponferradina, while other clubs of the region also used them. Subsequently, the PB never accepted the provincial flag with the purple colour representing León, and prefered the white-blue colours, "more typical of the regions and villages of the peninsular north-west".

For one year, the PB used a flag with a green part, symbolizing El Bierzo orchards, a yellow stripe, symbolizing the auriferous river Sil, and a blue part, symbolizing the water resources. The precise design of this flag, is, unfortunately, not given.

In the 1987 regionalist boom, the PB restored the flag created by the "Independenties del Bierzo." The PB first claimed that the official flag of El Bierzo Region is a hijacking of the original flag by the dominant national parties (PPE and PSOE), but eventually recognized it in 2005. The PB proposed the "Special Law of the El Bierzo Council" granting autonomy of the region within Castile and León. Article 4.1. of the proposed Law says:

"El Bierzo shall have its own flag and arms, as adopted on 14 April 2000 by the Council plenum and totally defined. The symbol of the El Bierzo Council shall be the present coat of arms of El Berzio. [...]"
Sources: , PB website, Bercian flag section; , PB website, Special Law proposal, Chapter I

It must be noted that there is no mention of a Galician symbolic anywhere on the PB website, though "El Bierzo Galician" is expected to be developed in the future to achieve bilingualism (Article 3 of the Special Law proposal).

My own interpretation is that the El Berzio autonomists do not consider themselves as Galician separatists, although the Galician culture is widespread in the region; they don't ask for the incorporation of the region into Galicia.

Ivan Sache, 28 Aug 2010