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Puerto Rico - "Cross of Burgundy" Flag

Last modified: 2021-08-25 by rob raeside
Keywords: puerto rico | burgundy cross | cross (burgundy) |
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image by Blas Delgado Ortiz, 4 March 2000

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Some friends who were in Puerto Rico over Christmas described a commonly seen flag (along with the Stars and Stripes and the Puerto Rican flags): The flag is a St. Patrick's cross, red on white, but the cross is made of 9 "bricks" on each diagonal, instead of being a single straight-edged band. (This is a crude gif.)
Rob Raeside, 20 January 1998

This is the "Cross of Burgundy," one of the standards of Spain that was used by the Spanish Military in the South East US.
Nathan Bliss, 20 January 1998

It's not the usual Cross of Burgundy. This is "argent, gnarled cross gules", but the one that was flown in Puerto Rico was definitely a cross made of horizontal "bricks". It was flying at El Morro, an old fort in San Juan.
Rob Raeside, 21 January 1998

The "Cross of Burgundy" flag is the Spanish military flag. My understanding is that is was not used after the 1780's. It is flown over San Cristobal fort, El Morro fort, and some other buildings that were official buildings under Spain as an historical thing. The cross does not reach the corners.
Anna Stone Jimanez, 31 October 1998

I saw your webpage on Puerto Rican flags and I would like to clarify something about the "Cross of Burgundy" Flag.
This flag is not the "Cross of Burgundy" but "La bandera de San Andres de la Infanteria." translated "The flag of St. Andrew of the Infantry." St. Andrew is the patron saint of the Spanish Armed Forces (Even to this day.) The White and Red flaming cross represents the colors of "El Tercio de Nueva España". This regiment became the 29th local infantry regiment that saw action in the British invasion of Puerto Rico in 1798, The Spanish-French war of 1809, The war of 1812 in Louisiana under the command of Bernardo de Galves and the Spanish-American War of 1898, where the regiment was disbanded after the conflict ended in favor of the U.S. The Flag is still flown at San Felipe del Morro Castle in San Juan as a tribute to this regiment.
Marcos Rodri'guez , 1 October 1999

The basic pattern of a "saltire raguly couped Gules", or plainly speaking a red saltire resembling two crossed, roughly-pruned branches, on a usually white field (but also blue, purpure etc.), was the Spanish military flag from the 15th century up to 1843, when the red-2 yellow-red ensign was adopted for use on land too. The saltire was originally a Burgundian emblem, first introduced in Spain as the personal badge of Phillip the Handsome, Duke of Burgundy and King Consort of Castile and Aragon, married to Joan of Castile and Aragon (daughter of the Catholic Kings Ferdinand and Elizabeth), the parents of Charles I (Charles V as German Emperor). As such, the emblem has been called in Spain "cross [or, more properly, saltire] of Burgundy", even if the term "cross/saltire of St. Andrew" has also been used. To say that the flag is that of the Spanish armed forces "because" its patron saint is Saint Andrew, is a post-facto explanation with not much vexillological background. Spanish infantry did fly it, as also did cavalry, artillery, engineers, etc. It was first used not by regular infantry but by the equivalent to the present Spanish [Foreign] Legion, the "Tercios", volunteer expeditionary troops including infantry and cavalry. From the 1930s up to recently there has been scarce use of the Burgundy Cross by infantry units in flags, uniforms etc., whereas it is displayed in all Spanish Air Force planes (that is what the stylized saltire fin marking stands for!). On the other hand, it is a mistaken explanation, since the patron saint of the Spanish Infantry is not St. Andrew but Our Lady's Immaculate Conception! Actually none of the Spanish Armed Forces' branches-of-service have St. Andrew as its patron... The Burgundy Cross is nevertheless related to St. Andrew indeed, not through the patronage of a Spanish army branch, but through its Burgundian origin - St. Andrew being the patron saint of the Duchy of Burgundy.
Santiago Dotor, 6 October 1999

The white flag with the red cross flown in the forts in P.R. is in fact "La Cruz de Borgoña" or Burgundy Cross also known as "La Cruz de San Andrés" or St. Andrews Cross. The "brick" pattern is due to the cross having knobs. It has been a historical battle standard in Spain for ages.
Jorge D. Gonzalez, 13 October 1999

Flags having this cross with many minor variations were the most common symbol for Burgundy  in the late middle ages, sometimes with a white field and sometimes with any of a wide variety of colored and multicolored fields. It also appears, less frequently, with a white cross on a red field. With the union of the Burgundian and Spanish crowns under Phillip the Fair, it became (again with many variations) a flag of the Spanish Netherlands (present-day Belgium) and of the Spanish crown and military forces. I have seen flags in old flag charts as "Ostend" and "Biscay" and a wide variety of them are illustrated in Perez and Gonzales, Banderas de España, 1983. with dates as early as 1520 and as late as 1931, frequently as unit flags which then usually have a badge or name of the unit as well).
Norman Martin, 27 January 2000

Over the summer, I visited Puerto Rico. At El Morro, I noticed an unusual flag flying over the fort and asked a Park Ranger about it. He said it was the Spanish military flag that flew over the fort in the 16th and 17th centuries.  I bought a little 4x6 inch version of the flag for my office. The flag you currently have on your webpage for the "Burgundy Cross" is similar but not quite right.  The color is darker and it's not really the right shape. Here is my little flag. 
Chris Gleason, 28 January 2000

I figure that, from afar, perhaps on a picture, the cross might look like the arrangement with "bricks" which seems to pose as the Burgundy cross. Actually, I saw something like that on a TV special.
Guillermo Tell, 31 January 2000

This "brick arrangement" must certainly be an optical effect. Many variants of the Burgundy cross existed, but all the variations consisted in either (a) the saltire being 'throughout' or 'couped' i.e. reaching or not the borders, (b) the total number of 'stumps' on each of the saltire's arms (including no 'stumps' at all), (c) the number of 'stumps' being identical or not on each side of the saltire's arms, (d) the 'stumps' ending with a cut parallel to the saltire's arm or with a right-angle cut, (e) the 'stumps' being of the same width as the saltire's arms or thinner, (f) the colours of the saltire and the field (mostly red on white, but also red on yellow, white on blue, red on purple etc.) or (g) the saltire being represented as a heraldic 'saltire raguly' or more realistically like two branches, sometimes even joined with a ribbon.
Santiago Dotor, 31 January 2000

The Cross of Burgundy or St. Andrew Flag also flies in the Castillo San Cristo'bal, or St. Christopher Fortress, in Old San Juan. This is a bigger but less known complex than El Morro, built by the Spaniards. It isn't in its original state. Both fortresses are administered by the U.S. National Parks Service. The flag has the same 2:3 dimension as the PR National Flag.
Blas Delgado Ortiz, 4 March 2000

Those of us above a certain age recall that the fort's colors *used* to have the saltire "couped" i.e. not stretching all the way to the corners, and "ragouly" i.e. irregular. As time went, the saltire became more and more stylized so that as of the late 1990s the pattern is the one at the top of the page, though historicaly it would be incorrect.
Jose Diaz, 29 September 2000

image taken by Ben Cahoon, 25 August 2011

At Fort San Cristobal in San Juan, Puerto Rico I saw the National Park Service was flying the pre-1701 flag of the Spanish monarchy with the Burgundian cross. I thought this was very interesting as it is being flown on the forts walls along with the U.S. flag and the flag of Puerto Rico (attached image taken by me).  
Ben Cahoon, 25 August 2011