We are in the heart of Madrid. We are at la Puerta del Sol (the Sun’s Gate). In the kilometre 0, the place from where all the radial roads of Spain start and are monitored, apart from one or two traffic radars, by the statue of the monumental bear and that together with the not less famous strawberry tree, form the coat of arms of the capital.
Buuut, have you ever asked yourself why these symbols? And if we told you that the bear is actually a female bear? And that the seven stars, also present in the crest and flag of the community, seem to symbolise the constellation of the Great Bear?
So! before you take the usual selfie with the sculpture, we are going to tell you a few more facts about how, when and why this set was put together, which is more recent than what it seems, since it was only inaugurated not much more than 50 years ago.
To do so, we must go back to the very beginning; Ocno Bianor´s story.
According to the legend, this Trojan king was sent by Apolo to the search of lands so he could establish his new kingdom ¨to the lands where the sun dies¨ to the west, that is. After many adventures and misadventures, in one of them he tried to cross the Alps in the middle of winter…. Too cold for any one´s body, even to our hero’s body, and so he ended taking refuge in a cave where there was a bear hibernating and whose heat saved Ocnor from dying frozen.
It is from this legend, written when Felipe ll was in full reign, when Madrid and Valladolid were fighting for the capital´s title trying their best to win it, and according to Jose Maria de Mena a well-known historian from Madrid, where the origin of the bear in the crest seems to come from. But there is also an important fact that the wise man Mena clarifies in his writings; the bear is actually a female bear, since the femininity in heraldry symbolizes fertility and abundance.
And so, we have the female bear in the crest. To emphasize the bold character of the villa, they added the seven stars that make the Great Bear constellation (also call Ursa Major) which symbolizes the north and progress.
At the beginning, around the thirteenth century, the bear was simply presented grazing and with the stars drawn on its back. A little later it appears next to a tower, symbol of strength and hardness and it’s only in the sixteenth century when for the first time the strawberry tree appears.
Of the various theories that exist about its incorporation to the crest, we have, ritual suicides, disputes or miraculous anti-plague remedies… but the one that seems to be more reliable is that it is simply a clue to remember, since the Mad-roño (strawberry tree in Spanish) on the crest would remind us that it belongs to Mad-rid. Is that simple.