HOME  Astero Basq Govt  B-Board Calendar Dance  Education Euskara FAQ  Meeting Members Mus  Music Pilota Youth  




IKURRINA: The Basque Flag

The Basque flag was created in 1894 by Sabino Arana (founder of Basque nationalism).  The name of the flag in the Basque language is ikurrina.  Although the meaning of this word is flag, it is actually used only for the Basque flag.  While not a flag of a nation-state, it nevertheless serves as unifying symbol for Basque everywhere.

(Article written by Xabier Ormaetxea and Blas Uberuaga)


The Basque flag was created in 1894 by Sabino Arana (founder of Basque nationalism).  The name of the flag in the Basque language is ikurrina.  Although the meaning of this word is flag, it is actually used only for the Basque flag. 

; Basque people prefer to use the Spanish word bandera for other flags (when they are speaking in Basque, of course). 

            The ikurrina was originally created only for Bizkaia (the main region of Euskadi), but it became very popular and the rest of the Basque regions (4 regions in Spain and 3 in France) accepted it as the flag for all of Euskadi. In the begining only the Basque Nationalist Party (founded by Sabino Arana on July 31st, 1895) used it, but during the 2nd Spanish Republic (1931-1939) all of the democratic parties accepted it.  In 1936, the Basque Autonomous Government was created (it's Lehendakari (president) was Jose Antonio Agirre) with representation of all the democratic parties, and the ikurrina was declared, by law, the Basque flag.

            After the Spanish war, the dictatorship declared the ikurrina illegal, and it was completely forbidden and declared as a separatist symbol. During the 2nd World War there was a Basque brigade in the French free army, and the ikurrina of the brigade was condecorated ( because of the battle of Point

 de Grave, near Burdeaux). 

            After the last Spanish dictatorship, and with the approval of the Basque autonomy, the ikurrina was declared again by law as the official Basque flag.  In the Basque-French country, it has always been allowed and after World War II it was officially used in the town halls together with the French


Significance of the ikurrina

Historically, the flag of Bizkaia was red, so the aim of the Arana brothers was to also give it the meaning of Bizkaia, independence and God.  So the red color of the field represents Bizkaia or Euskadi, the green St. Andrew's cross stands for the the independence of the Basque Country.  It is green because it also symbolizes the oak tree of Gernika, the symbol of Basque freedom. The white cross represents God.

The green St. Andrew's cross: In the Middles Ages (year 867), there was a battle between the Basques and the Spaniards in a place called Padura. This  battle was on St. Andrew's day.  The stones of the place were stained with blood and since that day that place has been called Arrigorriaga (Place of red stones). It is  not clear if this battle is historical or legendary, but the St. Andrew's cross as often been used in Basque flags, like those of the Consulate of Bilbao, The Naval flag of Biscay, and in some Carlists flags during the Carlists wars (1836-1876).

Measurements and proportions.

            Originaly: In a field of 500 cm by 280 cm the crosses had a width of 20 cm.  Since 1936: With the same field, the crosses were enlarged to 43 cm in  width, to make them more visible, especially the green one.


Article 5 of the 1979 Statutes of Autonomy establishes the Ikurriña as the national flag of the Basque Country and also recognises the flags and insignias of the Historical Territories or Provinces that make up the Basque Autonomous Community.

The flag or "ikurrina" of the Basque Country consists of a green diagonal cross, a white vertical cross and red background.

It was originally designed as the flag of Bizkaia by the brothers Luis and Sabino de Arana Goiri, who respectively inspired and founded Basque nationalism. As a consequence of its use during the first 30 years of the 20th century in all kinds of events and its widespread use throughout the Basque provinces of Gipuzkoa, Alava and Navarra, as well as in the French Basque Country, it ceased to be purely the flag of a political party and was adopted as the Basque flag. In 1936, the Basque Government declared it to be the national emblem.

According to its designers, the Ikurriña was based on the flag of Bizkaia. The red background was taken from the coat of arms of Bizkaia. The green cross of St Andrew (the colour green was an allusion to the oak tree in the coat of arms of Bizkaia) was placed on this red background.  The white cross was also taken from the one superimposed over the oak in this same coat of arms. Its symbolism, according to the intentions of its authors, was simple: Bizkaia, its individual rights and religious faith hierarchically related.


File:Flag of the Basque Country.svg

The Ikurriña or Ikurrina flag is a Basque symbol and the official flag of the Basque Country Autonomous Community of Spain.

Following the pattern of the Union Flag, the flag was designed by the founders of the Basque Nationalist Party EAJ-PNV, Luis and Sabino Arana, and is commonly regarded as the national but unofficial symbol of Euskal Herria, or the wider Basque Country. It is widely seen in the French Basque Country and forms part of the unofficial flag of Saint Pierre and Miquelon, the French overseas community in North America that was settled by French Basque and also many Spanish Basque sailors. The Ikurriña is also the flag of the Basque Nationalist Party (EAJ-PNV). A controversy exists because at first it was only the symbol of a section of the party (the section of Biscay) and many persons thought that another flag must represent the territory.

The flag's British influence is probably due to the close connection between Bilbao and Britain at the time of its design and the Cross of Burgundy flag[citation needed] (Spanish Imperial Emblem), the old flag of the Kingdom of Navarre and the Italian immigration for the colors[citation needed]. (Ironically, at later times Basque Nationalists flying this flag on some occasions identitifed themselves and associated with anti-British Irish Nationalists.)

The flag was designed in 1894 to represent the province of Biscay in a set of one flag for each of the seven Basque provinces and one for the whole country; however, since PNV activity was scarce outside of Biscay, only the Biscayne flag was publicly recognized. It was hoisted for the first time in the "Euzkeldun Batzokija", the club that preceded EAJ-PNV. The party adopted it in 1895 and, in 1933, proposed it as the flag of the whole Basque Country.

In 1936, because the Basque people had accepted the "ikurriña" and at the suggestion of the socialist counselor Aznar, the Basque Government adopted it as the flag of the Basque Autonomous Region. The regime of General Franco prohibited it in 1938 (it continued to be used in the Basque departements of France). It became a symbol of defiance – the first actions of the clandestine group ETA involved placing flags in public places. During the Spanish transition to democracy, it was legalized in 1977. Two years later, the Basque Government turned to adopt it as flag of the Basque A.C. It was also adopted by nationalists in the rest of the provinces.

The red ground symbolizes the Biscayan people (the race); the green saltire might represent the Oak of Guernica, a symbol of the old laws of Biscay, or Fueros; and over them, the white cross, God's symbol of Basque Catholic devotion. Thus, red, white and green have become the national Basque colors.