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The Garment Worker, by Judith Weller Molly-Malone, by Jeanne Rynhart
The Bear & the Strawberry Tree, by Antonio Navarro Santafe - Scintillating Sculptures
194    Dibyendu Banerjee    07/04/2024

Located in the east end of the Puerta del Sol, a public square between Calle de Alcalá and Carrera de San Jerónimo, in the historical centre of Madrid, the capital city of Spain, the statue of the Bear and the Strawberry Tree, depicting a burly bear standing on its hind legs and searching for the fruits hidden among the foliage of a strawberry tree, is symbolically attached to the city and the subject of a popular local folklore.

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Promoted by the section of Culture of the City Council of Madrid, which wanted to represent the main heraldic symbols of the city in a monument, the statue was created by the sculptor Antonio Navarro Santafé and was inaugurated on 19 January 1967.

the bear the strawberry tree

The statue of the Bear & the Strawberry Tree, representing in a real-life form the Coat of Arms of Madrid, is made of stone and bronze, weighing around 22 tons and stands 13 feet (4 m) tall, resting on a staggered cubic pedestal of granite, with the tree taller than the bear, which supports her paws on the trunk and directs his attention towards one of the fruits.

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The sculpture remained in its initial location in the east end of the Puerta del Sol till 1986, when it was moved to the front of Carmen Street for the remodeling of the square, and shifted back to its original location in September 2009.

the bear the strawberry tree

Historically, the use of the bear as a symbol of Madrid was first recorded in 1212, when the troops from the city charged the Moors in the battle of Las Navas de Tolosa, carrying a flag depicting a bear with the seven stars of the constellation rsa Major, also known as the Great Bear. However, the symbol of the bear and the strawberry tree was first included as a seal in 1222, to sign a decree by King Alfonso VIII, to end a dispute over land rights of the area that surfaced between the church and the city council. As both the parties claimed the forests and fields in the area, the King decided that the trees and woodlands, represented by the strawberry tree, a common species in the region, would belong to the city, while the animals and the plains, represented by the bear, would be the property of the church.

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Satisfied with the ruling, the city subsequently altered its crest to include a tree, while the bear was also changed to a standing position, the same composition as today.

the bear the strawberry tree

Both the bear and the Strawberry tree also have symbolic value, based on local legends. While the people in Southern Europe once believed that the leaves of the Strawberry tree help cure the plague, according to folklore, the image of the bear is a tribute to a she-bear killed by a king during a hunt, which impressed the king by her courage in facing death. Nevertheless, the statue is regarded as the well established emblem of the city of Madrid. While the seven stars of the Ursa Major are found on the flag of the Community of Madrid, it also represents the seven administrative areas of the city and the presence of the popular image on several highways of the city, welcomes and bids farewell to the visitors.

The Garment Worker, by Judith Weller Molly-Malone, by Jeanne Rynhart
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Author Details
Dibyendu Banerjee
Ex student of Scottish Church College. Served a Nationalised Bank for nearly 35 years. Authored novels in Bengali. Translated into Bengali novels/short stories of Leo Tolstoy, Eric Maria Remarque, D.H.Lawrence, Harold Robbins, Guy de Maupassant, Somerset Maugham and others. Also compiled collections of short stories from Africa and Third World. Interested in literature, history, music, sports and international films.
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