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Ceuta (Spain)

Autonomous City of Ceuta, Ciudad Autónoma de Ceuta

Last modified: 2013-12-02 by eugene ipavec
Keywords: ceuta | spain | enclave | coat of arms | portugal | castle | lion | pillars of hercules | plaza de soberanía | gironny | st. vincent | pennant: ogival | text: arabic (golden) |
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[Ceuta (Spain)] 2:3
image by António Martins

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Spain still owns Ceuta and Melilla, two enclaves in North Africa, as well as some tiny islands in the Mediterranean [the so-called Plazas de Soberanía en el Norte de África]. Spain decided in 1995 to give the status of Autonomous Community to those two territories, creating tension with Morocco who wants to take these over.

Pascal Vagnat, 22 Feb 1996

Ceuta is a small Spanish possesion in North Africa, facing Gibraltar.

António Martins, 18 Jun 1997

Ceuta was the first or one of the first conquests in the very beginning of the Portuguese expansion (1415). It remained Portuguese for over two centuries, having been lost to Spain in 1640, after the Restoration, the recovery of Portuguese independence. Even during the period of Philippine domination (1580-1640) [Kings Phillip II, III and IV], Ceuta was formally part of the Kingdom of Portugal.

Jorge Candeias, 19 Jul 1998


The flag of Ceuta is a gironny of 8 black and white with the arms of Portugal in an escutcheon. The flag of Ceuta is similar to many town flags in Portugal, reminding the fact that Ceuta was formerly a Portuguese possession.

Ilídio Rafael, 10 May 1996

The flag, black over white gironny (exactly like the Lisbon flag), shows the Portuguese heritage, since Ceuta was Portuguese territory from 1430 up to 1640 when Spain kept it along with Equatorial Guinea etc.

António Martins, 18 Jun 1997

The coat of arms is not precisely identical to the Portuguese, since the bordure is charged with towers and not castles, and these are arranged 2+2+2+1, instead of 3+2+2. Naturally, this does not override the relationship between both flags, but rather illustrates the diverging path of a pattern nowadays to be followed strictly, but based on a particular instance from a time where heraldic accuracy was much more loose than today...

António Martins, 15 Aug 1999

The first flag flown in Ceuta by the Portuguese troops, when they conquered the city to the Moors in 1415, was the flag of the city of Lisbon (also called the flag of St. Vincent for the patron saint of the city). To celebrate this, the flag of Ceuta became the same as that of Lisbon (gyronny white and black).

The coat-of-arms of Ceuta is that of Portugal with a small difference: the seventh castle is on the bottom and not on the centre top of the bordure of the shield. This follows an ancient habit of some Portuguese cities and towns (specially those in isolated places like the borders or overseas) to adopt the coat-of-arms of Portugal as their own, with differences that may appear within the shield (like in the case of Ceuta) or in the outside ornaments (for example the former coat-of-arms of Macau). Another reason for the adoption of the Portuguese coat-of-arms (with that small difference) as that of Ceuta is the simbolic importance that the city had for Portugal since it was the first overseas conquest of the nation and it marked the beginning of worldwide Portuguese sea expansion.

Like in Portuguese cities, in the present there are two official versions for the flag of Ceuta, one with the city coat-of-arms in the centre of the gyronny field and another without it. Both versions can be seen flying in several places of the city.

José J. Xambre Sobral, 23 Aug 2000

Flag Variant

[Ceuta (Spain), flag variant] 2:3
image by António Martins

Coat of Arms

The arms are identical to the national arms of Portugal. Around 1400 the House of Avis has secured the Portuguese crown by gaining popular support and uniting all the country against the threat of Castillian rule. The new king, John I was crowned at the Courts of Lisbon around 1384. The Castillian King angered and put a siege around Lisbon with a vast army. All in vain as the army and the fleet were destroyed. John I subsequently wants to enlarge his territory and he choose Ceuta. Ceuta remained Portuguese from 1412-1580, when Spain and Portugal were joined. After 70 years Portugal regained its independence, but Ceuta remained Spanish. Ceuta, nowadays a Spanish enclave in Morocco, was a wealthy Arab city. John I and his army defeat the Arabs and conquer Ceuta, which subsequently is granted the Portuguese arms. In a later era Ceuta is reconquered by the Arabs and later by the Spanish. Still, the original banner with the Portuguese arms that were granted to the city, has always been the banner of the city and, nowadays, is an important historical relic. The Spanish never changed the Portuguese arms of the city.

"Heraldry of the World Website," quoting Cadenas & Cadenas (1985)

Ivan Sache, 12 Jan 2010

Ceuta (Cepta), Late 14th Century

As Shown In 2005 Illustrated Transcription [f0f05]
[Ceuta in the Book of All Kingdoms (Spain, Late 14th Century)]
image by Eugene Ipavec, 08 Apr 2009
As Shown In Siegels Flag Chart [sig12]
[Ceuta in the Book of All Kingdoms (Spain, Late 14th Century)]
image by Eugene Ipavec, 08 Apr 2009

The 63rd flag mentioned and illustrated in the Book of All Kingdoms [f0fXX] is attributed apparently to Ceuta, though perhaps to Gibraltar; the sentence is far from clear. This as depicted in the 2005 Spanish illustrated transcription [f0f05] as a red flag with two large white keys standing upwards, in the ogival default shape of this source. The anonymous author of [f0fXX] describes the flag thusly:

«El rey d'esta cibdat á por señales un pendón bermejo con dos llaves blancas a tales.»
"The king of this city has for device a red pendon with two white keys like these."

The "keys" motive seems to indicate that this may be the 14th-century flag of Gibraltar, while the unclear paragraph of [f0fXX] seems to refer to Ceuta:

...«llegué a la fuerte cibdat de Cepta. E sabet que Cebta es en derecho de Algezira e de Gibraltar, logares del reino de España. E pasa entre esta Cepta e Gibraltar el golfo del mar que llaman el angostura del azocaque. El rey d'esta cibdat á por señales un pendón bermejo con dos llaves blancas a tales.

Sallí de Cebta e fui...»

António Martins-Tuválkin, 27 Nov 2007

A red lanceolate with two golden keys of total height, horizontally ordered.

Source: Siegels Flag Chart [sig12], flagchart 17, row 4, column 2; based on "Conocimiento de todos los reinos" [f0fXX]

Klaus-Michael Schneider, 12 Sep 2008