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Christobal Colon


The Republic





The Armed Forces



Air Force






The Dominican Republic occupies the eastern half of the second largest of the West India Islands, and was discovered by Columbus in October, 1492, on his first voyage, and named by him Hispaniola.

            In March 1493 Columbus returned from his first voyage and joined the Catholic kings in Barcelona between the 15th and the 20th of April. After he had presented his report of his voyage to the kings and to Luis de Santangel and Gabriel Sanchez, he was received in audience in a much better atmosphere and was confirmed in his privileges on the 20th of May. His coat of arms was augmented  eight days later on the 28th. At the same time he was nominated “Admiral, Vice-king and Governor of the Great Ocean and the isles and continent he had discovered and would discover in the future”.

            In 1493, Columbus came back to the island on his second voyage and founded the first Spanish colony in the New World, the city of Isabella.

            In 1496, his brother Bartholomew Columbus established the settlement of Santo Domingo de Guzmán on the southern coast, which became the new capital.

            On his third voyage Colombus reached Santo Domingo on the 20th of August 1498 to find that the majority of the colonists had rebelled against his authority under the leadership of Francesco Roldán. The arrival of the Vice-king did not resolve the problem. The accusations against him and his family eventually led to his dismissal by the royal court. On the 23rd of August 1500 Francisco de Bobadilla arrived in the harbour of Santo Domingo to arrest the Vice-king and governor. After faint resistance Christopher, his brother Bartholomew and his son Diego sailed for Spain in chains.

            After a while Chistopher was rehabilitaded but not restored in his functions by the Catholic Kings. After a fourth voyage in 1502 he died in 1506.


In 1508, the son of Christopher Columbus, Diego (1479-1526), was named governor of the Indies, the post his father had previously held. He continued to fight for the remainder of his father's titles, and was made viceroy of the Indies in May, 1511. He continued to resent enroachments on his power and to fight for all of his father's privileges thereafter and made trips to Spain in 1515 and 1523 to plead his case without success. After his death, a compromise was reached in 1536 in which his son Luis Colon (1519/20-1572) was named admiral of the Indies and renounced all other rights for a perpetual annuity of 10,000 ducats, the island of Jamaica as a fief, an estate of 25 square leagues on the Isthmus of Panama, and the titles of Duke de Veragua and Marquis de Jamaica.


From that time Hispaniola (and Santo Domingo) was incorporated in the Vice-kingdom of Nueva España, founded 1535.


New Spain

With the conquest of the American mainland, Hispaniola quickly declined. Most Spanish colonists left for the silver-mines of Mexico and Peru, while new immigrants from Spain bypassed the island. In 1586, Sir Francis Drake captured the city of Santo Domingo, collecting a ransom for its return to Spanish rule.

In 1605, Spain forcibly resettled the inhabitants closer to the city of Santo Domingo. French and English buccaneers took advantage of Spain's retreat into a corner of Hispaniola to settle the island of Tortuga in 1629, which France established direct control over in 1640, reorganizing it into an official colony and expanding to the north coast of Hispaniola itself. In 1655, Oliver Cromwell dispatched a fleet, commanded by Admiral Sir William Penn, to conquer Santo Domingo. After meeting heavy resistance, the English retreated, taking the island of Jamaica instead.


Division and Union 1697 - 1844

Spain ceded the western end of the island to France in 1697, under the Treaty of Ryswick. This part of the island had since 1630 been more or less under the control of French filibusters, and the majority of the inhabitants at the time of the treaty spoke the French language

            On July 22, 1795, the remaining or Spanish end of the island was also ceded to France. Six years later, 1801, the independence of the island was proclaimed by Toussaint l’Ouverture.

            Following the capture and death of Toussaint, his lieutenant, Jean Jaques Dessalines, proclaimed himself Emperor of Haiti, restoring the ancient name. Beginning in 1805, attempts were made by the Spaniards to regain possession of the eastern end of the island. In these attempts they were assisted by Spanish-speaking inhabitants, to whose bravery is due the victory of Palohincado on September 7, 1808. and the final capitulation of the besieged Santo Domingo on July 9, 1809, with help from the Royal Navy.  By the treaty of Paris in 1814 this occupation was recognized as of right.

            The Spanish authorities showed little interest in their restored colony and the Spanish lieutenant governor José Núñez de Cáceres declared the colony's independence as the state of Spanish Haiti (Estado Independiente de Haiti Español) on November 30, 1821, requesting admission to the Republic of Gran Colombia. Colombia was not able to assist the new State, and so Jean Pierre Boyer, the President of Haiti which had meanwhile changed its form of government from a monarchy to a republic, was able to extend his government over the whole island just nine weeks later.

            In this way the first flag of the Republic became the Colombian tricolor.


The first Republic 1844-1916

The island remained united under Haitian Government until 1844, when the eastern or Spanish end threw off the Haitian yoke and became independent under the name of Dominican Republic. The flag then adopted was a modification of the then Haitian flag, by the introduction of the white cross and a rearrangement of the quarterings [1].

            On the coat of arms of the Republic appear the cross, the book of Gospels, and the motto, “God, Country, and Liberty.” These words were the secret password of “La Trinitaria,” the patriotic society which inaugurated the revolution of 1844. [2]

            After a civil war at the end of the fifties and following negotiations with Spain, president Pedro Santana offcially restored the Dominican Republic to Spain in March 1861. In March 1865, however Queen Isabel II annulled the annexation and independence was restored, with the last Spanish troops departing by July.


United States occupation 1916 -1924

United States Marines landed in Santo Domingo on May 15, 1916. On June 1, Marines occupied Monte Cristi and Puerto Plata, and, after a brief campaign, took Arias's stronghold Santiago by the beginning of July. The Dominican Congress elected Dr. Francisco Henríquez Carvajal as President, but in November, after his refusal to meet the American demands, Woodrow Wilson announced the imposition of a U.S. military government, with Rear Admiral Harry Shepard Knapp as Military Governor.

The occupation ended in 1924, with a democratically elected Dominican government under president Horacio Vasquez.




Christobal Colon




1493 Coat of arms of Christobal Colón, Viceroy and Governor of the Sea, Islands and Continent of the socalled Ocean, granted by the Most Catholic Kings, 20th of May 1493. (Drawing preserved in the monastery of Rábida at Palos.)


Arms: Quarterly: 1. Vert, a three-towered castle Or; 2. Argent, a lion rampant Gules; 3. A sea proper, strewn with islands Or; 4. Or, a bend Azure and a chief Gules.


The grant reads:


            Don Fernando e doña Isabel &. Por facer bien e merced a vos don christoval colon nuestro almirante de las islas e tierra firme por nuestro mandado descubiertas e por descubrir en el mar oceano en la parte de las indias acatando los muchos e leales servicios que nos haveis fecho e esperamos que nos fareis especialmente en vra persona como la posistes a mucho arrisco e trabajo en descobrir las dichas yslas e por vos honrar e sublimar, e porque de vos e de vuestros servicios e linaje e descendientes quede perpetua memoria para siempre jamás habemos por bien e es nuestra merced e vos  damos licencia e facultad para que podades traer e traygades en vuestros reposteros e escudos de armas e en las otras partes donde las quisieredes poner,  demas de vuestras armas, encima dellas, un castillo e un leon que nos vos damos por armas:  conviene a saber, el castillo de color dorado en campo verde en el cuarto del escudo de vuestras armas en lo alto a la mano derecha; y en el otro cuarto alto a la mano izquierda un leon purpura en canpo blanco rayado de pardillo, y en el otro cuarto baxo a la mano derecha unas islas doradas en ondas azules [de mar]; y en el otro cuarto bajo a la mano isquierda las armas vuestras que soliades tener las cuales armas sean conocidas por vuestras armas e de vuestros hijos e descendientes para siempre jamas. &.

            Dada en la ciudad de Barcelona a veinte dias del mes de mayo año del nascimiento de nuestro señor jesucristo de mil cuatrocientos noventa y tres años.

1-1-2/9. núm. 1, fol. 30 vto [3]


The third quarter is for the title of “admiral of the isles and continent discovered and to be discovered by our appointment in the ocean and part of the Indies” (almirante de las islas e tierra firme por nuestro mandado descubiertas e por descubrir en el mar oceano en la parte de las indias) and consists of a picture of some islands washed by the sea.




Mercedes a Christóbal Colón: escudo.


Escudo de Cristóbal Colón tras la ampliación de sus armas con un castillo y un león, concedidos por los Reyes Católicos en 1493, como premio a los servicios del Almirante en el descubrimiento del Nuevo Mundo. Colores, óleo sobre piel; adherido a la vueltas de la cubierta del Libro de los Privilegios de Veragua. 290 x 210 mm. Patronato, 295, N. 98. (Patronato, 9, R.1, fol. 30 v°). El dibujo presenta variantes en relación con el privilegio, porque debió hacerse siguiendo la descriptión de Gonzalo Fernández de Oviedo. [4]


II. Arms: Quarterly: 1. Gules, a three towered castle Or, masoned Sable the windows and gate Azure; 2. Argent, a lion rampant Purpure, crowned Or; 3. Azure, islands and a continent Or; 4. Azure, five anchors per fess Or, 2, 1, 2; Enté en point Or, a bend Azure and a chief Gules.


These are the arms of Columbus after his second voyage (1493-’96). The tincture of the first field changed into Gules. The third and fourth for the realms mentioned in the grant of 1493. In the third a continent and islands (las islas e tierra firme) and in the fourth five anchors for his dignity as a Grand Admiral (almirante). His personal arms in a point enté in base.


In 1498 some of the Lesser Antilles had been discovered on his second voyage and Trinidad and the Venezolean coast on his third voyage.


The arms of the Spanish possessions overseas at the beginning of the 16th century.

As on Maximilian’s Triumphal Arch by Albrecht Dürer c.s.:, 1515/’17.


1. Arms: A lion passant and an elephant in base. L.: Gibaltraris et insularū canarie

2. Arms: A rhinoceros and a part of the zodiac showing  the constellations of cancer, leo, virgo and libra between two six-pointed stars. L.: Insularum Indiarū et maris occdt

3. Arms: An archipelago [proper]. L.: XVc inseln.


These arms are quite enigmatic because two of them do not occur in younger armorials.


Arms of  (The Baleares) Gibraltar and the Canaries, 1548

From: Vigil Rabers Sterzinger Wappenbuch. Weimar, Herzogin Anna Amalia Bibliothek, Fol. 28


ad. 1. The title of this coat of arms must be a mistake as the coat of arms of Gibraltar was a castle and a key by then (adopted 10 VII 1502)  However, the coat of arms with the lion and the  elephant  appears in a 17 th c. Spanish roll of arms where it is mentioned as:Islas y Tierra Firme: partido en dos en el superior, leopardo de oro y en punta un elefante de plata.” [5]

The title Islas y Tierra Firme seems to apply here to Algeria which enjoyed a short spanish occupation between 1510 and 1519. It is a translation in spanish from the Arabic word al-jazā’ir, which translates as the islands, referring to the four islands which lay off the city's coast until becoming part of the mainland in 1525. From ancient times the elephant has been the symbol of Africa, a lion occurs as the symbol of some of the North-African emirs in the 13th c. Wijnbergen Roll.


Arms of the Indiani Insularii maris Occiane/ . 1548

From: Vigil Rabers Sterzinger Wappenbuch. Weimar, Herzogin Anna Amalia Bibliothek, Fol. 28


ad. 2. The rhinoceros in this arms were considered as a typical Indian beast. A rhinoceros, until then unnown in Europe, was offered in 1513 by the portuguese king Emanuel to the pope. The animal perished during transport owing to shipwreck. Dürer made a woodcut of it after sketches sent to him from Lisbon and the rhinoceros in the arms is a simplified version of this woodcut. Dürer  writes on the woodcut:

Nach Christigeburt/1513 Jar adi 1 May hat man dem großmechtigsten König Emanuel von Portugal/ gen Lisabona aus India pracht/ ain solch lebendig Their das nennen sie Rhinocerus …..

The title of the arms fits well with the vice-kingdom of India, then consisting of the Antilles and the surrounding coasts of the American mainland. Of this vice-kingdom Diego Colon, the son of Christopher Columbus was the viceroy (1511-1526). He made a trip to Spain in 1515.

A map of the vice-kingdom was published in 1513 by Martin Waldseemüller.

The coat of arms of “India” is only documented on Dürers’ Triumphal arch and later by Vigil Raber..


ad. 3. This coat of arms maybe derived from the arms of the Islas e Tierra Firme in the third quarter of the first coat of arms of Columbus. The number XV refer to the fifteen Islands of the Canaries, Madeira and the Azores in the Atlantic, the Azores and Madeira belonging to Portugal, the Canaries conquered by Spain in 1492 only.

The coat of arms with the islands appears frequently in the 16th century and later, when it is called the arms of the 15 islands, later of the Canaries. Today it is the coat of arms of the autonomous community of the Canarias.




Philip II

King of Spain 1556-1598




Santo Domingo (Founded by Bartholomeo Colon 1496)


Arms: Per fess of Spain and the Netherlands, enté en point in a semicircle: Vert, a globe, showing the western hemisphere, the continent argent, the ocean azure, charged with a horse saliant proper, in his mouth a ribbon with the words Non inhærensis .

Motto: nec spe nec metv (Nor by Hope nor by Fear, the motto of Philip II).


On a map of the bay and city of Santo Domingo by Baptista Boazia, Leiden, 1588, two years after  Francis Drake captured the city. [6] His ships are seen in the bay.  The legend of the map reads:

Civitas S. Domici sita in Hispaniola Indiæ Angliæ mag: nitudine fere æqualis, ipsa urbs elegan: tor ab Hispalis extracta, et omnibus circumvicinis insulis iura dat.


As the coat of arms is not crowned, this is the coat of arms of the realm of Santo Domingo and not the royal arms for Santo Domingo.


The modern arms of Santo Domingo are Gules, in chief two lions rampant respecting, in nombril point a fivepointed crown, in dexter base a key per pale Or and in sinister base a cross Argent.







The emblem of the first Dominican Republic of Pedro Santana (1844-1861) resembles the symbol of the Haitian Republic in that it consists of a trophy of flags, a phrygian cap and armory in a “free” arrangement. To these symbols a snake for eternity, and an open bible and latin cross for religion are added. The whole is surrounded by a crown of oak and laurel. [7] The national flag of 1844 was quarterly of blue and red, a white cross.  



1865 - 1896



The second emblem of the first republic (1865) consists of a shield of the national flag, charged with a trophy of four national flags in saltire, charged with a snake, a latin cross, an open bible and a phrygian cap. Around the shield is a crown of palm and laurel and underneath the motto • dios • patria • libertad written in golden lettering on a white ribbon. The name of the republic is written on a like ribbon above the shield. [8]

The bible is opened at the Gospel of Matthew, Chapter X. of which the verses 24 and 25  may apply:


24 The disciple is not above his master, nor the servant above his lord. 25 It is enough for the disciple that he be as his master, and the servant as his lord. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebub, how much more shall they call them of his household?



1896 - 1916



By law of the 12th of June 1896 the snake and the phrygian cap were omitted.[9]



Reverse of a 10 centavo coin, 1897.



1924 - present


In the constitution promulgated during the Protectorate (1916 - 1924), the coat of arms was described in Art. 96. It was laid down then that the form of the shield had to be “oblong in shape, with the upper angles salient and the lower angles rounded, the center of the base of which terminates in a point”.


Constitution of the Dominican Republic


Art. 96

The coat of arms of the republic shall have the same colours as the national flag, placed in the same manner; in the center it shall bear the book of the Gospels, open, with a cross above it, both issuing out of a trophy consisting of two lances and four national flags without coat of arms, two on either side; it shall bear a laurel branch on the left side and a palm branch on the right; it shall be crowned with an ultramarine blue ribbon bearing the legend: “dios • patria • libertad”, and at the base another ribbon vermillion red in colour, with these words: “republica dominicana”.  The national coat of arms shall be oblong in shape, with the upper angles salient and the lower angles rounded, the center of the base of which terminates in a point, and so placed that if a horizontal line is drawn uniting the two verticals of the oblongs from where the lower angles begin, a perfect square results. [10]


This article of the Constitution has been confirmed in later and the last versions of the Constitution.


Æ see illustration in the head of this essay.


Armed Forces (Fuerzas Armadas)



Achievement of the Armed Forces


Army (Ejército Nacional)



Emblem of the Army


Navy (Marina da Guerra)



Achievement of the Navy


Air Force (Fuerza Aérea)



Achievement of the Air Force


Dominican Air force Command, seal




Police (Policia Nacional)






Emblem and arms of the National Police



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© Hubert de Vries 2007-10-15; Updated 2010-02-07; 2013-02-11; 2013-03-12; 2016-03-02




[1] The flag was adopted on the 7th of February 1844 and the model is identical to the banners of the 1st  French Republic.

[2]  The Flags and Arms of the American Republics. Dominican Republic. In: Bulletin of the International Bureau of the American Republics. 1909. Vol. I. pp. 904 -905, ill.

[3]  Montoto, Santiago: Nobiliario Hispano-Americano del siglo XVI. Colleccion de documentos inéditos para la historia de Hispano-América. - Tomo II.

[4]  Gonzáles García, Pedro ed.: Archivo General de Indias. Lunwerg Editores, Barcelona/Madrid 1995. p. 75. Libro de los Privilegios de Christóbal Colón: p. 85.

[5]  Vicente Cascante, Ignacio: Heraldica General y Fuentes de las Armas de España. Salvat. Eds. S.A.. Barcelona, 1956. pp. 535 -537. The ms. is in the Real Biblioteca de San Lorenzo del Escorial nr. h-11-21, fols. 382 - 386

[6]  Nebenzahl, Kenneth: Atlas of Columbus and the Great Discoveries. Chicago, New York, 1990. Sir Francis Drake. An Exhibition to Commemorate Francis Drake’s voyage around the world, 1577-1580. British Museum, London, 1977. British Museum for the British Library.

[7]  Clericus, Ludwig: Außereuropäische Wappen. In: Der Deutsche Herold, 1879, p. 105, Taf. X. nr. 62.

[8]  The illustration is from Heyer von Rosenfelt 1891.

[9]  Admiralty, 1915, p. 91.




ART. 95.- La bandera nacional se compone de los colores azul ultramar y rojo bermellón, en cuarteles alternados, colocados de tal modo que el azul quede hacia la parte superior del asta, separados por una cruz blanca del ancho de la mitad de la altura de un cuartel y que lleve en el centro el escudo de armas de la República. La bandera mercante es la misma que la nacional sin escudo.

ART. 96.- El escudo de armas de la República tendrá los mismos colores de la bandera nacional dispuestos en igual forma. Llevará en el centro el libro de los Evangelios, abierto, con una cruz encima surgiendo ambos entre un trofeo integrado por dos lanzas y cuatro banderas nacionales, sin escudo, dispuestas a ambos lados; llevará un ramo de laurel del lado izquierdo y uno de palma al lado derecho; estará coronado por una cinta azul ultramar en la cual se leerá el lema: Dios, Patria y Libertad, y en la base habrá otra cinta de color rojo bermellón con las palabras: República Dominicana. La forma del escudo nacional será de un cuadrilongo, con los ángulos superiores salientes y los inferiores redondeados, el centro de cuya base terminará en punta, y estará dispuesto en forma tal que si se traza una línea horizontal que una las dos verticales del cuadrilongo desde donde comienzan los ángulos inferiores, resulte un cuadrado perfecto.

Párrafo.- La ley reglamentará el uso y dimensiones de la bandera y del escudo nacionales.


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