Given its rich cultural history, it comes as no surprise that Spain has many symbols and pieces of iconography associated with it. From its dramatic coat of arms to a bull that was once used as an advertisement, Spanish symbols come from many sources and have a variety of meanings and connotations.
The flag of Spain is notable because its design was chosen partially for practical reasons. It was originally meant to be primarily a naval insignia, and the king at the time, King Charles III, noted that due to the commonality of flags that were largely white it was very hard to distinguish friend from foe on the sea. Therefore, the flag was designed to be recognizable even from a distance, with bright colors (red and gold were already considered Spanish colors) and a distinctive tri-band design that bore a wider middle band than the outer bands. There are now two versions of the flag, one with the coat of arms in the middle and one with just the three bands.
Interestingly, another flag design commonly used by Spain is actually French in origin. The Cross of Burgundy, still used by many local flags and the Air Force, was originally a French design representing the crucifixion of Saint Andrew. However, it was adopted by marriage into Spain and quickly became a popular Spanish symbol. The Spanish usage of the Cross, which was originally red and white, often puts it against a gold field instead. While now less in use, the Cross still remains a powerful (if adopted) symbol of Spain.
One of the symbols of Spain - the Barcelona Bull - is equally interesting in its origins, being originally devised as an advertising logo. The Osborne Sherry Company erected large bull-shaped signs across Spain as an advertising symbol, which became part of the national consciousness. Eventually the advertisements on the billboard were blacked out due to new laws and regulations, leaving just the black silhouette of the bull. Nowadays the symbol is often used as a replacement for the coat of arms on the Spanish flag at sporting events and the like, becoming adopted as a symbol of Spain by the Spanish people.
Many other symbols exist, of course, many of them regional - the Catalan region of Spain has its own iconography and imagery, some of it with a great deal of meaning. However, the flag, the Cross, and the Bull represent some of the main imagery of Spain, showcasing the cultural heritage of Spain. With their diverse and interesting origins, Spanish symbols are fascinating to study.