The Cross in the Notary Symbols

Through the centuries there has been in Spain a grand progression of symbols used by notaries, beginning in the 10th century.The reason for their creation and development allows us to speculate to the importance of the documents upon which they appeared. Even though notary symbols are not true symbols in the formal sense of the word, they can been seen as such in so much as they have at their centre the symbol of the cross. A cross that very quickly became surrounded by squares, rosettes and flowers, changing and almost being lost through the centuries on to the modern age. In some modern notary symbols the cross is still pertinent, perhaps as a reminder of past times, but perhaps with nothing to do with them.

The use of a symbol in documents coming from times previous to the advent of notaries might have something to do with the influence of royal documents, and those of important people; but having nothing to do with latter notary symbols.

So in their infancy these symbols were fairly small and simple, made up of swirling lines generally taking as their starting point two letter "S" es perhaps representing an abbreviation of the word Subscripsi, or perhaps coming from the cross accompanied by various adornments often found in notary symbols. At the end of the 13th century, and increasingly in the 14th and 15th, these signs became more complex, incorporating flowers, embellished squares, and scrolls work, along with other ornamental motifs of the age to the standard cross.These ages saw the use of rounded geometric forms, such as an arch placed under the base of the cross, and rounded lines forming flowers from the cross's arms. Rose and rosette patterns created an image that might have symbolised life or mortality: The circle representing protection and limits.

Square shapes were also often used in the language of symbols. They represented stability in their angular essence. They must be connected in meaning to the cross, as it functioned as a symbol of synthesis and measurement.

The documents presented here give a clear idea of the use of notary symbols in all kinds of public documents. The symbols take form in various esthetic compositions and in combinations reflecting the imagination of their inventors. The only limits being the notary's creative abilities and his handiness with the quill.

The variety and diversity of the symbols leads us to think that they were used to establish the individuality and the traditions of their authors.If we compare the complexity of the latter symbols with the earlier ones, (that followed the example of Rolandino, who advised to use a "signum leve" a light symbol to facilitate its use), we are lead to believe that even in those following centuries notaries had time enough to create elaborate symbols, a detail probably admired by today's member of this profession, time enough to create symbols that revealed their creators' personalities and their artistic ability.


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