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Alájar (Municipality, Andalusia, Spain)

Last modified: 2016-12-05 by ivan sache
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Flag of Alájar - Image by Ivan Sache, 16 August 2016

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Presentation of Alájar

The municipality of Alájar (805 inhabitants in 2013; 4,100 ha) is located 110 km north of Huelva and 100 km of Seville. The municipality is made of the villages of Alájar, El Cabezuelo, El Calabacino, El Collado, Los Madroñeros, La Peña de Arias Montano, and San Bartolomé.

Alájar was already settled in the Neolithic, as evidenced by remains found in the La Peña cave. Remains of a Roman villa were excavated in Llanos de Orullos. In the 5th century, the caves of La Peña were inhabited by hermits. The monument locally known as the "Queen's Bath" is a paleochristian baptismal font, where the body of the christened was fully immersed.
Alájar, lit. the Stone, was established as a permanent settlement by the Arabs. After the Christian reconquest, the village was fiercely disputed between Spain and Portugal. The domain was soon granted to the Order of Saint James. Alájar was acquired in 1559 by Fadrique Enríquez de Ribera, Duke of Alcalá. The famous humanist and theologian Benito Arias Montano (1527-1598, author of the Biblia Regia, an edition of the Bible in Greek, Latin, Hebrew, Chaldean and Syriac) retired in 1555 on the rock that would be named for him; he reformed the old hermitage, which was transformed into a place of rest and meditation, and established a musoleum to keep his collections of artworks, curiosities, coins, stones and scientific devices.
Alájar and Aracena were incorporated in 1640 to the State of Olivares. Alájar separated from Aracena in 1702. Sheep-breeding and commerce increased; according to the Ensenada Cadaster (1752), the village counted 397 households, a number that increased to 1875 in the Floridablanca census (1786).

Ivan Sache, 16 August 2016

Symbols of Alájar

The flag (photo, photo) and arms of Alájar, adopted on 26 October 1995 by the Municipal Council and validated by the Royal Academy of Córdoba, are prescribed by Decree No. 200, adopted on 14 May 1996 by the Government of Andalusia and published on 18 July 1996 in the official gazette of Andalusia, No. 82, pp. 8,257-8,258 (text). This was confirmed by a Resolution adopted on 30 November 2004 by the Directorate General of the Local Administration and published on 20 December 2004 in the official gazette of Andalusia, No. 246, pp. 28,986-29,002 (text).
The symbols are described as follows:

Flag: In proportions 11:18, made of a green panel with a yellow bend outlined in white. In the middle, the local coat of arms.
Coat of arms: Shield in Spanish shape. Vert a tree eradicated or surrounded dexter by a sentry box argent and sinister by a feather of the same in pale. The shield surmounted by a Royal crown closed.

In the last third of the 18th century, Alájar used a seal featuring "two heads and two fleurs-de-lis, according to the attached design". The drawing shows the shield as quartered 1. and 4. the heads, 2. and 3. the lilies represented as full plants with stems and leaves. The origin of the arms was deemed unknown.
The municipality has been using at least since 1887 an oval ink seal featuring a tree adextered with a sentry box. On 7 October 1994, Juan José Antequera Luengo proposed to the Municipal Council a "rehabilitation" of the old arms, "Vert a tree or surrounded dexter by a sentry box and sinister by a Marian monogram ensigned by a bird's feather all argent". The Municipal Council considered the Marian monogram as inappropriate, which was dropped from the revised arms proposed on 7 October 1994 by the author, together with the flag.

The tree evokes those that thrived on the mountains, especially on the Peña de Arias Montano, and on the slopes dominating Alájar. Most of them were planted by Benito Arias Montano; some old centenary trees, such as almond trees, acacias, casuarinas, elms, catalpas, sophoras, lindens, nut trees, pines and fig trees, make a big contrast with the surrounding holly oak and chestnut woods. The sentry box represents one of the two buildings, originally flanked by a tower, from which the border with Portugal was watched. According to Manuel Mora Mantero (Monografía de la Peña llamada de Arias Montano in la villa de Alájar, 1924), the sentry (photo, photo) boxes were erected in 1700, when Alájar separated from Aracena. The feather is a straightforward allusion to Benito Arias Montano.
[Juan José Antequera. Principios de transmisibilidad en las heráldicas officiales de Sevilla, Córdoba y Huelva]

Ivan Sache, 16 August 2016