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Membrilla (Municipality, Castilla-La Mancha, Spain)

Last modified: 2019-09-17 by ivan sache
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Flag of Membrilla - Image by "Erlenmeyer", Wikimedia Commons, 1 June 2019

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Presentation of Membrilla

The municipality of Membrilla (6,016 inhabitants in 2018; 14,390 ha; municipal website) is located 60 km east of Ciudad Real.

Membrilla was founded, according to the priest and local historian Inocente Hervás (1842-1914), by Greek colonists, who named the new settlement for their town of origin, Marmaria. The reliability of the good priest has been, however, questioned for decades by modern historians. The mound harboring the alleged colony was most probably the site of a fortified camp in the Age of Bronze that watched a road junction and the marshy banks of river Azuer; archeological excavations have yet to be performed to test this hypothesis.
Re-used after the Roman colonization, and, again, most probably by the Visigoths, the site was strongly fortified by the Arabs in the 11th century. They erected the citadel of Tocón, which depended of Almedina, then the capital of the area. Philip II's Relaciones provide an odd etymology for the name of the castle, literally "a stump"; accordingly, the workers who leveled the mound's top to build the castle had to extract the stump of a big holly oak.

The citadel of Tocón was first seized in 1198 by the Christians and, eventually, on 29 January 1212, short before the battle of Las Navas de Tolosa (16 July 2012). In the aftermath of the Christian victory, the border with the Muslim states was moved southwards; the Order of Saint James was commissioned to re-settle the area, which was no longer under Muslim threat. The Order rebuilt the citadel and gathered around it the farmers hitherto scattered in the area; La Membrilla was first mentioned in 1237 in a document fixing the disputed limits between the domains of the Orders of Saint James and Saint John; a few years later, a similar document was established by the Orders of Saint James and Calatrava.
Jurisdiction over the re-settled areas was a matter of conflict between the Military Orders and also with the local Councils; in 1243, the Council of Alcaraz claimed Membrilla from the Order of Saint James, to no avail.

The population increase prompted the villagers to abandon the citadel for a new settlement built in the plain on the remains of an older, probably Visigoth, village. Soon the most populated village in the Campo de Montiel, Membrilla became in the 14th century the seat of a Commandery of the Order of St. James.
Membrilla declined in the 16th century after the kings of Castile had regained control of the Military Orders and limited the power of their Masters. An official visit made in 1535 reported that the citadel was ruined, so that its Mayor and its Commander resided in the town. Membrilla was still a prosperous town, counting several knights, locally surpassed only by Villanueva de los Infantes.
The expelling of the Moriscos, ordered in 1610, deprived Membrilla from 80 families, which accounted for 10% of the population. A big church was erected by the council of Membrilla from 1713 to 1729 in Santo Cristo del Valle on the site of an apparition. In 1800, Charles IV granted the status of villa to the place, renamed to San Carlos del Valle, causing the wrath of the inhabitants of Membrilla.
The citadel of Tocón progressively disappeared, leaving only atop the mound the chapel dedicated to the Hawthorn Virgin (Virgen del Espino), still a place of deeper devotion.

Ivan Sache, 1 June 2019

Symbols of Membrilla

The flag of Membrilla (photo, photo, photo) is prescribed by an Order issued on 10 August 2005 by the Government of Castilla-La Mancha and published on 19 August 2005 in the official gazette of Castilla-La Mancha, No. 166, p. 15,706 (text).
The flag is described as follows:

Flag: Rectangular panel, in proportions 2:3, vertically divided in the middle. blue at hoist and yellow at fly. In the center, the crowned coat of arms.


Flag of Membrilla - Image by Ivan Sache, 1 June 2019

The municipality also uses/used the flag with a smaller coat of arms, similar in design to the stand-alone coat of arms (photo).

The coat of arms of Membrilla is prescribed by an Order issued on 10 August 2005 by the Government of Castilla-La Mancha and published on 19 August 2005 in the official gazette of Castilla-La Mancha, No. 166, p. 15,706 (text).
The coat of arms is described as follows:

Coat of arms: Azure a castle or in chief a Marian monogram. A bordure argent charged in the flanks with two sword-crosses of St. James and in chief and base with two sword-crosses gules. The shield surmounted by a Royal Spanish crown.

The castle represents the citadel of Tocón. The Marian monogram, made of the interlaced "A" and "M" letters, for "Ave Maria", recalls the Hawthorn Virgin, previously known as the Castle Virgin. Her statue has been venerated in the chapel since the Christian reconquest. The Crosses of St. James recalls the Order of St. James. The saint is also the patron saint of the town and of its two parish churches. His statue is also venerated in the chapel.

A circular stone shield, placed on he facade of the old Town Hall, dated 1755, features a castle, representing either the Kingdom of Castile or the fortress of Tocón, and a Marian monogram, proper to the 18th century. A painting dated 1807, inspired by the stone shield, features the same arms with a bordure charged with 12 stars or, also a Marian symbol. The shield is surrounded by profuse ornamentation in Baroque style, without any heraldic significance. The elements represented on the stone shield were re-used in the beginning of the 20th century on the municipal seal.

In the last two decades of the 20th century, the municipal seal featured the faithful reproduction of a banner offered by a private donator to the Hawthorn Virgin. At the same time, the heraldist Ramón José Maldonado y Cocat proposed a municipal coat of arms, as reported in 1989 by Eduardo Panizo (Heráldica official de la Provincia de Ciudad Real):
"Azure a castle proper masoned and port and windows sable surmounted by the anagram of the Blessed Virgin argent. A bordure argent twelve stars or two bezants sable in chief and base."
In 1999, the new Municipal Council used a coat of arms based on the aforementioned painting and initiated the process of official approval. The proposed symbols were designed by a Commission appointed by the Municipal Council.
[Unofficial portal]

Ivan Sache, 1 June 2019