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Cortegana (Municipality, Andalusia, Spain)

Last modified: 2016-12-20 by ivan sache
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Flag of Cortegana - Image from the Símbolos de Huelva website, 21 August 2016

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Presentation of Cortegana

The municipality of Cortegana (5,026 inhabitants in 2008; 17,400 ha; municipal website) is located 120 km north of Huelva. The town, watched by the ruins of a big castle, is a main center of production of cork and mountain ham.

The origin of the castle of Cortegana is unknown because of the lack of written sources and archeological investigations. According to an oral legend reported by Juan de Ledesma in 1633 and, again, by Rodrigo Caro in 1634, the castle was built by the knight Pedro Domingo, who had been banned from the Royal court after having upset a higher lord. The first governor of the castle, Domingo defended it against the Portuguese, then threatening Castile, which allowed him to return back to the Court with great honours, therefore "winnning the Court", corte ganó. Pedro Domingo is indeed an historic character, listed by Caro as granted a few houses during the share of the Moorish goods in Seville in 1252; Ledesma adds he was born in Ciudad Rodrigo. However, there is no evidence that Domingo ever built the castle of Cortegana, not to add that Cortegana was already mentioned by Ptolemy, as Corticata. In 1293, King of Castile Sancho IV allowed the town of Seville to build several castles in the neighborhood, but Cortegana was not listed among them. It is therefore possible that the castle already existed at the time. There is also no mention of the castle in Moorish sources, but there was probably a small alcázar here.
Cortegana was mentioned for the first time on the charter sharing Seville, signed by Alfonso X in 1253; the wording is ambiguous and Cortegana can be read as a the name of a place, of a town or of a castle; at least, the place was already significant at the time. The castle, mentioned in Alfonso XI's ordinance granted to the Council of Seville in 1344, was subsequently used to watch the north-western border of Castile during the wars againt Portugal.

Diego López de Cortegana (1455-1524) was born in Cortegana; he moved to Seville around 1480, starting a brilliant ecclesiastic career. He served as the Canon and Archdeacon of the cathedral, Secretary of the Holy Inquisition, and Chaplain of the Queen. After his retirement from the Inquisition, he showed in his later years a keen interest for the humanists of the time, offering Spanish translation of the works of the most influent humanists of the time: Erasmus (Querela pacis), Piccolomini (the future Pope Pius II) and Beroaldo (the story of Psyche and Cupid included in the princeps edition of ApuleiusŤ Asinus aureus).
[F.J. Escobar Borrego. Diego López de Cortegana, traductor del Asinus Aureus: el cuento de Psique y Cupido. Cuadernos de Filología Clásica. Estudios Latinos 22:1, 193-209 (2002)]

Ivan Sache, 21 August 2016

Symbols of Cortegana

The flag and arms of Cortegana, adopted on 30 September 2004 by the Municipal Council, and submitted on 7 October 2004 to the Directorate General of the Local Administration, are prescribed by a Decree adopted on 27 October 2004 by the Directorate General of the Local Administration and published on 8 November 2004 in the official gazette of Andalusia, No. 217, p. 25,829 (text).
The symbols are described as follows:

Flag: Rectangular flag, in proportions 11:18. Ochre panel with blue openwork. Centered, the local coat of arms.
Coat of arms: Shield in Spanish shape. Azure a castle proper masoned sable port and windows of the same, surmounted by a sun or, in base five waves argent. The shield surmounted with a Royal crown closed.

The symbols eventually approved in 2004 were originally adopted on 25 January 1996 by the Municipal council: they were proposed by Juan José Antequera.
The coat of arms is a "rehabilitation" of the old arms of the town, shown on its official seal, oval, without crown, featuring a castle proper masoned and port (no windows) sable, with towers of equal height, ensigned by a sun or and standing on a base azure charged with wavy lines sable. According to the late local historian Amadeo Romero Tauler, the tinctures used in the modern seal do not match the original ones, while it is clear that the charges are taken from a quarter of the arms of Diego López de Cortegana. A castle was already featured on seals dated 1474 and 1481, with a high central donjon and lateral towers ensigned sinister by a crescent reverted and dexter by a six-pointed star. The waves beneath the castle appeared in 1798; at the end of the 19th century, the castle was ensigned by a sun, or, more properly by a sun's shadow, instead of the crescent. Later on, arbitrary tinctures were used, very often not compliant with the laws of heraldry, therefore the proposal of "rehabilitation". The original proposal of coat of arms is: "Azure a castle or masoned sable port and windows gules the lateral towers ensigned sinister by a crescent reverted argent and dexter by a six-pointed star of the same in base five fesses wavy three argent and two azure. The shield surmounted by a Royal crown closed."

The Royal Academy of Córdoba rejected the proposed symbols on 6 November 1996.
The Academy rejected the proposed flag as "unsubstantiated" because the rationale of its colours was not given.
The designer submitted a rebuttal on 20 August 1997. The design relies on an old tradition, the embattlement, which immediately evokes a castle to the viewer. The designer further quoted the Decree No. 14 of 31 January 1995, which gives total liberty as far as the choice of the colours of the flag is concerned.
The Royal Academy of Córdoba confirmed the rejection of the proposed arms on 20 February 1998, considering that the rebuttal was not convincing, and adding that the proposed flag features a rejected coat of arms (see below).
The designer swiftly submitted a rebuttal, on 15 June 1998, adding little to the case.

The Academy rejected the proposed coat of arms, arguing that the supporting memoir did not explain how the charges could differentiate Cortegana from other Andalusian municipalities; castles and water are, fortunately, widespread in Andalusia, and even in the kingdom of Castile, named for them (castillo, "a castle"). Moreover, the archives and bibliographical sources consulted are not explicitly listed, Only generic references are given, some of them being doubtful, mistaking the arms of the town for those of Diego López de Cortegana.
The designer submitted a rebuttal on 20 August 1997, including the following points:
1. The seals dated 1474 and 1481 were seen by the designer in 1978 in the private library of José María Gutiérrez Ballesteros, Count of Colombí; the collection was partly sold after the Count's death, and the today's location of the seal is unknown. The designer provides a detailed description of the two seals and further quotes a paper published in the 1970s by Juan Infante Galán in the newspaper ABC (Seville): "Cortegana used in the 14th-15th century a seal featuring a castle, with the two lateral towers ensigned, the left one by a moon crescent, the right one by a six-pointed star".
2. The proposal is a "rehabilitation" of the seal used in the lower Middle Ages, which, probably, already featured the waves, which are hardly visible before the 18th century.
3. There is no mistake for the arms of Diego López de Cortegana, as alleged by the Academy. The supporting memoir - "which was not correctly read" - does not say that the proposed arms were those of the humanist. The memoir clearly debunks this popular theory. More presumably, the humanist borrowed the castle from the municipal seal.
4. The castle is clearly the most used charge in Spanish heraldry, as shown by Faustino Menéndez-Pidal. However, places that used such a charge for more than 500 years are not common. Accordingly, it would be inappropriate to drop the castle from the arms of Cortegana: this would constitute "an attempt to the Andalusian history and symbolic". The designer recalls that the Academy had recently validated the proposed arms of Pedroche (Córdoba) and Los Molares (Seville), which features a castle, based on much more recent sources.

The Royal Academy of Córdoba confirmed the rejection of the proposed arms on 20 February 1998. The Academy turned down the historical references since the old seals could not be actually seen and the exact references of the newspaper article had not been given. Similarly, the historical use of the waves is alleged, not clearly demonstrated. The discussion on the respective arms of the municipality and of Diego López de Cortegana did not convince the Academy.
The designer swiftly submitted a rebuttal, on 15 June 1998. The document included a photocopy of the newspaper article, dated 4 November 1978, which includes a line drawing of the described seal. The designer recalled, once again, the significance of the castle of Cortegana, built by Sancho IV to control the Portuguese advance in the Andalusian mountains.
The Municipal Council eventually adopted the proposed symbols, without modification, on 10 July 1998.
[Juan José Antequera. Principios de transmisibilidad en las heráldicas officiales de Sevilla, Córdoba y Huelva]

Therefore, the municipality waited until the adoption of the new Law on the local symbols in 2003, which suppressed the mandatory approval of the proposed symbols by the Royal Academy of Córdoba.

Ivan Sache, 21 August 2016