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Alhama de Murcia (Municipality, Region of Murcia, Spain)

Last modified: 2016-04-25 by ivan sache
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Flag of Alhama de Murcia - Image by Ivan Sache, 1 May 2015

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Presentation of Alhama de Murcia

The municipality of Alhama de Murcia (21,298 inhabitants in 2014; 31,155 ha; municipal website) is located in the center of the Region of Murcia, 30 km west of Murcia. The municipality is made of the town of Alhama de Murcia and of the villages of El Berro, Gebas, Las Cañadas, El Cañarico and La Costera.

Alhama de Murcia, located in the Guadalentín valley, was already settled in the Neolithic. The Roman thermae (1st -4th century) are the most important archeological remains in the municipality; they included two different sections, one for healing and another for leisure. The thermae were transformed to a hammām by the Moors, mentioned by Al-Qazwini in the 13th century. The place, named Hammā bi-Laqwār, was renamed Alhama after the Christian reconquest; in Arabic, a natural bath with warm water (hammā) is distinct from warm thermae (hammām).
Enjoyed in 1494 by the German traveller Hieronymus Münzer, the Alhama baths subsequently declined until the establishment of a spa, Hotel Balneario, in 1848. Erected in eclectic and neo-classic architecture, the three-storey building reused the old, vaulted baths, to which the most modern technologies were appended. The public swimming-pool was allocated to the poor, while the richer customers had private baths and dwellings equipped with all comfort. In the 1st quarter of the 20th century, the Alhama baths attracted customers from all Spain, including celebrities such as Santiago Ramón y Cajal (1852-1934), Nobel Prize in Physiology and Medicine (1906). The drying up of the sources and the transformation of the hotel into an hospital during the Civil War resulted in the abandon of the spa, which was eventually demolished in 1972. Preserved, the Roman thermae were proclaimed a National Historic and Artistic Monument in 1983 (museum website).

The castle of Alhama was established in the 11th-12th century by the Moors on a hill dominating the town; watching the Guadalentín valley, the castle was part of the defence belt that protected the borders with the Kingdom of Granada, in the south, and the Kingdom of Aragón, in the north. After the Christian reconquest, the town was incorporated to the Royal crown, until transferred in 1387 to the Fajardo lineage. The fall of the Kingdom of Granada decreased the strategic significance of the fortress, which was abandoned and progressively ruined.

Ivan Sache, 1 May 2015

Symbols of Alhama de Murcia

The flag of Alhama de Murcia (photo, photo, photo, photo) is blue with the municipal coat of arms in the center.

The coat of arms of Alhama de Murcia is prescribed by Decree No. 2,355, adopted on 16 July 1970 by the Spanish Government and published on 25 August 1970 in the Spanish official gazette, No. 203, p. 13,883 (text).
The coat of arms, which is a "rehabilitation" of the arms traditionally used by the municipality, is described as follows:

Coat of arms: Per fess, 1. Azure a castle or surrounded dexter by a sword sinister by a lion rampant, 2. Azure a fortified house ruined or. The shield surmounted by a Marquis coronet or, evoking the Marquis de los Vélez.

The Royal Academy reviewed the proposal of coat of arms adopted on 11 December 1968 by the Municipal Council. The supporting memoir stated that Alhama once belonged to the Fajardo lineage, therefore the use of the arms of this important lineage on the proposed municipal arms. However, the use of a knight's helmet to surmount the shield is improper in civic arms. The municipality recognized that the old arms of the town, first documented in the 18th century and visible on some official buildings, do not include any charge related to the Fajardo lineage. Accordingly, the arms of Fajardo should be evoked only in a Marquis' coronet surmounting the shield and evoking the Marquis de los Vélez; the municipality should stick to its traditional arms.
[Boletín de la Real Academia de la Historia, 1973, 170: 2, 402-403]

Ivan Sache, 1 May 2015