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Cuéllar (Municipality, Castilla y León, Spain)

Last modified: 2016-04-09 by ivan sache
Keywords: cuéllar | arroyo decuéllar |
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Flag of Cuéllar - Image by Ivan Sache, 1 February 2014

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Presentation of Cuéllar

The municipality of Cuéllar (9,861 inhabitants in 2009; 34,866 ha; municipal website) is located in the north-west of the Province of Segovia, half distance (50 km) from Segovia and Valladolid. The municipality is made of the town of Cuéllar and of the villages of Arroyo de Cuéllar (373 inh.), Campo de Cuéllar (211 inh.), Chatún (248 inh.), Dehesa Mayor (105 inh.), Dehesa de Cuéllar (28 inh.), Escarabajosa de Cuéllar (70 inh.), Fuentes de Cuéllar (43 inh.), Lovingos (80 inh.), and Torregutiérrez (107 inh.).

Cuéllar developed on a site already settled in the Ages of Bronze and Iron (necropolis). Some historians claim that the fortified town was conquered by the Romans, who renamed it Colenda; accordingly, the etymology of Cuéllar would refer to collis, "a hill" or "a hilly area". There is no more historical evidence on the town until 940, when the area was resettled by the Counts of Monzón after the Battle of Simancas and the withdrawal of the Moors from the region. In 997, Almanzor took the town and sent its inhabitants to Andalusia. The town was eventually re-conquered at the end of the 11th century by King Alfonso VI, who set up the Community of the Town and Land of Cuéllar.
In 1256 King Alfonso X the Wise granted the town a Royal fair and privileges; the town became the most significant settlement in the Duero plain, mostly living from the trade of cloth. Several episodes involving the kings of Castile took place in Cuéllar: in 1297, Queen María de Molina, widow of Sancho IV, conveyed there the Court, who took the party of her son, the future King Ferdinand IV; in the middle of the 14th century, Peter I married Juana de Castro in Cuéllar; a few years later Queen Leonor, John I's wife, died in Cuéllar. When crowned in 1464, Henry IV conveyed the Court in Cuéllar and transferred the town to Beltrán de la Cueva, the first Duke of Albuquerque. Cuéllar was subsequently the birth town of six Dukes of Albuquerque. The Gilded Age of Cuéllar ended in the 17th century, after the departure of the Court and of the Dukes of Albuquerque to Madrid.

The castle of Cuéllar, mentioned for the first time in 1306 and known as the Castle of the Dukes of Albuquerque, was registered in 1931 as a National Artistic Monument, together with the neighbouring St. Martin church housing today the Mudéjar Art Interpretation Center. The castle was described by the writer José de Espronceda, exiled in Cuéllar in 1833, in his historical novel Sancho Saldaña o el castellano de Cuéllar. The castle is located inside a citadel surrounded by wall mentioned for the first time in 1264 and built from the 12th to the 16th century. Of the original 2,000 m of walls, some 1,300 m have been preserved from destruction, including the St. Basil, St. James, St. Martin and St. Andrew arched gates.

The Cuéllar encierros (bull release in the town's streets) have been registered on 30 June 2008 as a Festival of National Tourist Interest. They are considered as the oldest in Spain, based on the acts of a synod conveyed in 1215 by the Bishop of Segovia to regulate the life of priests, who were forbidden to attend the "bulls' games". The encierros were prescribed by Law No. 17 of the Ordinances granted to Cuéllar in 1499 by Francisco Fernández de la Cueva, the second Duke of Albuquerque.

Ivan Sache, 1 February 2014

Flag of Cuéllar

The flag (photo, photo, Town Hall) and arms of Cuéllar (municipal website) are prescribed by a Decree adopted on 26 September 2008 by the Municipal Council, signed on 4 December 2008 by the Mayor, and published on 15 December 2008 in the official gazette of Castilla y León, No. 241, p. 25,500 (text).
The symbols are described as follows:

Flag: Of purpure color, with proportions 2:3. In the middle the municipal coat of arms, surmounted by the Royal open crown of Castile, in its proper colors.
Coat of arms: In Spanish shape. Argent, a horse's head and upper bust or fileted sable harnessed or and sable. The shield surmonted by the Royal open crown of Castile.

F&ecaute;Žlix J. Martínez Llorente (memoir released on 25 May 2008) proposed to officially adopt the flag already in use, purple with the re-designed municipal coat of arms.

Ivan Sache, 1 February 2014

Coat of arms of Cuéllar

The coat of arms is a "rehabilitation" of the arms of the town known since the first half of the 15th century. Commissioned by the Mayor of Cuéllar, F&ecaute;Žlix J. Martínez Llorente listed the heraldic flaws in the arms currently used by the municipality and proposed solutions to correct them (preliminary report dated 29 October 2007). Martínez Llorente released on 25 May 2008 the memoir supporting the proposal of "rehabilitation" and "rectification" of the arms and banner of Cuéllar (which also included a flag proposal).

In a letter to the Governor of the Province of Segovia, dated 22 September 1876, the Mayor of Cuéllar stated that no historical evidence of the authenticity and historicity of the arms with the horse's heads were found in the archives. Specifically, nothing was found to support the local tradition claiming that the arms are of Roman origin. The arms appear on the main gate of the town's castle; therefore the Mayor recommended to search in the archives of the Duke of Sexto, Marquis of Cuéllar and owner of the castle. Due to the lack of relevant sources, the representation of the arms in the town never complied with the rules of heraldry.
Rodrigo Méndez Silva (Población general de España,..., 1645) simply writes that Cuéllar "has for arms a horse's head cut at the breast".
The first elaborated description of the arms of the town is given by Antonio de Moya (Rasgo heroyco. Declaración de las empresas, armas y blasones..., 1756), who explains that the arms are a metaphoric representation of the seizure of the town, "beheaded" by the Romans.
Diego de Colmenares (Historia de la insigne ciudad de Segovia..., 1637) indeed identified Cuéllar with the Celtiberian town of Colenda, mentioned by the Greek historian Appian of Alexandria; however, this theory was consistently rejected by later scholars (for instance, Gonzalo de Torre de Trassierra, Cuéllar, 1996).
An alternative explanation of the arms, equally unsupported by any historical reference, was studied by Juan Carlos Llorente Mínguez and Ángel Delgado Moreno (En torno a la heráldica cuellarana, 1990). The arms with the horse's head would have been granted to Cuéllar by the king of Castile to recall an "historical" event that happened during the siege of the town by Al-Mansur (997). About to surrender, the defenders of the town attracted Al-Mansur into an ambush, expecting to kill him by pulling down the portcullis on his head; unfortunately, they missed the target and beheaded Al-Mansur's horse instead. Upset, Al-Mansur seized the town and slaughtered all its inhabitants.

The oldest representations of the arms found in the town, however, are not older than the second half of the 15th century. All these arms show the head, neck (cuello) and breast of a horse, equipped with reins, mouthbit and harness. However, all the representations highlight the horse's neck, represented bigger as usual and placed in the center of the charge. Accordingly, Martínez Llorente believes that this particular charge was selected to make the arms canting, as it happened in several other places in Castile. The canting hypotheses was proposed for the first time in 1951 by Juan de Vera and Luis Felipe de Peñalosa, when the coat of arms of Segovia Province was designed; the authors referred to collera, a leather or wool collar, rather than the horse's neck.
The identification of the original tinctures of the arms of Cuéllar is tricky. The oldest, indirect clue is given by Francisco Piferrer (Nobiliario de los Reinos..., Vol. 6, 1860): plate CXIX shows the arms as "Argent a horse's head or". A colour representation of the municipal arms is found on a Gothic keystone of the chapel of the La Magdalena hospital; while the hospital was founded in 1429, the painting most probably dates back to the 17th century. The shield is divided per bend sinister, dexter gules and sinister argent, charged with a horse's upper bust argent and or (mane) with reins sable. The shield is not crowned but surrounded by leaves or. During the restoration made in the 1980s, several paintings were found on the walls of the chapel; one of them, captioned "... 1675" shows two coats of arms affronty, with the tinctures of the shield reverted (divided argent and gules) and the horse's head represented proper (here, chestnut brown). Moreover, the coat of arms shown on the left, for the sake of symmetry, is divided per bend, the horse watching sinister. Oddly enough, this new position of the horse's head was subsequently favoured in several representations of the arms, all along the 19th century (clock tower of the Town Hall, fountains, for example).

On 24 August 1991, Alfonso Ceballos-Escalera y Gila, Chronicler of Arms of Castilla y León, commissioned by the Municipal Council, certified the arms of Cuéllar as designed by Juan de Vera and Luis Felipe de Peñalosa for the coat of arms of the Segovia Province, "Argent a horse's head proper with reins and cut at the breast. The shield surmounted by a Duke's coronet.
Martínez Llorente objected to the use of "proper", as an "heraldic oddity", to be replaced by "or" or "sable". He proposed to shows the horse's head "or fimbriated sable" to avoid the forbidden combination "or on sable"; the harness should be sable, too. Martínez Llorente further objected to the use of a Duke's coronet, which should be changed to the Royal Spanish crown, following the recommendation of the Royal Academy of History. In the particular case of Cuéllar, referring to the history of the town and to the traditional representations of its arms, Martínez Llorente proposed to use a Royal crown open, or crown of Castile, as shown on the arms of Castilla y León. He further agreed with Ceballos-Escalera to keep the field of the shield argent, claiming that the historical variants divided per bend sinister are oddities, unusual in the Castilian heraldic tradition.
The model for the representation of the horse's head is the stone coat of arms found on the San Andrés gate - not the oldest design but the most harmonious.

Ivan Sache, 1 February 2014

Flag proposals


Flag proposed by A. Ceballos-Escalera y Gila - Image by Ivan Sache, 1 February 2014

On 24 August 1991, Alfonso Ceballos-Escalera y Gila, Chronicler of Arms of Castilla y León, commissioned by the Municipal Council, certified the arms of Cuéllar as designed by Juan de Vera and Luis Felipe de Peñalosa for the coat of arms of Segovia Province, also including a proposed "quadrangular rectangular flag, made of a red panel with, in the middle, the municipal coat of arms in full colours". Martínez Llorente believes that purple is more appropriate than red, being the colour of the traditional banner (pendón) granted by the king to the Cuéllar Council.


Flag proposed by F. Martínez Llorente - Image by Ivan Sache, 1 February 2014

Martínez Llorente made an alternative proposal, "Flag diagonally divided from upper left to lower right corner, in proportions 2:3. Gules (or red) at hoist, argent (or white) at fly. In the middle is placed the municipal coat of arms, surmounted by a Royal crown open of Castile in full colours".
The proposal is a banner of the municipal arms represented in the chapel of the La Magdalena hospital.

Ivan Sache, 1 February 2014

Submunicipal entities

Arroyo de Cuéllar

The former municipality of Arroyo de Cuéllar was incorporated to Cuéllar by Decree No. 3,746 of 19 December 1970, and established as a submunicipal entity by Royal Decree No. 1,827, adopted on 2 July 1976 and published on 30 July 1976 in the Spanish official gazette No. 182, p. 14,758 (text).

The flag and arms of Arroyo de Cuéllar, approved on 6 September 2001 by the Village Council, are prescribed by a Decree adopted on 24 October 2001 by the Village Council, signed the same day by the Mayor, and published on 10 December 2001 in the official gazette of Castilla y León, No. 238, pp. 18,097-18,098 (text).
The symbols, which were designed by the Instituto Borbone de Heráldica Municipal, are described as follows:

Flag: Quadrangular, in proportions 1:1. Red with an horizontal stripe of 1/3 in height, itself divided into three parts, white, blue and white. In the center is placed the coat of arms of the municipality.
Coat of arms: Per pale, 1. Argent five pines vert per saltire in base waves argent and azure. 2. Or two pallets gules grafted in base argent a dragon vert a bordure gules eight saltires or [Crown not mentioned].

Ivan Sache, 10 February 2015