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Arenas de San Pedro (Municipality, Castilla y León, Spain)

Last modified: 2015-01-17 by ivan sache
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Flag of Arenas de San Pedro - Image by Ivan Sache, 19 May 2011

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Presentation of Arenas de San Pedro

The municipality of Arenas de San Pedro (6,816 inhabitants in 2010, therefore the 3rd most populous municipality in the province; 19,485 ha; municipal website) is located in the south of Ávila Province, on the border with Toledo Province, 70 km of Ávila. The municipality is made of the town of Arenas de San Pedro (capital) and of the villages of Hontanares, La Parra and Ramacastañas.

Arenas de San Pedro was already settled in the Prehistoric times. The oldest found remains of exploitation of iron ore have been dated to the 1st century AD. Arabic coins indicate a Muslim occupation of the municipal territory; after the Christian reconquest, the Muslim shepherds most probably fled to the highlands, in the today's municipalities of Guisando and El Arenal. A local legend says that, following an apparition of the Virgin in 1054, termites destroyed most of the mining dwellings of Los Llanos, forcing the inhabitants to relocate at Ojo de la Jara, a village of Arenas. The place, then know as Las Ferrerías de Ávila, was part of the alfoz (group of villages) of Ávila.

In 1393, Constable of Castile Rui López Dávalos (1357-1428) was allowed to separate the most important villages of the Tiétar valley from the alfoz of Ávila; two years later, he was made the first lord of Arenas de San Pedro by King Henry III. Dávalos pacified the Kingdom of Murcia and was awarded the title of Governor of Murcia; because of the jealousy of the Court, he had to retire in 1400 in Arenas.
Together with Infante Henry of Aragón, Dávalos jailed in 1420 King John II; after the liberation of the king by Álvaro de Luna, Dávalos had to fled to Aragón in 1423.
During his rule over Arenas, the Constable built the castle, the parish church of the Virgin Assumed in Heaven, and the Aquelcabo bridge, the oldest bridge in the town.

In 1423, the Count of Benavente succeeded Dávalos as the lord of Arenas; the Count offered the town to his daughter Joan of Pimentel (d. 1488) when she married Constable Álvaro de Luna. After the Constable's death, Joan, known as "The Sad Countess" (la triste condesa) retired in Arenas where she attempted to retrieve her husband's goods confiscated by King Henry IV. Sentenced to death together with her son Juan de Luna, the Countess was eventually pardoned by the king, upon advise of the Grandees of Castile, and retroceded her goods. Short before her death, she transferred Arenas to her daughter, who had married the heir of the Hurtado de Mendoza family, subsequently Dukes of the Infantado.

St. Peter of Alcántara (1499-1562), a Franciscan monk author of the Tratado de oración y meditación (Treaty of Prayer and Meditation), settled in Arenas in spring 1562 and transformed the San Andrés del Monte hermitage in a small monastery, where he died on 18 October 1562. When Peter was blessed in 1622, Arenas proclaimed him its patron saint, taking the name of Arenas de San Pedro (St. Peter's Arenas).
Canonized in 1669 by Pope Clement IX, St. Peter of Alcántara is the patron saint of Brazil (1826) and of Extremadura (1962). The San Andrés del Monte monastery was transformed in a Royal Chapel in 1772-1776 by the architect Ventura Rodríguez to house the remains of the saint, kept in a porphyry urn.

Infante Luis Alfonso of Bourbon and Farnese (1725-1785), the sixth son of Philip V, settled in Arenas in 1776; once Bishop of Toledo and Seville, and Cardinal, the Infant was prevented to access the Spanish throne by his brother Charles III, who privileged his own children.
Ventura Rodríguez built for him the Mosquera Palace (1780) in neo- classical style. The Infante set up in the palace a library, a scientific exhibition room and an art gallery. In summer 1783 and 1784, Francisco Goya was invited to paint big portraits of the Infante's family; his masterpiece, "The family of Infante Luis", is kept in the Magnaci Roca Foundation in Parma, Italy. Also fond of music, the Infante had its own chamber orchestra, led by Luigi Boccherini; the Italian musician composed in Arenas most of his famous string quintets with two cellos, a first draft of his Stabat Mater and several other works.

Arenas de San Pedro is the birth place of Josefina Carabias (1908-1980), one of the first female journalists in Spain. She went in 1954 to Washington, working for Informaciones, and moved to Paris in 1959, working for Diario Ya until she returned to Madrid in 1968.

Ivan Sache, 13 May 2011

Symbols of Arenas de San Pedro

The flag and arms of Arenas de San Pedro are prescribed by a Decree adopted on 8 October 1994, signed on 23 October 1994 by the President of the Government, and published on 9 November 1994 in the official gazette of Castilla y León, No. 216 (text).
The symbols are described as follows:

Flag: Quadrangular flag, with proportions 1:1, crimson. In the middle of the flag is placed the municipal coat of arms, in full colors.
Coat of arms: Shield in Spanish shape. Argent a castle proper masoned sable port and windows gules inflamed gules and or terraced vert, a border or the anagram sable "(Cruz) siempre incendiada y sempre fiel". The shield surmounted with a Royal Spanish crown.

The motto means "(Cross) always burned and always loyal", referring to the several blazes that damaged the town. During the French invasion, in the beginning of the 19th century, the French soldiers took revenge after the murder of 24 of them by the guerilla; they killed more than 30 inhabitants in different parts of the village, sacked the church and the monasteries and burned more than 300 houses. The town was burned again in 1838 during the First Carlist War by 550 guerillas commanded by Blas Garcéa.
Forest blazes, often intentional, are, unfortunately, common in the area in summer. In July 2009, a blaze suppressed more than 3,000 ha of vegetation on the heights of the town and claimed two lives.

The arms of Arenas de San Pedro appear in the 1st quarter of the arms of Ávila Province.

Ivan Sache, 19 May 2011