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Brañosera (Municipality, Castilla y León, Spain)

Last modified: 2015-01-17 by ivan sache
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Flag of Brañosera - Image by Ivan Sache, 11 January 2014, coat of arms by "Valdavia" (Wikimedia Commons)

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Presentation of Brañosera

The municipality of Brañosera (233 inhabitants in 2012; 6,167 ha; municipal website) is located in the northeast of Palencia Province, on the border with Cantabria, 120 km from Palencia and 90 km from Santander. The municipality is made of the villages of Brañosera (capital), Salcedillo, Valberzoso, Orbó and Vallejo de Orbó.

Brañosera has been identified to the Celtiberian villages of Vadinia and Octaviolca, without firm evidence. River Rubagón, named for the Celtic roots rubag, "red", and on, "a river", which waters the municipality, was allegedly named for the blood shed during a battle fought during the Celtiberian Wars. The colour of the river is indeed caused by the washing-off by rain of the neighbouring iron-bearing soils.
The etymology of Brañosera is controversial, too. Corominas believes that the village was named for the Celtic word brakna, "a wet pasture". García de Diego claims is was named for voragine, "a precipice, an abrupt land". However, the most commonly accepted etymology, proposed by Gordaliza and Canal, is derived from the Latin words veranea, "a pasture", and ursaria, "the bear's"; accordingly, the name of the village would mean "a land inhabited by bears".

Brañosera was granted on 13 October 824 a charter considered as the oldest village charter in Castile - accordingly, Brañosera claims to be the first [oldest] municipality in Spain. When Count Munio Núñez and his wife Argilo granted the charter, the Castilian lands not occupied by the Moors all belonged to the Kingdom of Oviedo. The charter was confirmed by the subsequent Counts of Castile Gonzalo Femández (912), Feán González (968), and Sancho García (998). The original parchment was lost but a copy of the charter was kept in the San Pedro monastery of Arlanza, as reported by Prudencio de Sandoval (1615) and Francisco de Berganza (1719). This copy was also lost, but the Brañosera charter is known to us via two copies of that lost copy, independently made in the 18th century and kept in the Santo Domingo monastery of Silos.
The authenticity of the Brañosera charter was questioned by Lucien Barrau-Dihigo (Revue Hispanique, 52, 1921), who claimed that the reported text was antedated and interpolated. Sánchez Albornoz first supported Barrau-Dihigo (Anuario de Historia del Derecho Español, 2, 1925) but eventually changed his mind, validating the charter (Despoblación y repoblación del valle del Duero, 1966). Alfonso García Gallo (Historia, Instituciones, Documentos, 2, 1984) considers that the few interpolations observed in the text are not a sufficient reason to reject the charter as doctored or apocryphal.

In the Middle Ages, Brañosera depended of the Premonstrian monastery of Santa María la Real in Aguilar de Campoo. This was confirmed in 1181 by King Alfonso VIII and, again, by a Bull signed on 15 January 1524 by Pope Honorius III. All donations made to the monastery by Alfonso VIII, Brañosera included, were confirmed on 22 October 1231 by Ferdinand III. A Decree signed in 1255 by Alfonso X lists Brañosera as a civil dependence of the Merino de Aguilar.
In 1838, Ciriaco del Río, the parish priest of Salcedillo, discovered in Casablanca "some black stones". The priest, remembering having read in the newspaper El Castellano, from Madrid, an article on the features, use and extraction methods of coal, contacted fundraisers in Reinosa, who founded the Sociedad Esperanza de Reinosa; the priest owned four shares of the new mining company. Coal extraction dramatically changed the aspect of the region; the colony of Minas de Orbó, today Vallejo de Orbó, was established to house the newcomers who worked into the mines. The Orbó Underground Canal, achieved in 1886, was visited by the industrial elite of the time; of 1,775 m in length, it has remained up to now the sole example of underground canal in a Spanish mine.

Ivan Sache, 11 January 2014

Symbols of Brañosera

The flag of Brañosera (photo, Town Hall) is purple with the municipal coat of arms in the middle.

The coat of arms of Brañosera is "Vert a fess wavy argent charged with two fesses wavy azure. The shield surmounted by a Royal Spanish crown".
The waves must represent the two rivers that water the municipality, Rubagón and Pisuerga.

Ivan Sache, 11 January 2014