Last modified: 2014-12-27 by ivan sache
Keywords: la horcajada | ávila |
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The municipality of La Horcajada (581 inhabitants in 2010; municipal website) is located in the southwest of Ávila Province.
La Horcajada is named for the Latin word furca, "a fork, a
confluence", here the confluence of either two mountain ranges or
rivers Tormes and Corneja. La Horcajada is one of the four main
settlements of Valdecorneja (the Crow's Valley), together with El
Mirón, Piedrahíta and El Barco de Ávila; the Royal domain of Valdecorneja, formed by King Alfonso VI, included another 119, smaller villages. In 1366, Henry II transferred Valdecorneja to García Álvarez de Toledo, the root of the Dukes of Alba.
The domain of La Horcajada was separated from Valdecorneja at the end of the 15th century for García Álvarez de Toledo, the son of the first Duke of Alba and the brother of the second Duke of Alba. The first, second and third lords of La Horcajada lived in the village's "fortress-palace", while the fourth lord, Antonio Álvarez de Toledo y Dávila, moved to Madrid, where he died in 1630 without heirs. After a long and famous court case, the domain was eventually transferred to the Dukes of Alba, who would rule it until the suppression of the feudal system.
La Horcajada owns a cabeza santa (holy head), a human skull
surmonted by a silver cross. The local tradition says that the skull
belonged to good priest Juan de la Berza. Mocked and abused because of
his deep piety and kindness, the priest used to answer "Laugh, but my
head will be used against rabies". After the priest's death, the skull
showed up on his tomb, where a chapel was built, protecting the
village from rabies. No villager was ever ill and rabid dogs never
entered the village.
Mentioned for the first time in the oldest known records of the parish church (1548-1584), the skull was kept in a chapel of the church used as the sacristy and placed under the guard of the sacristan. A matter of deep devotion, the skull was often carried in procession for the protection of people and harvests. Bishop of Ávila Pla y Deniel (1917-1935), arguing there was no written source authenticating the relic and probably not aware of the 16th-century records, ordered to remove the skull from the sacristy, which was turned down a few years later.
Who the skull really belonged to is still a mystery, since there is no historical record of Juan de la Berza. The relic could have been transported from Rome to La Horcajada in the 15th-16th centuries; at the time, the cult of relics was so strong that every parish church needed its own relics, preferably of Roman / early Christian origin. Travellers used to bring back a relic to their parish church. Indeed, Alvarado, priest of La Horcajada, visited Roma several times, as did Francisco de Toledo, the son of the first lord of La Horcajada, appointed ambassador in Trento and Governor of Siena by Charles V.
Ivan Sache, 23 February 2011
The flag and arms of La Horcajada are prescribed by a Decree adopted on 25 May 2001 by the Municipal Council, signed on 30 May 2001 by the Mayor, and published on 7 June 2001 in the official gazette of Castilla y León, No. 110, p. 8,945 (text).
The symbols are described as follows:
Flag: Quadrangular flag with proportions 1:1, yellow with the municipal coat of arms of La Horcajada.
Coat of arms: Per fess, 1a. Checky 15 pieces argent and azure [Alba], 1b. Azure a mount vert a holly oak of the same over rocks proper, 2. Or a chapel proper over waves azure and argent. [Crown not mentioned]
Ivan Sache, 23 February 2011