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Belalcázar (Municipality, Andalusia, Spain)

Last modified: 2020-11-02 by ivan sache
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Flag of Belalcázar - Image from the Símbolos de Córdoba website, 15 September 2015

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Presentation of Belalcázar

The municipality of Belalcázar (3,452 inhabitants in 2013; 35,599 ha; unofficial blog) is located on the border with the Province of Badajoz (Extremadura), 100 km north of Córdoba.

Belalcázar was originally an Iberian castrum (fortified camp), dated to the 2nd century BC, subsequently replaced by the chapel of the Alcantarilla Virgin. Several Carthaginian towns (Andolises, Ida, Mirobriga) have been identified with Belalcázar, without firm evidence, though, and, most probably, erroneously. A Roman municipality, colony or post, established near the Los Pedroches iron mines, probably succeeded the earlier settlements. Iron, lead and copper mines were exploited near the village until the 19th century.

During the Muslim rule, the town was known as Gafiq, and, subsequently (13th-15th century), as Gahet / Gahete. The village was probably named for an Arab tribe among the first that settled in Andalusia. Located on the Córdoba-Toledo road, Gafiq was one of the most important places in Al-Andalus, protected by one of the strongest fortresses in the area. When the fortress of Capilla surrendered in 1226, King Ferdinand III the Saint allowed its defenders to move, together with women and children and all goods they could take with them, to the castle of Gahet. The event is reported in several chronicles of the time.
Gafiq was the birth town of Abd-al-Rahman el Gafqui, Emir of Córdoba, of the judges Obaidala ben Muza and Suleiman ben Asuad, and of the famous ophthalmologist Mohamed ibn Qassan ibs Aslan el Gafequi.

Gahete was reconquerred by the Christians in 1236-1241. The domain was granted in 1444 by King John II to Gutiérrez de Sotomayor, appointed Grand Master of the Order of Alcántara in 1432, as a reward for his support against his brother Henry. Sotomayor increased the domain by incorporating the villages of Belmez and Fuenteovejuna, who would be lost during the regency of his son and successor, Alfonso I (1453-1464). Elvira de Zúñiga, Alfonso's widow, ruled the domain during the youth of her sons, Gutiérrez II (1464-1474), who eventually took the coat in the Guadalupe Hieronymit monastery, and Gutiérrez III (1471-1484), who was killed during the Granada Wars. Elvira obtained in 1466 the erection of the County of Belalcázar, the name of the village being changed from Gahete to Belalcázar, referring to the beautiful castle built by the family.
The County of Belalcázar was then ruled by the Duke of Béjar. It included the villages of Hinojosa del Duque, Villanueva del Duque and Fuente de Lancha. The population of the town peaked at 847 in 1587 and then declined, down to 512 in 1780. The Count of Belalcázar owned in 1753 20,000 ha out of the 39,500 ha forming the municipal territory; the rest of the municipal territory, made of Barbellido, Cachiporra and Encinilla, was shared every year among the villagers.
During the War of Independence, the French established a big garrison in the fortress to watch the roads to Extremadura and Mancha; they did not prevent the emergence of guerillas, the most famous of them being led by the parish priest Clemente Arribas.

Belalcázar is the birth town of Sebastián Moyano (1490-1551). Born in a farmer's family, he went to the Americas in 1507, where he commanded big squads of conquistadors. Under then name of Sebastián de Belalcázar, he founded the towns of Cali (Colombia), Quito (Ecuador), Guayaquil (Ecuador) and Popayán (Colombia).

Ivan Sache, 15 September 2015

Symbols of Belalcázar

The flag (photo) and arms of Belalcázar are prescribed by Decree No. 255, adopted on 20 November 2001 by the Government of Andalusia and published on 18 December 2001 in the official gazette of Andalusia, No. 145, pp. 20,239-20,240 (text). This was confirmed by a Resolution adopted on 30 November 2004 by the Directorate General of the Local Administration and published on 20 December 2004 in the official gazette of Andalusia, No. 246, pp. 28,986-29,002 (text).
The symbols are described as follows:

Flag: Rectangular, in proportions 5 units in height on 8 units in length, longitudinally divided from hoist to fly by a black horizontal stripe of width 1/8 of the flag's hoist. The two other, upper and lower stripes, checky of two orders, in turn crimson red and reseda yellow, each stripe being made of 16 perfect quadrilaterals [squares]. In the center of the flag is placed the municipal coat of arms, in length 1/4 of the fly's length.
Coat of arms: Argent a lion purpure surrounded by two trees eradicated vert. The shield surmounted by a Royal Spanish crown closed.

A flag proposal appears to have been submitted as early as 1987 to the Royal Academy of History. The design was turned down by the Academy, being "not compliant with the basic rules of heraldry". Moreover, the arms of the Counts of Belalcázar - Sotomayor and Zúñiga - were said to be represented in a "quite arbitrary" manner on the flag. The said coat of arms (Per pale Sotomayor and Zúñiga) could indeed be placed on the flag, but the arms actually shown on the proposal are those traditionally used by the town of Belalcázar - a castle surrounded by two trees. The flag could be made of two horizontal stripes, red and yellow for Sotomayor, but without the stripe sable separating the two coloured stripes.
[Boletín de la Real Academia de Historia 184, 2: 375, 1987]

The file submitted by the Municipal Council for the adoption of the municipal flag was proclaimed null and void by a Resolution adopted on 21 July 1997 by the Directorate General of the Local Administration and published on 12 August 1997 in the official gazette of Andalusia, No. 93, p. 9,629 (text). This indicates that the Municipal Council failed to submit a new proposal in due time.

The Municipal Council considered on 29 March 2000 a memoir dated 12 October 1999, written by Pedro Cordero Alvarado with the "mediation" of the town's official chronicler, Joaquín Chamero Serena ("Study in depth of what should be the coat of arms of the town of Belalcázar"). The author claims that the town uses wrong arms, which should be replaced by genuine arms based on the town's history and tradition. There are, at least, two versions of the arms (drawn at the end of the memoir), none of them being officially prescribed.
Pascual Madoz' dictionary (1847) does not show arms for the town. Enciclopedia Universal Ilustrada Editorial Espasa-Calpe (1910) shows a shield "Argent a tower proper port and windows sable cantonned with four trees vert"; further representations of the arms show a castle masoned sable port and windows argent cantonned by four oaks vert. Later one, the castle was reverted to a simple tower and the four oaks reduced to two, accosted to the castle. A scroll placed beneath the shield is inscribed with the motto "AUDACES FORTUNA JUVAT". The motto lacks originality; its use is not compliant with the standards of municipal heraldry. These arms are very similar to those granted in 1489 to the town of Plasencia (Province of Cáceres, Extremadura), "Argent a tower proper accosted by a chestnut tree and a pine proper".
The seal of the Council of Gahete featured, at least from the 14th century, a lion surrounded by two trees. The matching coat of arms is "Argent a lion purpure (the proper arms of the Kingdom of León) accosted by two oaks vert". There is no further writing on the emblem. The reverse of the seal matrix is inscribed "SELLOS DE LOS OMES BUENOS DE GAHETE" (Seal of the Good Men of Gahete). These arms recall that King of León Alfonso IX contributed in the first third of the 13th century to the reconquest of the region limited by the valley of Tagus and the Sierra Morena, seizing the towns of Cáceres, Badajoz, Medellín, Jerez de los Caballeros, Zafra, etc. The Leonese lion is featured on the arms of Cáceres, Badajoz, Coria, Mérida, Córdoba, Almería, Granada and Jaén. Accordingly, the genuine arms of Belalcázar should be "Argent a lion purpure accosted by two oaks vert. The shield surmounted by a Royal crown closed".

Since no consensus was found on the adoption of this design, the Municipal Council decided to commission Manuel Rubio Capilla, the Town's official chronicler, to propose alternative designs. The chronicler's submissions, presented on 22 June 2000 to the Municipal Council, included three proposals of coat of arms, and a proposal of municipal flag.
The flag proposed by Manuel Rubio Capilla and the arms proposed by Pedro Cordero Alvarado were adopted on 28 June 2000 by the Municipal Council, as published on 26 September 2000 in the official gazette of Andalusia, No. 111, p. 15,016 (text). The councillors from the IU group refused to vote, claiming that there was no need to change the historical coat of arms (with the tower surrounded by two trees) applied on the facade of the Town Hall. The proposed flag is a banner of the proposed arms "Per fess, 1. Argent a lion purpure accosted by two oaks vert, 2. Gules a castle or".

The Royal Academy of Córdoba approved on 19 April 2001 the coat of arms proposed by Pedro Cordero Alvarado and rejected the flag proposed by Manuel Rubio Capilla. On 27 June 2001, the Municipal Council adopted the arms proposed by Cordero and the flag proposed by the Royal Academy, designed by Ignacio Garijo Pérez, Secretary of the Academy. The flag is directly inspired by the arms of the Sotomayor lineage; it also evokes the emblematic castle of Belalcázar, whose donjon is decorated in a checky pattern.
[Unofficial blog; unofficial blog]

Ivan Sache, 15 September 2015