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Caravaca de la Cruz (Municipality, Region of Murcia, Spain)

Last modified: 2016-04-25 by ivan sache
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Flag of Caravaca de la Cruz - Image by Ivan Sache, 2 May 2015

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Presentation of Caravaca de la Cruz

The municipality of Caravaca de la Cruz (26,280 inhabitants in 2014; 85,876 ha; tourism website) is located in the west of the Region of Murcia, on the border with Andalusia (Provinces of Granada and Almería), 75 km of Murcia.

Caravaca de la Cruz is named for a lignum crucis, that is a fragment of the Holy Cross on which Jesus Christ was crucified. The fragment is kept into a reliquary shaped like a cross with two horizontal arms - the upper of 76m in length, the lower of 10 cm, while the length of the vertical arms is 17 cm.
The local tradition says that the lignum crucis appeared in Caravaca on 3 May 1231. The town was then occupied by Abu-Zeit, the Almohad ruler of Valencia. Abu-Zeit, out of sheer curiosity, asked the priest Ginés Pérez de Chirinos, from Cuenca, who had been captured in the town, to explain him the Christian celebration. The priest was allowed to celebrate a mass in the main hall of the fortress; soon after the beginning of the ceremony, the priest fell down to the altar in a crucifixion position. At the same time, two angels entered the hall via an open window and displayed the lignum crucis on the altar, which allowed the resuming of the mass. Convinced by the miracle, Abu- Zeit and his court converted to the Christian religion. It was soon understood that the cross had been transported from Jerusalem, where it once belonged to patriarch Robert of Jerusalem, 1st bishop of the town after its conquest by the Crusaders in 1099.

Caravaca was ruled from 1266 to 1312 by the Order of the Temple; the town was the capital of a Commandery including a wider territory and several castles. Caravaca was one of the last significant domains owned by the Order after its leave from the Holy Land. The town was transferred in 1344 to the Order of St. James, who would protect the border and the sanctuary for the next five centuries.
The lignum crucis was soon recognized by the Holy See, which granted privileges and indulgences to the pilgrims who would visit the Royal Chapel of the Holy Cross. This was confirmed in Bulls signed by Popes Clement VII (1392), Clement VIII (1597), Paul V (1606), Alexander VIII (1690) and Clement XI (1705). The Cross of Caravaca was granted in 1736 the status of latria (adoration), a reverence directed only to the Holy Trinity. The cross was officially known as the Holy Cross of Caravaca, probably for the sake of distinction from relics of uncertain origin, when not totally faked. Moreover, the title of Holy Cross can be granted only to relics brought back in the 4th century by St. Helen from Jerusalem to Constantinople.
The Cross of Caravaca is featured on the coat of arms of the town, first documented in a document dated 1285, kept in the archives of the Murcia cathedral; this indicates that the Holy Cross was already popular and emblematic of the town in the 13th century.

The adoration of the Holy Cross of Caravaca quickly spread after the fall of Granada in 1492. Religious orders established monasteries in Caravaca, which was visited by religious celebrities such as St. Teresa of Jesus (1515-1582) and St. John of the Cross (1542-1591), the latter paying seven visits to the sanctuary.
Offering a small replica of the Holy Cross of Caravaca as a present is a still vivid tradition that dates back to the 16th century; the Carmelite sisters of Caravaca offered in 1576 such a present to St. Teresa of Jesus, but the tradition might even be older.
In 1998, Pope John Paul II awarded Caravaca de la Cruz with the title of Holy City of the Roman Catholic Church, a privilege granted only to Rome, Jerusalem, Santiago de Compostela and Camaleño (Cantabria). Accordingly, Caravaca can celebrate a jubilee every seven years, the first having been celebrated in 2003.

Ivan Sache, 2 May 2015

Flag of Caravaca de la Cruz

The flag of Caravaca de la Cruz (presentation) is square. The field is made of blue and white square diamonds, with blue triangles (that is, half diamonds) on the edge; all over is placed a Cross of Burgundy charged in the middle with the main elements of the coat of arms of Caravaca de la Cruz - a cow ensigned by the Cross of Caravaca, all or. The flag has a white border charged with red right-angled triangles. The upper left and lower right corners are made of a blue square charged with a red lion, while the upper right and lower left corners are made of a red square charged with a yellow castle with blue port and windows.

The flag allegedly dates back to Alfonso X the Wise. It was more probably designed at the turn of the 16th and 17th centuries, as the colour of the infantry troops raised in Caravaca by the King of Spain; the colour was borne by the captain commanding the regiment (tercio). In the 18th century, the flag was used as the colour of the Caravaca company incorporated into the provincial militia.
Following the reorganization of the Spanish army in the 19th century, the flag was no longer used as a colour. However, it remained of local significance, being used in the Cross' Festival, as it had been all along the 18th century; the flag had to be revamped in 1762 due to its bad state of preservation. The troop (soldatesca / alarde) that guarded the Holy Cross during the processions was led by a capitán and an alférez in charge of bearing the flag, which was exhibited on the main square. This ended in 1853 with the suppression of the alarde, substituted by "Moors and Christians".
The flag was then borne by a standard-bearer (abanderado) selected in the Fernández family, aka "Matamarranos". After the Civil War, the deterioration of the flag prevented its public use, excepted in 1950, which increased damage.
A replica of the flag was unveiled during the 1961 Cross' Festival, borne by a group called the Knights of the Holy Cross (Caballeros de la Vera Cruz). The flag is now considered as the official flag of Caravaca de la Cruz (photo, Basilica of the Holy Cross; photo, photo, photo, Town Hall).

Ivan Sache, 2 May 2015