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San Juan de Gredos (Municipality, Castilla y León, Spain)

Last modified: 2015-01-17 by ivan sache
Keywords: san juan de gredos | ávila |
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Presentation of San Juan de Gredos

The municipality of San Juan de Gredos (354 inhabitants in 2010; 9,600 ha; municipal website) is located in the south of Ávila Province. The municipality was formed in 1975 by the merging of the three former municipalities of Navacepeda de Tormes (224 inh.; capital), La Herguijuela (80 inh.) and San Bartolomé de Tormes (50 inh.); the new municipality took the name of the patron saint of Navacepeda de Tormes, St. John the Baptist. La Herguileja, located 1,600 m asl, is the highest inhabited place in Ávila Province.

Navacepeda is famous for the bear's paw nailed on the door of the parish church, locally considered as an ex-voto offered by a mower who could miraculously kill a bear with his scythe (municipal website).
A recent C-14 datation performed at the Uppsala University (Sweden) indicates that the bear lived sometimes between 1450 and 1640. The last record of a bear in the area is to be found in Gonzalo Arcote de Molina's Discurso sobre la montería, published in 1582: the writer explains that Prince Philip II (therefore before his coronation in 1556) killed a bear with his harquebus in El Monte de El Pardo. Accordingly, the Navacepeda paw could have belonged to one of the lasts bears in the Sierra de Gredos range, or even in the Spanish Central Mountains. Two scientists' groups have started a phylogenetic analysis of the bear's DNA to establish the genetic relations between the Navacepeda bear and the other Iberian bears. Bears were indeed common in the Sierra de Gredos, as reported in Alfonso XI's Libro de Montería (middle 14th century) and evidenced by several toponyms based on oso, "a bear" (Polovoroso, Fuente la Osa, Navapolvorosa, Raigoso).
In Ernest Hemingway's novel "For Whom the Bell Tolls", Anselmo mentions a bear's paw nailed on the door of the church of his village. Anselmo is said to come from El Barco de Ávila, where no bear's paw has ever been reported. In a postcard sent in June 1931 to John Dos Passos relating his journey in the Sierra de Gredos, Hemingway mentions "a bear's paw nailed on a church's door", which is most probably the Navacepeda paw.

Ivan Sache, 22 March 2011

Symbols of San Juan de Gredos

The flag and arms of San Juan de Gredos are prescribed by a Decree adopted on 12 April 1999 by the Municipal Council, signed on 4 June 1999 by the Mayor, and published on 16 June 1999 in the official gazette of Castilla y León, No. 114, p. 6,460 (text).
The symbols are described as follows:

Flag: Quadrangular flag with proportion 1:1, horizontally divided green-white. In the middle is placed the municipal coat of arms in full colors.
Coat of arms: Per fess, 1a. Argent a mountain range vert crossed by a river argent ensigned with three stars gules, 1b. Argent a crow sable, 2. Or a pine and an oak terraced proper. The shield surmounted with a Royal Spanish crown.

Ivan Sache, 22 March 2011