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Villanueva del Fresno (Municipality, Extremadura, Spain)

Last modified: 2020-10-31 by ivan sache
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Flag of Villanueva del Fresno - Image by Ivan Sache, 17 March 2020

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Presentation of Villanueva del Fresno

The municipality of Villanueva del Fresno (3,397 inhabitants in 2018 vs. 6,621 in 1960; 36,020 ha; municipal website) is located on the border with Portugal, 60 km south of Badajoz and 40 km south of Olivenza. The municipality is bordered on 22.5 km by Grand Lake Alcueva, the largest man-made lake in Western Europe. Built on the course of river Guadiana and flooded on 8 February 2002, the lake covers 205 km2 and contains up to 4,150 hm3, with a maximum depth of 152 m.

Villanueva del Fresno was first documented in the 13th century (1252 and 1263) when the Knight Templars and the Hospitalers had to settle a dispute on the territorial limits of Mourão and Villanueva del Fresno. As a sign of concord, the two orders decided that "the Cuncos castle shall never be populated"; the fortress was indeed abandoned by the last defenders. The castle is erected on a a height known as the Castle place and protected by rocks known as the Wall, which overlooks the confluence of brook Cuncos and river Guadiana. The site was settled by a Muslim citadel, transformed by the Templars at the end of the 12th century. Ruined for long, the citadel is now flooded by Grand Lake Alcueva.

After the suppression of the Order of the Temple by Pope Clement V in 1312, Villanueva was incorporated to the Crown, to be offerred on 23 July 1332, as Villa Nueva del Fresno (The Ash's New Town) to Martín Fernández Portocarrero, a loyal supporter of King Alfonso XI since his youth. Alfonso IV, King of Portugal, besieged Badjoz in 1336, to no avail; during his withdrawal, he looted Villanueva. This event, as well as the black plague epidemic that broke out in 1348, probably prevented Portocarrero to visit his town. He was succeeded by 16 lords of Villanueva del Fresno; in May 1703, the death without direct heirs of Pedro Portocarrero initiated a long succession issue, the Count of Montijo being ventually recognized in 1739 as the new lord of the town.
The Marquisate of Villanueva del Fresno was created in 1530 by Charles I for Juan Portocarrero y Cárdenas, 7th lord of Villanueva del Fresno and Knight of the Order of Saint James. The 22th Marquess of Villanueva del Fresno (since 2004) is Carlos Fitz-James Stuart y Martínez de Irujo (b. 1948), 19th Duke of Alba, 12th Duke of Berwick, 16th Count-Duke of Olivares, 17th Marquess of El Carpio..., and Grandee of Spain.

On 8 October 1643, during the Portuguese Restoration War, Mathias de Alburquerque besieged the town, whose garrison commanded by Francisco Geldres surrendered 10 years later. Lacking of strategic interest, the town was looted and abandoned by the Portuguese in 1646. The town's fortifications and castle were mined and destroyed. In local documents, Solano de Figueroa reported that "the place is so dead that it is necessary to use signs to communicate".
Villanueva del Fresno was rebuilt and resettled in 1668 by the famous "nine lineages", mostly inhabitants of the town before its destruction.

Ivan Sache, 17 March 2020

Flag of Villanueva del Fresno

The flag and arms of Villanueva del Fresno, adopted on 7 May and 4 November 1993 by the Municipal Council and validated on 22 September 1993, 21 March and 8 November 1994 by the Assessing Council of Honors and Distinctions of the Government of Extremadura, are prescribed by an Order issued on 18 November 1994 by the Government of Extremadura and published on 3 December 1994 in the official gazette of Extremadura, No. 138, p. 4,679 (text).
The symbols are described as follows:

Flag: Rectangular, in proportions 2:3, composed of two equal vertical stripes, yellow at hoist and green at fly, charged in the center with the municipal coat of arms in full colors.
Coat of arms: Or an ash vert a shepherd proper throwing a stone a flag gules charged with a cresecent argent falling from the tree with broken staff a dog sable chained to the tree. The shield surmounted by a Marquess' coronet.

Ivan Sache, 17 March 2020