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Zafra (Municipality, Extremadura, Spain)

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

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Presentation of Zafra

The municipality of Zafra (16,797 inhabitants in 2019, therefore the 6th most populated municipality in the province; 6,260 ha; municipal website) is located 80 km south-east of A HREF="es-ba-ba.html">Badajoz.

Zafra is traditionally believed to have emerged around a Muslim inn located at the junction of roads connecting Seville to Badajoz and Mérida to Jerez de los Caballeros.
In 1394, Henry III granted Zafra and the villages of Feria and La Parra, forming the domain of Feria, to Gomes I Suárez de Figueroa, then a teenager, the son of Lorenzo Suárez de Figueroa, Grand Master of the Order of Saint James. The lords of Feria made of Zafra the capital of their doamon, transforming the village into a town. To secure the town and promote trade, they fortified it in 1426 and 1449; two gates have been kept until now, the Badajoz Gate in the north and the Jerez gate in the west.

Erected Counts of Feria in 1460, the lords lived in the alcazar built in 1437-1443 by Lorenzo II Suárez de Figueroa in Gothic-Mudéjar style. The lord and his wife, Elvira Laso de Mendoza, established in 1454 the Santa MarĂ­a del Valle monastery, locally known as St. Clare's convent, as their pantheon.
In 1567, Gomes III Suárez de Figueroa y Córdoba, 5th Count of Feria, was made Duke of Feria and Grandee of Spain by Philip II. In the early 17th century, the old alcazar was revamped by Francisco de Montiel, architect of Lorenzo IV Suárez de Figueroa y Córdoba; 2nd Duke of Feria, into a modern palace on the model of the Austrian court; a classicist marble patio was built. The dukes embellished the town, building three hospitals and several monasteries, both intra and extra muros.
The Candelaria church, built from 1527 to the late 16th century, was erected a collegiate church in 1609 by the 3rd duke of Feria. It keeps the Altarpiece of the Remedy Virgin, painted in 1664 by Francisco de Zurbarán for the merchant Alonso de Salas Parra.

Zafra was a main center of trade, which was once favored by flourishing Jewish and Morisco communities. Centered on the Smaller Square, where a weekly market was initiated in 1380, commerce increased in the second half of the 16th century after the set up of the Greater Square, in the aftermath of the suppression of the old parish church.
Two yearly fairs were celebrated, dedicated to St. John (1395) and St. Michael (1453), respectively. In the 16th century, several merchants from Cameros (La Rioja) settled in the town. Due to its economical activity, Zafra was awarded th title of ciudad in 1882. The St. Michael's fair (1-2 October) was renamed to Cattle International Fair in 1992.

Zafra is the birth town of Hernando de Zafra (1450-1517?), secretary of the Catholic Monarchs during the seizure of Granada (1491); the humanist Pedro de Valencia (1565)1620), chronicler of Philip III; the priest Ruy López de Segura (1530-?), confessor of Philip II and author in 1561 of Libro de la invención liberal del juego del ajedrez, a chess treatise translated all over Europe, and winner in 1575 of the first international chess competition ever organized; the botanist Vicente Cervantes (1755-1829), Professor of Botany in the new University of Mexico in 1787 and curator of the Mexico Botanical Garden; the liberal politician and agronomist Juan Álvarez Guerra (1770-1845) and his brother, the philosopher José Álvarez Guerra (1778-?); the writer Luis de Oteyza (1883-1964); and of the novelist and poetess Dulce Chacón (1954-2003), author of Cielos de Barro.

Ivan Sache, 17 March 2020

Flag of Zafra

The flag (photo, photo) and arms of Zafra, adopted on 24 January 1995 by the Municipal Council and validated on 17 May 1995 by the Assessing Council of Honors and Distinctions of the Government of Extremadura, are prescribed by an Order issued on 19 May 1995 by the Government of Extremadura and published on 27 May 1995 in the official gazette of Extremadura, No. 62, pp. 2,414-2,415 (text).
The symbols are described as follows:

Flag: Rectangular, in proportions 2:3, composed of two horizontal stripes, the upper, white, in width 1/6 of the hoist and the lower, blue. Charged in the center with the municipal coat of arms in full colors.
Coat of arms: Per pale, 1. Or a vase azure with lilies, 2. Argent a castle on a rocky mountain proper. The shield surmounted by a Ducal coronet.

According to Pascual Madoz (Diccionario Geográfico de España, 1850), the coat of arms reproduces the arms adopted in the 18th century by the Municipal Council; the original document was, unfortunately, not found.
The first quarter features the proper arms used by the town from the 13th to the 18th century. They are found, as sculpted shields jointly used with the coat of arms of the Duke of Feria, on the Jerez Gate, the facade of the Court on the Smaller Square and the Gothic pillars of the Duke and St. Roch's fountains.
Antonio Salazar, former Official Chronicler of the town, established that Ferdinand III the Saint seized Zafra from the Moors on 2 February 1241, the day of the Purification of Mary, as reported by the local tradition. Accordingly, the victory was commemorated by using the symbol of the Marian purity, the lilies, as the arms of the reconquered town.
The second quarter alludes to the primitive fortification established on the rocks of El Castellar, the site of the settlement seized by Ferdinand III, of which a few ruins are still visible. Zafra was known to the Arabs as Sajra, which means "a rocky spur".
When the arms were "rehabilitated", it was decided to use a Ducal coronet instead of the prescribed Royal crown, for the sake of continuity with the designs used in the past and to recall that Zafra was the capital of a duchy. The castle had to be represented with three towers and not a single tower as it had sometimes been before, in compliance with the Spanish heraldic use.
[Francisco Croche de Acuña (Official Chronicler of Zafra). El escudo de la ciudad de Zafra]

Ivan Sache, 17 March 2020