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Archena (Municipality, Region of Murcia, Spain)

Last modified: 2016-05-08 by ivan sache
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Flag of Archena - Image by Ivan Sache, 1 May 2015

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Presentation of Archena

The municipality of Archena (18,579 inhabitants in 2014; 1,640 ha; municipal website) is located in the north-east of the Region of Murcia, 25 km of Murcia.

Archena was settled by Iberian tribes, as evidence by the Warriors' Vase (presentation), kept in the National Museum of Archeology, which is the archetype of the Elche-Archena style - big vases decorated with figurative scenes.
Archena is believed, without firm evidence, to have been a Roman municipality. The name of the town is said to come from Latin arcila / arxila"/ arcillasis, meaning "clay" (Spanish, arcilla). This etymology, however, is controversial; Pr. Antonino González Blanco claims that Archena is a toponym of Indo-European origin, linked to water. Anyway, the Romans built thermae, of which several remains have been excavated, including columns and the duumvir's flagstone (presentation). Coins date the Roman town to the 1st and 2nd centuries.
The Moors erected a castle (presentation) on the ruins of an old Roman fort, aimed at watching the Ricote valley and the Segura huertas. Infante Alfonso (subsequently Alfonso X, the conqueror of the Kingdom of Murcia) transferred in 1243 the castle to Rodrigo López de Mendoza, this document being the oldest mention of Archena. On 15 June 1244, the Infante transferred again the castle to Friar Guillén de Mondragón, Commander of the Order of St. John. The Order incorporated in 1266 Archena and Calasparra to a single Commandery. Fiercely disputed during the Castilian civil wars, the castle was eventually ruined in 1452 upon order of Henry, Prince of Asturias.

The Archena healing water, already known to the Iberians and the Romans, was popularized in the 18th century by Dr. Andrés Prim (Espejo cristalino de Aguas), and, mostly, by Dr. Francisco Cerdán (Disertación physico-médica de las virtudes medicinales, ufo, y atufo de los Aguas thermales de la villa de Archena) . The Archena water inspired the poem Poema Phisico de los Bonos calientes de la villa de Archena en el reino de Murcia, published in 1777 in Murcia by Ignacio López de Ayala.
Famous in Spain and Europe, the Archena spa did not comply with the minimal hygienic and sanitary norms, because its owner, the Order of St. John, did not invest money in the spa. Upon request of the soldiers who rested at the spa, Charles III ordered in 1785 the Order to revamp the spa and the neighbouring buildings. Designed by the architect Gregorio de la Rosa with the support of the Marquis of Floridablanca, the new spa, very profitable, eventually triggered the interest of the Order.
After the expelling of the Order by Royal Decree of 28 January 1850, the spa was acquired by the Marquis of Corvera, who subsequently transferred it to his brother, the Viscount of Rías. The marquis embellished the spa, building new thermae (1852) and different pavilions. The Archena spa (presentation) is today the main employer in the town, with 15,000 customers spending more than 150,000 nights every year.

Ivan Sache, 1 May 2015

Symbols of Archena

The flag of Archena is prescribed by Decree No. 50, adopted on 10 June 1999 by the Government of the Region of Murcia and published on 3 July 1999 in the official gazette of the Region of Murcia, No. 151, p. 8,066 (text)
The flag is described as follows:

Flag: Divided per fess in two colours, the upper yellow and the lower red. The coat of arms of Archena may be placed on the flag, made in its upper (principal) part of four pallets or on gules and in its lower part on azure a half moon argent in the fourth crescent ensigned by a star or. with the heart gules and surrounded by two Maltese crosses argent [crown not mentioned].

The Municipal Council commissioned the Marquis de Lacy to design a flag proposal, which was approved on 28 January 1999.
Yellow and red are the main colours of the municipal coat of arms (as or and gules, respectively). These are also the colours of the flag of Aragón, symbolizing generosity, virtue, quality and solidarity.
[Municipal website]

The flag in official use (photo, photo, photo, photo, photo, photo) appears to be charged with the coat of arms.

José María Sánchez (Archena Noble, 1913) describes the official presentation of the coat of arms of Archena, unveiled during the inauguration of the statue of Miguel Medina. Sánchez claims that the Moriscos of Archena used a coat of arms azure, charged with a half moon in fourth quarter argent and a star or, which might have been a sun of Roman origin. There is, unfortunately, no document backing up this claim.
After the conquest of the Kingdom of Murcia by James I the Conqueror, King of Aragón, Archena was granted the right to use the Royal arms of Aragón, still shown on the modern coat of arms, and the title of "Muy leal" (Very Loyal). Sánchez adds that the Catholic Monarchs granted in 1488 a charter to Archena as a reward for their support in the Granada War, and the right to add the Royal crown above the municipal shield. These claims are not backed up by any document, either. Luis Lisón Hernández states that "the charter did not appear anywhere and was never seen by anyone".

The Municipal Council allowed the production of a coat of arms after a drawing made by the pharmacist Lorenzo Banegas Gallego, who lived in Madrid where he manufactured stamps and seals. The Banegas family archives indicate that the coat of arms was indeed designed by the doctor José Maria Sánchez Banegas, Lorenzo's junior brother. The two crosses featured in the base of the shield were Latin crosses, modelled on the cross of Mt. Ope, said to protect the population of Archena from witchery and diseases. The seal matrix was produced in Toledo in 1911 and used for the first time in 1916 on municipal documents.
The Royal Academy of History, probably unaware of the local traditions, stated in 1963 that the Latin crosses should be substituted for Maltese crosses.

The shape of the shield is not in Spanish but in English style. Two copies of the shield, in white marble and stone, respectively, were sculpted on the facade of the old Town Hall of Archena by Emilio Cándel Vázquez.
The shield is surrounded by a wreath of laurel, a symbol of victory. Beneath the shield is a scroll charged with the motto "MUY NOBLA y MUY LEAL" (Very Noble and Very Loyal).
[Municipal website]

Ivan Sache, 1 May 2015

Archena militia colour


Archena militia colour - Image by Ivan Sache, 1 May 2015

Miguel Banegas offered to the Archena Municipal Archives an image of the colour used during the War of Independence by the troops of Archena and the Ricote Valley, commanded by Pedro Gonzalo de Llamas y Molina.
The flag is square, divided white-red according to the descending diagonal. The white triangle is charged with a Cross of the Order of St. James, while the red triangle is charged with a Maltese Cross. The two crosses represent the six towns of the Ricote valley, which once formed a single commandery, and Archena, respectively.
[Municipal website]

Ivan Sache, 1 May 2015