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Carrión de los Condes (Municipality, Castilla y León, Spain)

Last modified: 2015-01-17 by ivan sache
Keywords: carrión de los condes | palencia |
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Flag of Carrión de los Condes - Image by "Montecitorio" (Wikimedia Commons), 22 January 2013

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Presentation of Carrión de los Condes

The municipality of Carrión de los Condes (2,231 inhabitants in 2012; 6,337 ha; municipal website) is located 40 km from Palencia. The municipality is made of the town of Carrión de los Condes and of the village of Torre de los Molinos (49 inh.).

Carrión de los Condes has been identified as the old town of Lacobriga, listed on Roman itineraries and involved in the 1st century AD in the Praetorian Wars. Remains of this period have been found, as well as of villa from the late Roman Empire (3rd-4th centuries).
The town was resettled and made the seat of a County in the 10th century by the King of León. The poem El Cantar de Mio Cid makes of the town the home of the fictitious sons-in-law of the Cid, Diego and Fernán González.
In the 11th century, Gómez Díaz and his wife Teresa founded the St. Zoilo monastery, affiliated to the Clunisian Order. Located on the Way of St. James, Carrión de los Condes attracted several religious orders. Their most famous member was mother Luisa de la Ascensión (1602-1665), known as the Nun of Carrión, who took the coat in the St. Clara monastery when 18 years old.

Ivan Sache, 22 January 2013

Symbols of Carrión de los Condes

The flag and arms of Carrión de los Condes are prescribed by a Decree adopted on 26 April 2012 by the Municipal Council, signed on 27 April 2012 by the Mayor, and published on 10 May 2012 in the official gazette of Castilla y León No. 88, pp. 31,781-31,782 (text).
The symbols are described as follows:

Flag: Flag in proportions 2:3, quartered by a cross. The first and fourth quarters red (gules) with a yellow (or) castle, with three towers, the central higher, ports and windows blue (azure). The second and third quarters blue (azure) an oxcart yellow (or) without yokes.
Coat of arms: In Spanish shape, quarterly. 1. and 4. Gules a castle or with three towers the central higher ports and windows azure, 2. and 3. Azure an oxcart or without yokes. The shield surmounted by a Spanish Royal Crown.

The adoption of the flag and the "rehabilitation" of the coat of arms, supported by a memoir written by Félix J. Martínez Llorente and Faustino Narganes Quijano, were validated by the Chronicler of Arms of Castile and Leon, Alfonso Cevallos-Escalera y Gila. Following the preliminary adoption of the designs by the Municipal Council, Santiago Peral Villafruela and Ángel Luis Barreda Ferrer tabled - separately - objections, which were deemed not backed up by historical or heraldic considerations and were, therefore, dismissed.

Ivan Sache, 22 January 2013

The flag is, therefore, a banner of the "rehabilitated" arms of the town.

The old arms of Carrión de los Condes appear in the 5th quarter of the arms of Palencia Province.

Controversy after the "rehabilitation" of the arms

The previously used coat of arms was "Quarterly, 1. Gules a castle or ports and windows azure (Castile), 2. and 3. Or an oxcart sable per bend sinister, the two affronty, 4. Gules a lion rampant argent armed langued and crowned sable (León), grafted in base Argent a pomegranate proper. The shield surmounted by a Count's coronet and surrounded by a Collar of the Golden Fleece.

The controversy stirred by the "rehabilitation" of the coat of arms was widely aired in the local sources of information (for instance, El Norte de Castilla, 26 April 2012).
The opponents claimed that the modification of the historical coat of arms of the town, used since the 16th century, was an "aberration", "totally unnecessary and expensive, that would caue prejudice to the image of the town." They pointed out that the traditional coat of arms was sculpted on the facade of the Culture Hall and that more than one hundred of its representation could be spotted in the town. The substitution of the Count's coronet by the Royal crown would deprive the town from a basic symbol of its history - the town was the capital of a County and granted the epithet "de los Condes" (the Counts'). The most important bone of contention is the removal of the Leonese lion ands the duplication of the Castilian castle, considered as a "betrayal to history", since the King of León established the County of Carrión at a time where the Kingdom of Castile did not exist. Removing the symbol of the Kingdom of León from a town that was historically part of León would be a political mistake.

The relevant parts of the memoir supporting the "rehabilitation" of the arms say:

The oldest known seals of Carrión de los Condes, dated 1234 and 1258 an kept in the National Historical Archives, Madrid, show on the obverse an oxcart and the writing "+ SIGILLVM: CONCILII: CARRIONIS" (Seal of the Council of Carrión) all around. The obverse shows a three-towered castle and the writing "SIT: NOMEN: DOMINI: BENEDICTUM" (The name of God shall be blessed) all around. These seals indicate that the town already wanted to have canting arms. The town was originally named Santa María de Carrión, carrión being a diminutive form of carria, "a path", used in Asturias and Galicia; the oxcart (carro) was used on to make the arms canting by a phonetical analogy with carria. In the 17th-18th centuries, the local authors spread a legend conveniently "explaining" the name of the town and its arms, the oxcarts recalling those used by the Christians when seizing the town from the Moors.
The stone arms of the old prison are probably the oldest representation (1568) of the early arms of the town. With the Castilian castle and the Leonese lion in the 1st and 4th quarters, respectively, the local oxcart in the two other quarters, and a pomegranate in base, these arms represent an ideal union of the Royal and municipal emblems. This coat of arms was abandoned in the early 17th century, subsequently resurfacing only in a few specific instances. A stone from the arch erected in 1610 by Remirez de Arellano shows the genuine arms of the town, quartered with castles and oxcarts.

The relevant parts of the "counter-memoir" presented by the opponents, led by Ángel Luis Barreda Ferrer say:

The proposed "adaptation and rehabilitation" of the coat of arms is perceived by the opponents as the proposal of a new coat of arms, since four elements are removed from the previous design, without historical explanations:
- the lion from the fourth quarter;
- the rose from the point of the shield;
- the Count's coronet, substituted by a Royal crown closed;
- the Collar of the Golden Fleece surrounding the shield.

These suppressions have different significance, the most important of them being the removal of the lion. The authors of the proposal list a seal from the 19th century and a stone carving from the 18th century in which the shield has to castles and no lion. The opponents state that the lion was mentioned by Martín Ramírez de Helguera in his book Libro de Carrión de los Condes (1896) as "a symbol of authority and majesty, as well as of the union of the kingdoms".
The original memoir, quoting Rodrigo Méndez Silva (1645), states that the oxcarts and the castle represented on the old coat of arms are rooted in the legend of the seizure of the fortress of Monteargel by the troops of Alfonoi II the Chaste. However, the traditional description of the shield also mentions that the lion was a symbol of the bravery and courage of Alfonso's soldiers. Accordingly, if the oxcarts and the castles are put on the arms to represent the battle, the lion should be there, too.
Moreover, the lion has a profusely documented presence in the town's heraldry, and should therefore not be dropped from the shield without a detailed study. Arms of the town with the lion are to be seen on the old prison (1568), on the clock's tower of the town hall (late 19th century), in the aforementioned Libro de Carrión de los Condes (1896), on the House of Spain (since 1955), on several urban artefacts, in several places of the St. Zoilo Royal Monastery (16th-18th centuries), near the church of the Virgin of Bethlehem (16th century), where the tradition places the battle of Monteargel, on the town's manor and on the Council's Arch (1595), today part of the Town Hall.
The suppression of the lion would be an attempt against the history of Carrión, whose County was established by the Kingdom of León, before its incorporation to the Kingdom of Castile. Historically, Carrión always supported the Kingdom of León - with the Beni Gómez family - against the Castilian families, such as that of the Cid Campeador (see references in Menénez Pelayo and Menéndez Pidal's study and in the poem El Cantar del Mío Cid).

The rose, sometimes mistaken for a pomegranate, symbolizes Alfonso the Chaste. For the same historical reasons as the lion, it should also be maintained on the coat of arms.
The Count's coronet has been represented above the shield for years, being the most appropriate symbol for the town often called the Counts' Town. Its substitution by a Royal crown is unnecessary and could be prejudicial to the fame of the town out of its borders.
The Collar of the Golden Fleece has no documented link with the town and could be removed.

Finally, the opponents claim that the design of the coat of arms could be improved. The model of oxcart is not local but rather Asturian or Cantabrian.

Ivan Sache, 22 January 2013