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Zamora (Municipality, Castilla y León, Spain)

Last modified: 2020-10-08 by ivan sache
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Flag of Zamora, two versions - Images by António Martins, 23 June 2011

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Presentation of Zamora

The municipality of Zamora (65,998 inhabitants in 2010, therefore the 7th most populous municipality in Castilla y León; 14,928 ha; municipal website) is the capital of the Zamora Province.

Zamora was probably founded by the Romans as Ocellum Duri (The Duero's Small Eye) during the war against the Lusitanian chief Viriathus (c. 180-139 BC). The town was known in the Visigothic times as Semure, a name written on the reverse of coins portraying King Sisebut (c. 565-620/621). The Moors called the town Azemur ("wild olive tree") or Semurah ("turquoise town"). The exact origin of the name of Zamora, Germanic or Arabic, is unknown.
Destroyed by Emir Muhammad, Zamora was reconquerred by King of Asturias Alfonso II, who resettled the town with Mozarabs from Toledo and built in 893 fortifications that made of Zamora the most important fortified town of the Christian kingdoms. The Arab chroniclers described Zamora as "the capital of the Kingdom of Galicia", indeed a strategic place of the Kingdom of León, surrounded by seven fortified bastions and deep ditches. Excepted Al-Mansur's raid in 981, the town resisted the Moorish attacks until the late 11th century.

"Zamora the well-surrounded" was rebuilt by Ferdinand and provided with brand new fortifications; the king granted the town to his daughter Urraca. The lost Cantar de Sancho II chanson de geste, paraphrazed in the Chronica Naierensis (late 12th century) relates how Sancho II died on 6 October 1072, when attempting to seize the town from his sister Urraca. Vellido Dolfos, a Leonese of Galician knight, probably mythical, pretending to betray Urraca, attracted Sancho near the walls to show him how to enter the town, and killed him with his own golden javelin. The Castilians, considering Dolfos as a felon, nicknamed the gate Portillo de la Traición (Betrayal's Gate) while the Leonese, considering Dolfos as a hero, nicknamed it Portillo de la Lealtad (Loyalty's Gate). El Cid Campeador, then Sancho's esquire, not aware of the murder but suspicious about Dolfos' quick withdrawal, ran after him until the walls of the town. Sancho actually died during the siege of Zamora, but the exact circumstances of his death have remained unknown.

The Gilded Age of Zamora was the 12th century, when the town had a privileged location on the front between the Muslim and Christian states; the numerous monuments built at the time, and especially the 14 churches, have yielded the nickname of "Romanesque town" to Zamora. The increase in the population required in the middle of the 12th century the building of a new, enlarged wall. In the next century, the resettlement front moved southwards and Zamora lost its strategic importance.
During the War of Succession, Joan "la Beltraneja" set up her court in Zamora, but the inhabitants took the party of her aunt Isabel the Catholic; Alfonso V of Portugal, Joan's consort and pretender to the Spanish throne was defeated in 1476 in the Battle of Toro.

Ivan Sache, 23 June 2011

Symbols of Zamora

The municipal symbols of Zamora are prescribed in Article 6 of the municipal Constitution (Reglamento Orgánico, de functionamiento y régimen jurídico del Excmo. Ayuntamiento de Zamora, text), as follows:

Titles, coat of arms and flag of the town.
1. The town of Zamora bears the title of "Muy Noble y Leal" [Very Noble and Loyal] granted by King Henry IV by the Privileges of 20 June and 1 July 1465 and 9 March 1466.
2. The municipality, with the title of "Excelentísimo" [Most Excellent] shall receive in its personal designation the name of "Excelencia" ["Excellence"].
3. The coat of arms of the town is made of two quarters: the first quarter represents Viriathus' arm holding the Seña Bermeja [Red flag], the town's flag. The second quarter represents the conquest of Mérida by King of León Alfonso IX in 1227, showing river Guadiana and the towers of the Roman bridge of Mérida, assaulted by the Zamora militias.
4. The flag of the town of Zamora, known as the Seña bermeja [Red flag], is made of eight horizontal red stripes representing the eight battles won by Viriathus over diverse Roman pretors and consuls, and an emerald green stripe; this stripe, worn by the Catholic King on the shoulder, was placed on the top of the Seña Bermeja as a reward and tribute for the help supplied in March 1476 in the Battle of Peleagonzalo (Toro). The Count of Alba y Aliste, as the alferez mayor [Main Standard-bearer], has the traditional privilege to bear the flag of the town.

The County of Alba y Aliste / Alba de Liste was erected on 8 August 1459 by Henry IV for Enrique Enríquez de Mendoza. The current holder of the title is Maria de la Concepción Martorell y Castillejo, 23rd Countess of Alba de Liste.

The flag is rectangular (Calvo and Grávalos [g2c83]; Ministry for Public Administrations [e9s92]; photo) or ending with points (photo). There are other, probably older versions with a serrated fly for each stripe, and one with a Schwenkel continuing the green upper stripe.

The Zamora Province uses the same flag.
According to Calvo and Grávalos, the flag of Zamora was the inspiration for the current flag of Portugal.

Ivan Sache, Blas Delgado, Antonio Gutiérrez, Santiago Dotor & António Martins, 23 June 2011