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Medina Sidonia (Municipality, Andalusia, Spain)

Last modified: 2016-12-20 by ivan sache
Keywords: medina sidonia |
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Flag of Medina Sidonia - Image by Klaus-Michael Schneider, 3 May 2014


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Presentation of Medina Sidonia

The municipality of Medina Sidonia (11,781 inhabitants in 2013; 48,741 ha; municipal website) is located 50 km east of Cádiz.

Medina-Sidonia is established on two hills, Cerro del Castillo (Castle's Hill) and Cerro de las Madres (Mothers' Hiil), which were already settled in the late Age of Bronze. The tradition says that the Phoenicians founded there a town called Asido. However, the town is not mentioned in historical sources and no related coin has ever been found, which seems to indiacte that the town would have been of very limited significance.
Pliny lists the Roman colony of Asido Caesarina. Whether the colony was established by Julius Caesar or August is unknown yet; there is however, plenty of archeological evidence that the colony was indeed located on the today's municipal territory of Medina Sidonia. In the 1st century, an urbs (town) developed: remains of statues, columns and necropoles have been excavated. The most striking urban elements are the sewerage system, of which 30 m of underground galleries have been localized, and the main street (cardus maximus) of the town, of 8 m in width, made of big flagstones. Acts of early councils and later epigraphic documents show that Asido was the seat of a bishopric. The Itinerary of Ravenna mentions the town of Assidone as part of the Byzantine province of Spania. The Byzantine fortress was eventually seized by the Visigoths led by Leovigildus.

After the Moorish conquest, the town, renamed Medina Sidonia, became the capital of a cora (district), A fortress was built in the upper part of the town, of which walls and gates have been preserved until now, for instance, the Shepherds' Gate. Medina Sidonia ruled a territory organized in several alquerías (estates).
Conquered by Ferdinand III, Medina Sidonia was reconquered by the Moors in 1249, but eventually incorporated to the Kingdom of Castile in 1267 by Alfonso X. The lands were shared among the conquerors and new colonists, as listed in the Book of Share dated 1348. New estates were built beside the existing ones. The town became the seat of powerful military orders, such as the Order of St. James and the Order of St. Mary of Spain. Alfonso X and his successors granted several charters to the town, all kept in the Municipal Archives.

Medina Sidonia was granted in 1440 to Juan Alonso Pérez de Guzmán y Suárez de Figueroa (1410-1468), 3rd Count of Niebla, made 1st Duke of Medina Sidonia. Accordingly, the Duchy of Medina Sidonia is the oldest hereditary duchy in Spain. In 1479, Pedro de Alcántara Pérez de Guzmán y Pacheco, 14th Duke of Medina Sidonia, died without male heir. The title was transferred to his cousin, José Álvarez de Toledo y Gonzaga, 11th Marquis of Villafranca del Bierzo. The current head of the house of Medina Sidonia is Leoncio Alonso González de Gregorio y Álvarez de Toledo (b. 1956), 22nd Duke of Medina Sidonia and 18th Marquis of Villafranca del Bierzo.
Henry IV granted the title of ciudad to the town in 1472. The Duchy of Medina Sidonia was abolished in 1837, together with the feudal system.

Medina Sidonia is the birth town of Dr. Thebussem (Mariano Pardo de Figueroa, 1828-1918), a prolific writer and periodist. "Thebussem" is the anagram of embustes ("tales", "lies"), the "h" being added to have the name starting with a German-sounding "Th". Dr. Thebussem wrote a famous gastronomy treaty, La Mesa Moderna (The Modern Table), composed of a series of letters exchanged with José Castro y Serrano, cook at the Royal Court. He is also credited various books on bull-fighting, archeology, history, and philately. Interested in the history of correspondence, he released the first Spanish postage stamp, being also the first writer interesting in philately and collecting stamps. Dr. Thebussem was entered in 1921 in the Roll of Distinguished Philatelists. His contribution to the improvement of the postal system in Spain yielded him the title of "Honorary Postman of Spain and the Indies".

Ivan Sache, 29 March 2014


Symbols of Medina Sidonia

The (unofficial) flag of Medina Sidonia (photo) is horizontally divided blue-red.

The coat of arms of Medina Sidonia is prescribed by Decree No. 299, adopted on 11 February 1965 by the Spanish Government and published on 22 February 1965 in the Spanish official gazette, No. 45, p. 2,962 (text). This was confirmed by a Decree adopted on 30 November 2004 by the Directorate General of the Local Administration and published on 20 December 2004 in the official gazette of Andalusia, No. 246, pp. 28,986-29,002 (text).
The coat of arms, of "immemorial use" and approved by the Royal Academy of History, is described as follows:

Coat of arms: Or Apostle St. James in order of battle riding a horse rampant [argent] on a base [vert] all proper. The shield surmounted by a Ducal coronet ensigned by a castle or surmounted by an eight-pointed star argent.

Apostle St. James is the patron saint of the town, once ruled by the Order of St. James. The tradition says that St. James appeared on the Pasture of the Chapel of the Sts. Martyrs, defending the Christians against the Moors. The castle represents the old Roman fortress. The star is shown on an Iberian coin found in Medina Sidonia; it also recalls the star mentioned in the charter granted in 1282 by Alfonso X to the town.
[Símbolos de las Entidades Locales de Andalucía. Cádiz (PDF file)].

Ivan Sache, 29 March 2014


 
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