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Nerja (Municipality, Andalusia, Spain)

Last modified: 2020-02-09 by ivan sache
Keywords: nerja |
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Flag of Nerja - Image from the Símbolos de Málaga website, 5 February 2020

See also:

Presentation of Nerja

The municipality of Nerja (21,091 inhabitants in 2019; 8,500 ha), located 50 km east of Málaga, is the easternmost municipality in the province. The municipality is composed of the town of Nerja and of the village of Maro (741 inh.).

The village of Naricha / Narija, depending on Vélez-Málaga, emerged during the Arab rule, around a fortress located on the place known today as Pago del Castillo Alto. A watch tower was erected on the coast in the 10th century.
Narija surrendered to the Christians in the aftermath of the fall of Vélez-Málaga in 1487. In the 16th century, after the suppression of the Morisco revolt, a new fortress was erected near the old coastal tower, to be demolished by the French in the 18th century. The inhabitants of the old village moved down and established a brand new settlement.

Nerja was already settled in the Age of Bronze, as evidenced by recent archeological findings in the Nerja Cave.
The Nerja Cave, self-styled "Costa del Sol's Natural Cathedral", was discovered on 12 January 1959 by Francisco Navas Montesinos, Manuel and Miguel Muñoz Zorrilla, José Luis Barbero de Miguel and José Torres Cárdenas, aged from 14 to 21 years, who searched bats. The cave is now the most visited natural monument in Andalusia (450,000 / year); the area open to the visit (Lower Galleries) covers nearly 10,000 m2. The Upper and New Galleries, discovered in 1969, are not open to the public.
[ABC, 12 January 2019; Paleoantropología hoy, 12 June 2015]

Excavated from 1959 to 1967 and from 1979 to 1987, the cave yielded several human and animal fossils and has been the site of fruitful research in paleanthropology, paleozoology, paleoclimatology and climatology, mycology, geology and mineralogy, hydrology etc. See for instance:
- Álvarez-Fernández, E. et al. 2014. Occurrence of whale barnacles in Nerja Cave (Málaga, southern Spain): Indirect evidence of whale consumption by humans in the Upper Magdalenian. Quaternary International 337, 163-169
- Jordá, J.F. et al. 2010. Archaeomalacological remains from the Upper Pleistocene – Early Holocene record of the Vestíbulo of Nerja Cave (Malaga, Spain). Munibe, Supplement 31, 78-87
- Lalezua Fox, C. 1995. Restos humanos del nivel solutrense de la Cueva de Nerja (Málaga). Zephyrus, 48, 289-297
- Masseti, M. 2009. The mongoose of the Cave of Nerja, southern Spain, is not the oldest Egyptian mongoose of Europe. Archaeofauna, 18, 65-68
- Medina-Alcaide, M.A. et al. 2015. Lighting the dark: Wood charcoal analysis from Cueva de Nerja (Málaga, Spain) as a tool to explore the context of Palaeolithic rock art. Comptes Rendus Palevol 14, 411-422
- Mudry J. et al. 2008. Some applications of geochemical and isotopic techniques to hydrogeology of the caves after research in two sites (Nerja Cave-S Spain, and Fourbanne system-French Jura). International Journal of Speleology, 37, 67-74.
- Sanchidrián, J.L. et al. 2017. New perspectives for 14C dating of parietal markings using CaCO3 thin layers: An example in Nerja cave (Spain). Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports, 12, 74–80
- Sanchidrián-Torti, J.L. & Medina-Alcaide, M.A. 2018. La grotte de Nerja aujourd’hui. Synthèse des derniers travaux de recherche dans les zones ornées. Les Nouvelles de l'archéologie 154, 33-38
- Serrano, F. et al. 1997. Multivariate analysis of remains of molluscan foods consumed by latest Pleistocene and Holocene Humans in Nerja Cave, Málaga, Spain. Quarternary Research, 48, 215-227

Ivan Sache, 5 February 2020

Symbols of Nerja

The flag of Nerja (photo, photo, photo, photo, photo, photo, photo), which has not been officially registered, is blue with the municipal coat of arms, which has not been officially registered, either.

The municipal arms are modeled on the white marble coat of arms originally applied to the main facade of the old Town Hall and now exhibited in the Nerja Museum, which was re-opened on 15 March 2017 following a complete revamping.
The coat of arms is composed of two swords crossed in saltire superimposed by an anchor and surmounted by a Royal crown, which was suppressed during the Second Republic but whose print is still clearly visible. Similar ink seals were used by the Municipality in the 19th and 20th centuries.

Rafael Sánchez de la Mata claim, without providing any evidence, that the coat of arms was adopted by the municipality as early as 1770. It was more probably adopted after 1820 to decorate the newly built Town Hall. The artifact exhibited in the Museum is most probably the "carved shield" ordered in 1890 for the municipal lobby and eventually placed on the facade, as evidenced by photos from the early 20th century.
There is no doubt, either, that the origin of the design of the arms of Nerja dates back to the second half of the 18th century, in connection with the Navy. A Naval Adjudancy, depending on the Maritime Province of Motril and of the Department of Cádiz, was established in Nerja in the 1750s. Several fishermen were registered in Nerja according to the Naval Charter granted on 13 May 1336 by Charles III. They wore distinctive emblems on the right chest to be identified if arrested by servants of another jurisdiction. A boss fisherman with distinguished acts wore an anchor surmounted by the Royal crown and superimposed by two crossed swords. The only difference between this emblem and the arms of Nerja is the respective position of the anchor and the swords, which was probably goofed during the setup of the first prototype of the arms, and subsequently copied.
In the 18th century and the first decades of the 19th century, the Nerja fishermen formed the St. Telmo fishers' group, named for St. Elmo of Formia, patron of sailors. Like the other brotherhoods of the town, they funded artworks. In the 1780s, they funded the St. Telmo altar in the El Salvador church, featuring an altarpiece attributed to José Martin de Aldehuela destroyed in 1936. One of the angles supporting the altarpiece holds a cartouche charged with the coat of arms of Nerja.

The oldest known ink seal used by the municipality of Nerja is dated 1859, featuring an anchor superimposed with a sword. Since the 19th century, the sword has been interpreted as the attribute of St. Michael, the town's patron saint, and the anchor in connection with the local sailors. The same emblem, however, surmounted by a Royal crown, was used by the Sea Companies, formerly known as Africa Sea Groups, of the Spanish Navy, originally seamen enrolled in infantry units. Then superseded by a national shield with appropriate wording, the original coat of arms was re-established in 1937 by the Francoist authorities, but without the Royal crown.
On 15 December 1962, the Mayor of Nerja "informed the Corporation of the convenience to adopt the municipal coat of arms as the traditional design granted by the Monarchs and used by the town since the Republican period, in which the Royal crown surmounting the admiral's anchor was suppressed as non-compliant with the Republican ideal. Since then the municipal coat of arms has been used without the aforementioned crown. The Presidency [of the Council] believes that there is no reason to further delay the inclusion of the suppressed crown. Accordingly, the Presidency presented a sketch of the coat of arms featuring the swords, the admiral's anchor and the crown, similar to the design modified by the Republic. The design was unanimously adopted as the municipal coat of arms, of private used by the Corporation as the symbol of the municipality, and whose use by other shall require an explicit grant by the Municipality."
[Blog de Francisco Capilla Luque, 14 March 2017]

In January 2020, the informative commission of the Citizen's Services of the municipality of Nerja unanimously decided to commission the Municipal Council to initiate the process of legal registration of the symbols.

Ivan Sache, 5 February 2020

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