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Marchena (Municipality, Andalusia, Spain)

Last modified: 2017-02-04 by ivan sache
Keywords: marchena |
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Flag of Marchena - Image from the Símbolos de Sevilla website, 23 January 2017

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Presentation of Marchena

The municipality of Marchena (19,773 inhabitants in 2016; 37,825 ha; municipal website), is located in the valley of Guadalquivir, 60 km east of Seville.

Marchena was established in the late 12th-early 13th century by the Almohad, who erected a fortified castle and a town surrounded by walls. Reconquerred on 20 January 1240 by King Ferdinand III the Saint, Marchena was granted in 1309 to the Ponce de León lineage. The Moorish castle was transformed in a residence by the new lords, while most of the gates of the town were preserved.
The Seville Gate, which was revamped in 1430 by Pedro Ponce de León, 5th lord of Marchena and 1st Count of Arcos, is one of the emblems of the town. The Morón Gate houses now the museum dedicated to the local sculptor Lorenzo Coullaut-Valera (1878-1932, mostly known for the Cervantes monument erected on Plaza de España in Madrid). The Carmona Gate is defended by a polygonal tower locally known as the Golden Tower.
The sacristy of the St. John the Baptist church houses the Zurbarán Museum, showing of nine paintings made by Francisco de Zurbarán (1568-1664) in 1634-1637.

Father Antonio de Marchena, a Franciscan monk at the La Rábida monastery (Palos de la Frontera) met by chance in 1484-1485 a Genoese adventurer named Christopher Columbus. Father Marchena knew nothing on navigation but was a noted astronomer and cosmographer. He was the first to be convinced by Columbus' project of circumnavigation and recommended him to the court of Castile.

Marchena is one of the cradles of flamenco, as the birth place of the guitarists Melchor de Marchena (1907-1980) and his son, Enrique de Melchor (1950-2012), José Luis Postigo (b. 1980), and of the singers La Gilica (1866-1942), Niño de Marchena (1903-1976), Pepe Palenca (1903-1976), Niña de Marchena (1915-1980), and Juan El Caeno (1933-1998)

Ivan Sache, 23 January 2017

Symbols of Marchena

The flag of Marchena (photo) is vertically divided blue-red with the municipal coat of arms in the middle. Neither the flag nor the arms appear to have been officially registered.

The coat of arms of Marchena is "Per fess, 1. Argent three arrows sable, 2a. Or a lion gules crowned of the same, 2b. Or four pallets gules. A bordure azure eight escutcheons or a fess azure. The shield surmounted by a Royal crown ancient. The shield surmounted by lambresquins and a scroll inscribed 'Colonia Martia Romanorum'."

The oldest known representation of the arms of Marchena is a stone coat of arms applied to the facade of the Town Hall erected in the beginning of the 18th century by the architect Alonso Moreno. The coat of arms was carefully removed from the facade during the revamping of the town Hall made in 1962.
The coat of arms is made of a double shield jointly showing the feudal power of the Ponce de León and the power of the Town Council. The arms of the Town Council feature, in a single quarter, a series of charges that would be reused, with slight variations, all along the subsequent history of the town. The upper part of the shield feature three arrows pointing upwards. They refer to the Christian reconquest of the town on 20 January 1240, St. Sebastian's Day; the saint has been the town's patron saint since at least the 16th century.
Beneath the arrows is represented a lion rampant. This charge comes from the arms of Fernán Ponce de León, 1st lord of Marchena, who inherited them from his ascendant Pedro Ponce, husband of Aldonza Alfonso, the bastard daughter of King of León Alfonso IX.
The shield has a bordure inscribed with "Colonia Martia Romanorum", referring to the "more than disputed" Roman origin of the town. The shield is surmounted by a Marquis' coronet.

The next representation of the municipal arms, a marble shield, is found on the new grain barn erected in 1732. The arms are similar to the old ones, with some differences:
- the shield is surmounted by a Duke's coronet;
- the arrows point downwards, as they do in all subsequent versions of the arms;
- the lion's posture is between rampant and passant.

On 17 October 1758, the municipal government ordered two maces, two shields and two crimson damask costumes for the mace bearers. The maces and shields were paid on 16 January 1759 to a famous silversmith from Seville, José Alexandre Ezquarra, The shields are surrounded by a rich rococo decoration; one features the arms of Ponce de León, the other the arms of the town. The latter shield features a lion passant beneath three arrows, tied,some authors say, by a yoke. The bordure is inscribed with "COLONIA MARTIA ROMANORUM". The coronet cannot be ascribed to any model but the silversmith's o

Written sources confirm the aforementioned design and indicates the genuine colours of the arms. Antonio de Moya (Rasgo heroyco..., 1756) gives the arms of Marchena as "Argent a lion gules crowned or a bundle of arrows representing force..." José Guerrero, Archpriest of Marchena, wrote in 1787 an historical description of Marchena, upon request of the Royal geographer Tomas López, stating that "the arms of the town are made of a field or with a lion crowned over water waves looking at three arrows arranged in a bundle and tied by a flesh-coloured scroll, alluding to purple and the blood shed by its patron saint, St. Sebastian on the day of the conquest by King Ferdinand in year 1240". This description indeed copies the rendition of the arms made by Rodrigo Méndez Silva (Población general de España...", 1645, re-edited 1675). Pascual Madoz' Dictionary also recopies M&ecute;ndez Silva's description.

The first colour representation of the arms of Marchena is credited to Piferrer (Nobilario de los reinos y señorios de España, 1856; Trofeo heroico..., 1860). Here the lion holds the bundle of arrows in the claws and the inscribed bordure is omitted.
The marble shield applied to the St. Anthony's fountain, better known as the Chains' fountain, erected in 1864, shows for the first time the field of the shield divided into two quarters.
The arms represented on the upper left corner of the scale map of the town designed in 1868 by Eduardo García Pérez, provides the model for most subsequent versions of the arms. Here the first quarter is azure with the arrows tied by a ribbon argent, while the second quarter is gules with a lion argent. The bordure or is inscribed with letters sable. The shield is surmounted by a Royal crown open.

The seals used by the municipality have been featuring, at least since 1856, a bundle of arrows and a lion. The seal inaugurated in 1888 shows the lion in a natural posture, looking at right, rampant and surmounted by a Royal crown. The lion and the arrows are centered on the seal's vertical axis. The seals used in the 20th century until 1939 feature a lion passant and the Royal crown surmounting the arrows.
Official documents used between 1898 and 1931 shows the arms with two quarters and without crown, and with the inscribed bordure. For the first time, the shield is placed on a parchment-shaped cartouche. In some representations, the base of the cartouche is decorated with branches of palm and laurel, as a symbol of victory and triumph. The Duke's coronet was progressively substituted by a Count's coronet.

On 6 June 1958, Mayor Luis Aguilar Galindo initiated the elaboration of By-Laws for the grant of honours and distinctions. Drafted by a commission ad hoc, the By-Laws were adopted on 25 September 1958 by the Municipal Council and submitted to the Spanish Government for approval. In April 1967, the Government asked the Municipal Council to re-adopt the By-Laws; on 24 May 1967, the Municipal Council unanimously re-adopted the By-Laws drafted in 1958. The Government replied on 17 April 1968, forwarding the repot by the Royal Academy of History, which included a description of the arms of Marchena: "Per fess, 1. Argent three arrows sable, 2a. Argent a lion rampant gules, 2b. OR four batons gules. A bordure azure charged with eight escutcheons or fessy azure (a bordure that could be omitted for the sake of simplicity, always required for such shields preferentially used in small size). The shield surmounted by a Duke's coronet as proposed."
On 25 May 1968, the town's official Chronicler, José Calderón Montero, presented to the Municipal Council the drawing of the coat of arms matching the blazon proposed by the Royal Academy of History, to be used as the model for the design of the town's medals.
The By-Laws were eventually adopted on 20 June 1968 by the Municipal Council. The inscribed orle was added to the proposal made by the Academy. The design incorporates the arms of the Ponce de León lineage as stabilized after the marriage of Pedro Ponce de León, 2nd lord of Marchena, with Beatriz de Lauria y Jérica, niece of King James I of Aragón. The new arms were published in August 1968 in the review of the feria, as a kind of inauguration.
[Fernando Luque Ruiz. El escudo municipal de Marchena. Representaciones desde el siglo XVIII hasta hoy. Pp. 143-175 in Actas de las XIII Jornadas sobre Historia de Marchena. 2009]

Ivan Sache, 23 January 2017

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