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Osuna (Municipality, Andalusia, Spain)

Last modified: 2020-11-02 by ivan sache
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Presentation of Osuna

The municipality of Osuna (17,820 inhabitants in 2013; 59,249 ha; municipal website) is located 90 km south-east of Seville. The municipality is made of the town of Osuna and of the village of Puerto de la Encina (218 inh.).

Osuna was settled by the Iberians, as evidenced by the Osuna Bull and Reliefs. Appian of Alexandria and Diodorus of Sicily report that Roman troops were stationed in the area to fight the Carthaginians. Strabo, Pliny and Ptolemy give descriptions of the town of Ursa, which was the last stronghold of the supporters of Pompey after the battle of Munda. After having seized the town, Julius Caesar granted it the status of Colonia Genetiva Iulia and its own colonial law, whose fragments can be read on the Ursa Bronzes. Incorporated into the Convento Astigitano, Ursa became a main town in Hispania Baetica, as evidenced by the remains of the forum, of the theater and of the underground necropolis of Las Cuevas.

The Visigoth and the first Arab conquerors did not change the administrative and territorial organization of Osuna, last amended under Emperor Constantine. After the revolt of Ben Hafsun in the early 10th century, Osuna, hitherto a dependency of Écija, became the capital of a cora; the citadel was transformed into a town. The only remains of the Muslim period are the Water's Tower and parts of the wall of the citadel.
Osuna was conquered in 1240 by King Ferdinand III without fighting. The Muslim population was expelled after the Mudéjar revolt of 1264; the fortress was granted to the Order of Calatrava, which was commissioned to defend the border area known as the Moorish Stripe (banda morisca). The population of the town hardly increased in the next two centuries.

Osuna was incorporated in 1464 to the big domain owned by Pedro Girón (1423-1466), Master of the Order of Calatrava (1445-1466), who established the town as the capital of a feudal state granted to his son, Alfonso Téllez Girón (c. 1453-1469), made the 1st Count of Ureña on 25 May 1464 by Henry IV. The new lords completely rebuilt the town at their image, transforming the old Almohad fortress into their palace.
The lords of Osuna embellished the town, hiring the best church artists working in Seville, such as the architects Diego de Riaño (d. 1534) and Martín de Gaínza (d. 1556), the Flemish painter Hernando de Esturmio (Ferdinand Sturm, 1515-1566), the Flemish sculptor Roque Balduque (d. 1561), the painter Luis de Morales "The Divine" (1512-1586), the glass-maker Arnao de Vergara, and the baroque painter Juan de Zamora (d. 1671). In the 17th, and, mostly, 18th century, the local nobles and landlords, for instance, the Marquis of La Gomera, proudly erected palaces in the town.

The 5th Count of Ureña, Pedro Téllez-Girón y de la Cueva (1537-1890), Vice Roy of Naples (1582-1586), was made the 1st Duke of Osuna on 5 October 1562 by Philip II. The dukes would spend most of their time at the Court, staying only sporadically in Osuna.
The Duchy of Osuna is one of the four greater duchies of Spain, together with Medina Sidonia, Medinaceli and Alba. Ángela María Téllez-Girón y Duque de Estrada (1925-2015), the 26th Duchess of Osuna was also Countess-Duchess of Benavente, Duchess of Gandía, Marchioness of Javalquinto, Countess of Peñaranda de Bracamonte, Countess of Oropesa, Marchioness of Berlanga, Frechilla and Villamiel, Lombay, and Toral, Countess of Pinot, Countess of La Puebla de Montalbán and of Alcaudete, holding 10 titles of Grandee of Spain - included those she transferred to her four daughters: Duchess of Arcos and Marchioness of Peñafiel, Duchess of Plasencia, Duchess of Uceda and Duchess of Medina de Ríoseco. She will be remembered for her very discrete life and extremely sparse public presence.
[Diario de Sevilla, 30 May 2015]

Ivan Sache, 30 May 2014

Symbols of Osuna

The flag of Osuna, adopted on 27 December 2011 by the Municipal Council and submitted on 18 January 2012 to the Directorate General of the Local Administration, is prescribed by a Decree adopted on 6 February 2012 by the Directorate General of the Local Administration and published on 17 February 2012 in the official gazette of Andalusia, No. 33, p. 68 (text).
The flag is described as follows:

Flag: Rectangular, in proportions 2:3, on a crimson red background, the coat of arms of Osuna, as inscribed on the Andalusian Register of Local Entities by Decree adopted on 13 November 2009 by the Directorate General of the Local Administration, official gazette of Andalusia, No. 234, 1 December 2009. THe coat of arms shall cover 1/3 of the flag's hoist.

The colour of the flag must have been derived from an old banner of the town. On 20 August 1568, Gonzalo Dardón was granted the custody of the flag of the town, "of crimson damask with the coat of arms of the Duke bordered in gold" and of a smaller flag made of yellow taffeta and with a green fringe.
[Juan José Antequera Luengo. Heráldica oficial de la provincia de Sevilla]

The flag in use (photo, photo, photo, photo, photo, photo) features a coat of arms quite different form the official description. The tower stands on a base vert and the shield is placed on an elaborated cartouche. A young boy holding a wheat spike is placed in the base dexter of the cartouche.

The coat of arms of Osuna, adopted on 28 September 2009 by the Municipal Council and submitted on 29 October 2009 to the Directorate General of the Local Administration, is prescribed by a Decree adopted on 13 November 2009 by the Directorate General of the Local Administration and published on 1 December 2009 in the official gazette of Andalusia, No. 234, p. 15 (text).
The coat of arms is described as follows:

Coat of arms: On a red field a castle, the shield surmounted by a bare-chested woman wearing a mural crown and holding chains in her hands. Two bears rampant chained to the flanks of the tower. The charges of the shield are represented proper.

The arms are a "rehabilitation" of the historical arms of the town. The parish priest of Osuna, Martín Navarro, wrote in 1785 that the arms of the town are "a castle surmounted by an effigy and flanked by two chained bears". Madoz reports a castle with a window over the gate, flanked by two bears affronty chained to the portcullis. Piferrer gives a similar description. In the beginning of the 20th century, Fernández Casanova represents the shield with a baroque orle; the castle has two tower, a gate and two windows, above the towers a "human figure", crowned, whose hands, applied to the chest, hold the chains tied to the two bears "placed against the flanks of the castle". Other representations feature a bare-chested dame holding dexter a flower and sinister a wheat spike.
Juan Plácido Benavides (Progressos de la villa de Osuna en la serie de los edades y noticias del escudo de sus armas, 1736) describes the arms as a three-towered castle, issuant from the donjon a naked bust of a woman holding dexter a flower and sinister a spike, with bears rampant chained to the fortress. This was the most commonly used coat of arms, with a field or and charges proper.
The seal used in 1872 by the municipality is oval, featuring a sphinx with human head, equine body, and wings. The 1876 seal shows an altered design of the sphinx, surrounded by two vegetal branches. The seal with the sphinx was dropped in August 1889 and replaced in March 1890 by a seal showing the tower ensigned with a women with small breasts, surrounded by bears chained to the fortress by the forepaw, affronty. The women's arms, leaning to the crenels, hold the chains, which are introduced through the windows of the upper storey and leave through the windows of the lower storey.
The stone coats of arms are more confusing. The facade of the hospital shows a coat of arms with the fortress, the bears counterplaced and the tower ensigned with a sphinx represented as half a woman and half a winged lion. Similar versions are seen on the gate of the Town Hall and in the old university. In other representations, the shield has a French shape, the fortress has a donjon, the bears are used as supporters, chained by chains emerging from the portcullis of the tower, hold in the upper part by a person - a man or a woman, used as a crest and surmounted by a mural crown (with five visible towers), and introduced through the donjon's window.

The meaning of the arms has been a matter of speculation for local erudites for centuries.
The fortress represents the castle seized in 1239 by Ferdinand the Saint and transferred in 1253 to the Council of Seville. The bear appears on a coin minted in Ursa (in Latin, "a she-bear"), either rampant or sitting. Benavides considers that the woman's bust is proper to goddess Cana (Virtue), different from Fortuna, always represented clad. The association of the castle, the bear and the woman may mean that the fortress was seized by virtue rather than force. Rivera Ávalos (Memorial Ursaonense) claims that the woman represents abundance and the fertility of the territory, while the tower, from anonymous source, represents the firmness of Ursa in the Roman Civil Wars; the chained bears indicate that slavery does not increase the greatness of people. In unpublished studies, Manuel Nozaleda Mata and Francisco Ledesma report that Antonio García de Córdoba, a famous corregidor of Osuna in the beginning of the 18th century, wrote in Antiguedad y excelencia de la villa de Osuna that the coat of arms refers to the original name of the town, Gemina Urbanorum, alluding to fraternal union of the Phoenicians and the Carthaginians. In a quite cryptic language, the author adds that the arms are charged with two stars, "of the Gemini zodiac, for the Castor and Pollux twins, the two celestial Ursa".
[Juan José Antequera Luengo. Heráldica oficial de la provincia de Sevilla]

Ivan Sache & Klaus-Michael Schneider, 30 May 2014

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