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Hita (Municipality, Castilla-La Mancha, Spain)

Last modified: 2020-02-09 by ivan sache
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Flag of Hita - Image by Ivan Sache; 6 September 2019

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Presentation of Hita

The municipality of Hita (307 inhabitants in 2018; 5,649 ha) is located 30 km north-east of Guadalajara. The former municipality of La Padilla de Hita was incorporated to Hita by Decree No. 644, issued on 21 February 1974 by the Spanish government and published on 14 March 1974 in the Spanish official gazette, No. 63, p. 5,293 (text).

Hita was proclaimed an Historical and Artistic Monument by Decree No. 4,396, iassued on 23 December 1964 by the Spanish Government and published on 20 January 1965 in the Spanish official gazette, No. 17, pp. 1,115-1,116 (text). The heritage significance of Hita is connected to two main Spanish writers, the Achpriest of Hita (14th century) and the Marquess of Santillana (15th century). Only little remains of the once powerful castle of Hita, but a few walls and a beautiful gate built by the Marquess of Santillana in 1443, now very deteriorated; moreoever, the village includes several noble houses.

The Archpriest of Hita is only known by one book, El libro de buen amor (The Good Book of Love), in which he reveals his identity, "Joan Roíz, açipreste de Fita" / "Yo Johan Ruiz, el sobredicho açipreste de Hita, and "Fija, mucho vos saluda uno que es de Alcalá". The identity and charge of Juan Ruiz could be confirmed only recently, in a document dated 1330, mentioning "Johanne Roderici archipresbitero de Fita". The birth place of the Archpriest of Hita is also a matter of conjecture Based on the indication given in the poem, "Fija, mucho vos saluda uno que es de Alcalá", Juan Luis Alborg (Historia de la literatura española, Volume I, Edad Media y Renacimiento. 1970) assumes that "he was borne in Alcalá de Henares - probably at the end of the 13th century -, or, at least he spent most of his life in this or an adjacent region, which matches most of the geographical records in the poem". A more Romanesque version presents Juan Ruiz as the son of Arias González de Cisneros, a knight from Palencia kept prisoner for 20 years by the Moorish king of Granada in Benzayde (Alcalá la Real).
The Archpriest of Hita is said to have been originally protected by Gil de Albornoz, Archbishop of Toledo from 1337 to 1350; the tradition said that the powerful archbishop punished Juan Ruiz' reformist spirit by jailing him for decades. This far-fetched story would conveniently account for the long time required for the comosition of the elaborated poem.
The three original manuscripts (Salamanca, Gatoso, Toledo) date the poem from 1330 / 1343. A record from 1351 lists another archpriest of Hita than Ruiz.

Besides the mysterious identity of the author, El libro de buen amor has attracted scholarly attention as one of the most original works of the Spanish medieval literature. Not assignable to a known literary genre, the poem offers a synthesis of previous literature and a compendium of themes and genres that have inspired medieval poetry. Bascially, the poem is an autobiographic narration of the love affairs of the tenacious archpriest, who defends pure love and amorous naturalism; the archpriest relates his unsuccessful affairs with women of all social backgrounds (a baker, mountain villagers, a Moor, a nun...) under the guidance of the wise, old woman Trotaconventos. As usual at the time, the story is interspesed with several allegoric episodes relating the struggle of Amor and Venus, the battles of Carnival and Lent, and the triumphal reception of Amor. A number of didactic digressions, fables in Aesopic tradition, legendary tales from various sources, and lyrica, religious or profane, compositions, are incorporated to the text.
Except the additional episodes, the poem is written in the "cuaderna vía" (fourfold way) regular metre, the norm of the "Mester de Clerecía" (Ministry of Clergy) genre that was elaborated in Spain in the 13th century, mostly by clerics.

Although El libro de buen amor was written by a scholar with extended education in Latin, doctrine, law and music, targeting clarks and believers, people's culture is present all along the poem. Festivals are described in grat details, first of all, Carnival, presented as a fierce battle against Lent. The use of parody and ambiguous statements allows the Archpriest of Hita to highlight his jubilant and biting worldview.
[Biblioteca Virtual Miguel de Cervantes]

Íñigo López de Mendoza (1398-1458) was erected 1st Marquess of Santillana by King John II in 1445, as a reward for his support of the battle of Olmedo, won over the Infantes of Aragón who challenged the royal power. He subsequently joined the nobles' party that eventually obtained the disgrace and execution of the powerful Constable of Castile, Álvaro de Luna, in 1452 in Valladolid.

The Marquess of Santillana explained his conception of poetry in Prohemio a carta, the dedicace of his first anthology (1445) to Constable Peter of Portugal; this is considered as the first attempt of theorization of poetry in the Spanish literature. Poetry is not conceived as a mere courtly but as a genuine science entertainment addressing the most important and transcendant issues, emphasized in a beautiful and harmonious way. The dedicace also includes a curious history of metric poetry and statements on poetic genres.
The Marquess wrote several "canciones" and "decires líricos", which are courtly poems charactized by a great rhytmic and stylistic diversity. Most famous are the "serranillas", a complete cycle of eight poems recalling the poet's travels and military campaigns and portraying different women from the mountains (serranas). The accumulation of picturesque and geographical details and the diverstiy of the seduction strategies makes the unique tone of the "serranillas".

The Marquess of Santillana profusely wrote "decires narrativos", which are didactic poems written in the first person, using an allegoric style modelled on Italian (Dante Alighieri, Petrarch, Boccacio) and French (Machaut, Grandson, Chartier) poets.
The Marquess is credited the adaptation of the sonnet to the Castilian language. He also practiced political satire, especially to support his struggle against Álvaro de Luna, and, in his two last years, religious poetry.

In the family palace located in Guadalajara, the Marquess of Santillana organized a noted literary circle, composed of scholars, scientists, translators, copists and artists, who also contributed to the increase of his famous library. Noted writers of the time, such as Juan de Mena, Juan de Lucena and Gómez Manrique, were also familiar of the circle. In his library, the Marquess gathered classic Greek (Homer, Thucydides, Plato) and Latin (Cicero, Seneca, Virgil, Ovid, Livy, Lucan, Valerius Maximus) works, as well as reference works by Italian (Dante Alighieri, Petrarch, Boccaccio, Leonardo Bruni, Pier Candido Decembrio, Giannozzo Manetti) and French (Alain Chartier, Roman de la Rose) humanists. The library also included religious treaties then considered as references (Saint Augustine of Hippo, Saint John Chrysostom). The exact composition of the library is not known; some books were donated in 1882 to the National Library of Spain.
[Biblioteca Virtual Miguel de Cervantes]

Ivan Sache, 6 September 2019

Symbols of Hita

The flag of Hita (photo, photo, photo, photo) is prescribed by an Order issued on 29 September 1993 by the Government of Castilla-La Mancha and published on 15 Ocotber 1993 in the official gazette of Castilla-La Mancha, No. 74, p. 5,434 (text).
The flag is described as follows:

Flag: Quadrangular, horizontally divided in two halfs, the upper, red, and the lower, green. Along the hoist, a yellow strip with four teeth; on this stripe, placed parallel to the hoist, the legend "AVE MARIA" in blue letters.

The coat of arms of Hita is prescribed by Decree No. 124, issued on 3 October 1988 by the Government of Castilla-La Mancha and published on 11 October 1993 in the official gazette of Castilla-La Mancha, No. 41, p. 2,417 (text).
The coat of arms is described as follows:

Coat of arms: Spanish shield. Quartered per saltire, 1. and 4. Gules a bend vert fimbriated or, 2. and 3., The angelic salute "AVE MARIA GRATIA PLENA" in letters azure. The shield surmounted by a Royal crown closed.

The Royal Academy of History imposed the use of the arms of the Mendoza lineage as the municipal arms of Hita. The connection of Hita with the Mendoza is "undeniable". The proposal to use the canting arms of the earlier Hita lineage, "Gules a castle or masoned sable. A bordure argent eight wedges. The shield surmounted by a Royal crown closed", was not retained.
After the reconquest of the town in 1085 by Alfonso VI, Hita was granted to Fernando García, a relative of Queen Urraca, nicknamed Hita.
[Boletín de la Real Academia de la Historia 185:1,187-188. 1998; Antonio Herrera Casado & Antonio Ortiz García. Heráldica municipal de Guadalajara]

The arms of the Hita lineage are canting, hita being a stone used to delimit territories or to indicate directions on roads.

Ivan Sache, 6 September 2019