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Úbeda (Municipality, Andalusia, Spain)

Last modified: 2016-06-01 by ivan sache
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Flag of Úbeda, left, as prescribed, right, as used - Images by "Nethunter" (Wikimedia Commons), 30 July 2009

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Presentation of Úbeda

The municipality of Úbeda (34,462 inhabitants in 2008; 39,710 ha; municipal website) is located in the geographic center of the Jaén Province, 60 km east of Jaén.

Together with the neighbouring town of Baeza, Úbeda was registered on the World Heritage List of UNESCO (Renaissance Monumental Ensembles of Úbeda and Baeza), with the following notice:

Brief Description.
The urban morphology of the two small cities of Úbeda and Baeza in southern Spain dates back to the Moorish 9th century and to the Reconquista in the 13th century. An important development took place in the 16th century, when the cities were subject to renovation along the lines of the emerging Renaissance. This planning intervention was part of the introduction into Spain of new humanistic ideas from Italy, which went on to have a great influence on the architecture of Latin America.
Justification for Inscription Criterion.
The 16th-century examples of architectural and urban design in Úbeda and Baeza were instrumental in introducing the Renaissance ideas to Spain. Through the publications of Andréa Vandelvira, the principal project architect, these examples were also diffused to Latin America.
The central areas of Úbeda and Baeza constitute outstanding early examples of Renaissance civic architecture and urban planning in Spain in the early 16th century.

Ivan Sache, 30 July 2009

Symbols of Úbeda

The flag, coat of arms and pennant of Úbeda, adopted on 27 October 2004 by the Municipal Council and submitted the same day to the Directorate General of the Local Administration, are prescribed by a Resolution adopted on 17 February 2005 by the Directorate General of the Local Administration and published on 4 March 2005 in the official gazette of Andalusia, No. 44, pp. 52-55 (text).
The symbols, "of traditional design following the use and customs", are described as follows:

Flag: Rectangular panel, in proportions of height to length of 3 to 5, garnet red with the town's coat of arms vertically centered and skewed horizontally at a distance form the hoist equivalent to 2/3 of the hoist. The size of the shield shall be equivalent to 2/5 of the panel's height.
Coat of arms: An epigraphic and crestless shield, rectangular, rounded in the lower angles and ending in point in the middle. Royal crown or on a field gules orled with twelve lions gules on a field argent. The Royal crown is open with four florets, three of them being visible, separated from each other by four points, two of them being visible, surmounted with pearls on a circle or set with jewels.
Pennant: A quadrangular piece of fabric rounded in base, garnet red, completely surrounded by a narrow, fringed ribbon or; on it, a shield querterly: 1. and 4. Gules a castle or port and windows gules with three towers, masoned sable, 2. and 3. Argent a lion rampant gules crowned or. The shield surmounted with a Royal crown closed with eight equal florets, five of them being visible, with the same number of diadems ending above in a cross. The crown flanked dexter and sinisters with the monagram of Úbeda, with the "B" and the "E" linked to the "V" and the "A" embedded in the "D". In orle, twelve lions or crowned of the same, the six sinister rampant and the six dexter counter-rampant.

Photos taken during the celebration of the Holy Week 2009 consistently show the flag, hoisted on balconies, with the coat of arms centered.

The coat of arms of Úbeda is extensively described by Enrique Toral and Fernández de Peñaranda in El escudo de la ciudad de Úbeda: Notas para un estudio histórico, published in 1978 in Boletín del Instituto de Estudios Giennenses 66: 33-40 (PDF file).

According to Julio González (Los sellos conejiles de España en la Edad Media, Hispania [1945], 20), the municipal councils used wax seals, lead seals being reserved to the kings, mostly of light colours, giving as examples the seals of Andújar, Santisteban and Úbeda. Some seals bear on the reverse a specific theme, with sacred texts and their legend, and the representation of the military force, as fortifications and town walls pictured in a conventional manner or fortresses distinct of usual heraldic castles.
On the Úbeda seals, the themes are a saint and a castle, recalling that the town, together with Baeza, was a stronghold watching the border with the Moorish state. Argote (Nobleza del Andalucía) writes that the arms of Úbeda bears Archangel St. Michael, recalling that the town was conquered from the Moors on ths saint's day. This description is incomplete, as shown by the facsimile of the earliest known seal of the town, kept in the municipal archives, reproduced in Miguel Ruiz Prieto's Historia de Úbeda. On the seal's obverse, St. Michael is shown trampling the dragon and spreading wings; in the right hand, he holds a spear piercing the mouth of the dragon and, in the left hand, a triangular escutcheon orled with the word "Populo". On the seal's reverse is shown a castle with three towers of the same height.
Another representation of the arms of Úbeda, from a seal dated 1282 and kept in the municipal archives of Córdoba, is given by Juan Menéndez Pidal (Archivo Histórico Nacional, Sección de Sigilografía, Catálogo I: Sellos españoles de la Edad Media, Madrid, 1921) as "Hanging seal made of white wax, circular, attached by interlaced red, blue and white threads. Reverse: A castle with two towers flanking a gate, .... ON (CI) LI : VBETEN ....; reverse: St. Michael piercing a dragon with a spear, ... AEL ARCANGELE VENI IN... Julio González gives a different description of the same seal; obverse: A castle with three towers; reverse: St. Michael.

A thorough scrutiny of the reproductions in Menéndez Pidal's book shows that all the aforementioned descriptions are inaccurate. The correct description is: Obverse: The main gate of a fortress, surely representing the Úbeda alcázar (Moorish citadel). Made of a central body with a double-door gate of Arab type with a Gothic trend. The body crenellated with, on top, a rampart walk indicating that this building was the first wall of the citadel. The gate flanked and watched by two towers, each made of two bodies. The lower bodies, crenellated, have two widened loopholes; the upper bodies, somewhat set back and without rampart walk, are also crenellated and with a single, widened loophole. On each side of the towers is placed a five-pointed star. Reverse: Correctly described by the aforementioned authors.

These arms were updated (or at least confirmed) by King Henry II, as a crown or on a red field and twelve red lions on a field argent in orle, as shown by Argote. The twelve lions stand for the twelve knights from Úbeda who challenged and defeated twelve Moorish knights near Algeciras. This event is not mentioned either in Alfonso XI's poem nor in the Chronicles, but can be considered as a long- established local tradition. Argote adds that the death of the king prevented him to grant the arms applied for by the valient knights, which was eventually done by Henry II on 12 August 1369.
As summarized by Argote, the old arms of Úbeda, with St. Michael, are recalled in the new arms by the saint holding the new shield. Such arms are seen on a seal dated 1626 used by the Municipal Council and can be described as: Coat of arms of the Úbeda Council in traditional Spanish shape, placed in a double circle. The shield made of a crown on the field and twelve lions per orle. The shield and the orle are included into the first circle, behind the shield Archangel St. Michael per pale, the central part of his body concealed by the shield. In the left hand holding a spear, whose point is introduced in the dragon's mouth. With the right hand holding a pair of scales with a weight in each pan and bending on one side. Trampling with his feet the dragon's body and neck, nearly all the circle being filled by his wings. The first circle surrounded with an orle of fruit; another circle with a writing from which only isolated letters can be read.
On the facade of the old Town Hall, the shield is shown with the arms and the archangel separated; it is not know, however, whether this artefact predates or not the aforementioned described coat of arms. Anyway, this design is not very popular and different versions are shown here and there. For instance, in López Espinalt's Atlante Español, a quite fanciful engraving representing the town of Úbeda shows the town arms as vertically divided, in the left part St. Michael trampling the dragon, in the right part the crown.

Ivan Sache, 30 July 2009