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Cacabelos (Municipality, Castilla y León, Spain)

Last modified: 2019-01-13 by ivan sache
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Flag of Cacabelos - Image by Antonio Gutiérrez (VexiLeon website), 12 February 2015

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Presentation of Cacabelos

The municipality of Cacabelos (5,337 inhabitants in 2014; 3,266 ha; municipal website) is located in El Bierzo district, in the north-west of the Province of León, 15 km of Ponferrada and 120 km of León. The municipality is made of the town of Cacabelos and of the villages of Arbirbuena (32 inh.), Pieros (35 inh.), Quilós (685 inh.), San Clemente (36 inh.) and Villabuena (206 inh.).

Cacabelos is said to have been the site of the town of Bergida, whose seizure by the Romans ended the Asturian War (25-19 BC). Bergida was romanized as Bergidum Flavium, mentioned by Ptolemy and shown on the Antonine Itinerary. Bergidum Flavium ("yellow") was the administrative center for the exploitation of gold mines in El Bierzo, including those of Lake Villabuena, located on the municipal territory of Cacabelos.
The area was conquerred in the 5th century by the Suvi, who were expelled the next century by the Visigoths. Bergida was incorporated into the Astorga Diocese, while King Sisebut (612-621) minted coins in the town. St. Valerius del Bierzo (7th century) described the town of Bergida in his "autobiography". Bergida was not destroyed after the Muslim invasion in the 8th century, being renamed Ventoso and eventually falling into oblivion in the 9th century.
Cacabelos was first mentioned in the 10th century in the donation of King of León Bermudo II (985-999) to the Carracedo monastery. The village was rebuilt in 1108 by Diego Gelmírez, Archbishop of Santiago de Compostela, who erected the St. Mary church, whose original apse has been preserved until now. This caused a fierce dispute with the Bishop of Astorga, who had jurisdiction over the place. Alfonso VIII eventually granted Cacabelos to the archbishop. Villabuena was first mentioned in the 11th century, as the site of a royal manor, while Pieros was first mentioned in 1086, when Bishop Osmundo consecrated its church.

Located close to a bridge on the Way of St. James, Cacabelos experienced unstopped growth all along the Middle Ages. Several churches and hospitals were built; the inhabitants mostly lived from agriculture and trade, while a significant Jewish community thrived in the town. Sancho IV allowed in 1291 the establishment of a yearly, 15- day fair, which boosted the development of the town. Quilós and Arbirbuena were first mentioned in the 13th century.
Archbishop Rodrigo de Luna transferred in 1458 the town to the Count of Lemos. Subsequently incorporated to the Marquisate of Villafranca, Cacabelos counted some 1,000 inhabitants in the 16th century. Quilós, Pieros and Villabuena together counted more than 100 inhabitants.

The battle of Cacabelos opposed on 3 January 1809 the English troops (2,800 infantrymen, 360 artillerymen, 6 cannons) commanded by General Henry William Paget to the French troops (4,500 infantrymen and 1,000 cavalrymen) commanded by General Auguste François-Marie de Colbert- Chabanais (1777-1809), who was shot to death by the rifleman Thomas Plunkett.

Ivan Sache, 12 February 2015

Symbols of Cacabelos

The flag of Cacabelos (photo, photo, photo, photo, photo) is crimson red with the municipal coat of arms in the middle.

The coat of arms of Cacabelos is prescribed by a Decree adopted on 14 April 1987 by the Government of Castilla y León and published on 21 May 1987 in the official gazette of Castilla y León, No. 71 (text).
The coat of arms, including minor modifications suggested by the Royal Academy History, is described as follows:

Coat of arms: Per pale, 1. Azure a scallop argent ensigned by a roundel of the same, 2. Argent a lion rampant gules. The shield surmounted by a Royal crown closed.

The coat of arms (description) used on the flag differs from the prescribed one (image). The two fields are azure, the scallop is or, ensigned with a cross of the Order of St. James. There is a mount or in base, ensigned with a fortified town. The shield is placed on a golden ornamented cartouche with a green fig leaf at the top. The dexter quarter represents the location of the town on the Way of St. James. The sinister quarter represents León. The mount represents the old town of Ventoso / Bergida.
This must have been an old, traditional coat of arms of the town.

Ivan Sache, 12 February 2015