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Alanís (Municipality, Andalusia, Spain)

Last modified: 2015-11-17 by ivan sache
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Flag of Alanís, left, as proposed; right, as prescribed - Images after the Símbolos de Sevilla website, 4 June 2014

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Presentation of Alanís

The municipality of Alanís (1,832 inhabitants in 2014; 28,019 ha; municipal website) is located 100 km north-west of Seville, on the borders with the Provinces of Badajoz (Extremadura) and Córdoba.

Alanís is of Morrish origin, as evidenced by its original name, Al-Haniz, "a fertile place"; the only mention of the place in Arab sources is found in Al-Idrisi's geographical record (1154). The town was first mentioned under its today's name in a document of the Council of Seville dted 1392. The oldest building of the town, however, dates back to the 14th century, that is, after the reconquest by King Ferdinand III the Saint (1242).
The town is dominated by the castle, first mentioned in 1392 but of Arab origin, revamped in the 15th century and restored in the early 19th century by the French; the castle forms an irregular polygon, with an hexagonal tower at its north-western angle.

Alanís is the birth place of Juan de Castellanos (1522-1607). Ordained priest in 1559, Juan de Castellanos was involved in the conquest of the Kingdom of New Granada. He settled in Tunja (Colombia), where he became a poet, chronicler and erudite. His Elegías de varones ilustres de Indias, published in four volumes, is made of more than 113,000 verses, but he has remained mostly famous for his objective historical records of the conquest; he severely criticized office venality, the troops' demoralization and the unfair sharing of the conquered land. The Colombian historian Raimundo Rivas claims that the biography of two different persons has been mixed and that the erudite was not involved in military actions.

Ivan Sache, 4 June 2014

Symbols of Alanís

The flag and arms of Alanís, adopted on 15 May 1994 by the Municipal Council and revised on 29 September 1997 as suggested on 17 October 1996 by the Royal Academy of Córdoba, are prescribed by Decree No. 272, adopted on 2 December 1997 by the Government of Andalusia and published on 30 December 1997 in the official gazette of Andalusia, No. 150, pp. 15,323-15,324. (text). This was confirmed by a Decree adopted on 30 November 2004 by the Directorate General of the Local Administration and published on 20 December 2004 in the official gazette of Andalusia, No. 246, pp. 28,986-29,002 (text).
The symbols are described as follows:

Flag: Rectangular, in proportions 11:18, dark ultramarine blue, in the center a reseda yellow castle masoned in black with red port and windows, surrounded by two white hounds [alanos] rampant with a red collar, leaning against the wall, surmounted dexter by a moon crescent reversed and sinister by a sun, all white, in base a yellow key with the ward facing dexter.
Coat of arms: Spanish shield. Azure a castle or masoned sble port and windows gules surrounded by two hounds rampant accosty argent collared gules ensigned dexter by a crescent reversed argent sinister by a a sun of the same in base a key or in fess the ward dexterwise. The shield surmounted by a Royal crown closed.

The municipal website, however, shows another flag, originally proposed by the Municipal Council but rejected by the Royal Academy of Córdoba. The memoir supporting the proposed symbols, dated 10 April 1994, was redacted by Juan José Antequera Luengo.

The proposed flag, designed from scratch, is derived from the arms, as follows: "Rectangular flag, in proportions 11 x 19. Blue panel with a yellow border outlined inside in white. In the center, the local coat of arms."

The proposed coat of arms is a "rehabilitation" of the historical arms of the town, used on seals at least since the 15th century, with the same charges (the castle, the hounds, the crescent and the sun) in different arrangements, not necessarily compliant with the rules of heraldry. The seal used in the lower Middle Ages (1437,1487, 1488 and 1495), as kept in the Historical Municipal Archives of Seville and elsewhere, is a regular, rounded seal of the times, inscribed with the name of the Council; it features a castle surrounded dexter by a key and sinister by a hound rampant leaning against the wall, the lower towers surmounted dexter by a crescent reversed and sinister by a sun.
The charges repesent elements of historical relevance for Alanís. The castle played a significant role in the revolts led by the noble houses of Arcos and Medina Sidonia, from the Guzmán and Ponce de León lineages. It was occupied in 1444 by Ferdinand of León, the son of Count Pedro Ponce de León, who was commissioned to watch the area and warn Seville in case of troops' movements. After a long siege, the castle was seized in 1472 by the Duke of Medina Sidonia, with the support of Cristóbal Mosquera de Moscoso. The hounds, also sculpted on the St. Mary fountain, were recorded in 1570 by Juan de Mal-Lara (Recebimiento): "Alanís bears two hound". The descritpin was repeated by Rodrigo Méndez Silva (Población General de España, 1645).
The hounds (alanos) obviously make the arms canting. Some erudites have ingeniously derived the name of this specific bred of Spanish hounds from tha Alans, but the hounds are of clear Berber origin (from el afable or, according to Julio Gonzáles,el anis). Nearly extincted today, the alanos were used at the time to protect crops and cattle from bears, wolves and boars, very common in the Alanís mountains, as reported in Alfonso XI's Libro de la Monteria. On the aforementioned fountain, erected or revamped in 1767, the hounds are addorsed to the castle. Madoz' dictionary described the "canting arms" of Alanís as "Argent two hounds proper in pale standing on four feet on the base, outlined and eyed sable."
The key is the symbol of a border town, which was a stronghold and a "key" in the system of defense of the Christian domains against the Moorish raids. More specifically, it represents the key of the castle of Alanís, transferred in 1477 by the Duke of Medina Sidonia to Queen Isabel the Catholic in the alcázar of Seville.
The moon and the sun represent, respectively, the Moors, who used the crescent on their standards, and the Christians, who used the star as a symbol of nobility.
Subsequent versions of the seals and arms include other charges, such as two caldrons argent placed in fess over the gate of the castle. This appears to be an arbitrary addition, not granted by the Royal authority or its representatives. The caldrons are probably intended to represent the Duke of Medina Sidonia, from the Guzmán lineage, bearing three caldrons checky or and gules. The rule of the dukes over the town, was, however, only temporary, since Alanís was incorporated to the Royal domain at the end of the 15th century and would remain so until the end of the feudal system. The town did not keep any connection with the Guzmán; accordingly, the caldrons are not a relevant charge for the arms of Alanís.
On coloured versions of the arms, the field is azure, sometimes argent, while the castle and the hounds are usually represented proper. The crescent and sun are gules, while the key is azure. Another representation is "Argent a castle proper accosty by two hounds rampant proper the gate charged with two caldrons argent in fess the castle surrounded dexter by a key azure and surmounted dexter by a crescent reversed and sinister by a son the two in fess."

Accordingly, the "rehabilitated" arms should be organized around the castle, as they have always been. The hounds have also been featured on the seals since the 16th century. For the harmony of the design, the key, originally surrounding the castle, should be moved to the base, leaving the castle surrounded by the two hounds. The crescent and star should be placed in chief. Azure should be used as the tincture of the field, as it has been mostly used in the past, and the tinctures of the charges should be selected according to the chromatic rules of heraldry.

The Royal Academy of Córdoba rejected the symbols; the designer, a corresponding member of the Royal Academy of History, published a bitter rebuttal to the rejection. Antequera considered the report of the Academy as of "impertinent style".
The Academy stated that the supporting memoir had ignored Royal Decree No. 14, adopted on 31 January 1995, wondering whether the omission was caused by "ignorance or any other lamnetable circumstance". The designer pointed out the "lack of seriousness" of the Academy, since the memoir had been submitted in April 1994, nearly one year before the adoption of the Royal Decree. The Academy claimed that th designer had ignored several sources in the archives and the literature, which cast doubt on his conclusions. However, the Academy concluded that the coat of arms, of good design, compliant with the norms of heraldry and the Royal Decree, could be accepted, provided more justification is given. According to the designer, the Academy insisted on complete and accurate source citation, which appears awkward to him for well-known authors such as Piferrer and Madoz. The corrected report was submitted on 3 March 1997.

The Academy "partially rejected" the proposed flag. Its main flaw was the use of the same colour for the fields of the flag and of the arms, which prevents differentiation. The Academy recommended to use another colour for the flag's field or to transform the flag in a banner of arms. Would the municipality decide to change the colour of the flag, it had to "conceptually enrich" the proposal. The designer replied that the original memoir clearly stated that the colour of the flag was derived from the tincture of the shield, and that the lack of visibility of the arms on the flag is not a vexillological issue. Moreover, he pointed out the inconsistency of the Academy, which validated - by administrative silence, that is, lack of comment in due time - the flag of Urrácal (Province of Almería), which superimpose a coat of arms azure on a blue field.

[Juan José Antequera Luengo. Heráldica oficial de la provincia de Sevilla]

Ivan Sache & Klaus-Michael Schneider, 4 June 2014