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Ólvega (Municipality, Castilla y León, Spain)

Last modified: 2020-02-22 by ivan sache
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Flag of Ólvega - Image by Eugene Ipavec, 3 June 2009

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Presentation of Ólvega

The municipality of Ólvega (3,861 inhabitants in 2012; 9,877 ha; municipal website) is located in the northeast of the Province of Soria, 45 km from Soria. The municipality is made of the town of Ólvega and of the village of Muro (149 inh.).

Ólvega is said to have been founded in 409 by the inhabitants of Augustobriga (today's Muro) after the Vandals and the Alans had burned down the village. Augustobriga was once a Roman mansio located on the Asturica-Caesaraugusta way, surrounded by a wall of 3,077 m in length. The settlements that succeeded Augustobriga were probably evangelized in the 5th century from Turiaso, then the seat of a diocese.
Reconquerred from the Moors in 1119 by King of Aragón Alfonso the Battler, Ólvega was incorporated in 1134 to the Kingdom of Castile by King Alfonso VII the Emperor. Ólvega was first mentioned, as Olvegam, in a document of the diocese of Sigüenza dated 1135; subsequently in the 12th century, the town was known as Olbega.

Ólvega is known as the Second Numancia of Soria; this nickname recalls an event related in the Chronicles of the Kings of Castile. King Henry IV (1454-1574) granted the County of Medinaceli and the Land of Ágreda, including Ólvega, to Gastón de Cerda, who had supported him during his struggle against his brother Alfonso. The inhabitants of Ágreda rejected the rule of Gastón and of his successor, his son Luis de Cerda. The grant was nullified in 1466, but Cerda did not give up his claims, so that Ágreda sought protection by Infant Isabel the Catholic. Cerda did not attack the well-defended town of Ágreda but exerted his wrath on Ólvega; the inhabitants decided to defend the town rather to move to Ágreda. On 14 March 1474, Cerda besieged the town with an army of 5,000 men and riders. Five days later, the count's captain general, Carlos de Luna, Marshall of Castile, set fire to the tower where the inhabitants had taken shelter. The blaze killed 430, including 25 brides. The count, however, had to lift the siege without claiming the victory. The Martyrs' chapel, built in the 13th century, was revamped by Isabel the Catholic and transformed into a mausoleum, with the event recalled by a rhyme:

Aquí yacen sepultados
Los mártires inocentes
Ejemplo de los pasados,
Memoria de los presentes

Here are buried
The innocent martyrs
Examples from the past,
Memory of present

Ólvega was granted on 16 March 1556 the status of Royal town by Charles V, being definitively separated from Ágreda. The privilege was last confirmed on 8 August 1816 by Ferdinand VII. The 16th century was the Gilded Age of the town. Ólvega was granted to Juan Díez Morales de Salcedo (d. 1598), Inquisitor of Granada and Valladolid. His son, Diego Real de Salcedo, was Knight of the Order of St. James and member of the Royal Council of the Orders. Diego de Pereda y Morales (1561-1627) was bishop of Medina Sidonia; his "Ordinances for the preservation of the mounts, pastures, grasslands..." were approved by King Philip III.
In 1625, Philip IV allowed Agustín de Menaria, from Calcena (Aragón), to exploit the Almagrera iron mine, located on the territory of Ólvega. It appears that ochre and not iron was extracted from the mine. In 1695, Charles II granted free use of ochre to the inhabitants of the town, which established the so-called ochre mill.

Ivan Sache, 16 February 2014

Symbols of Ólvega

The flag of Ólvega (photo) is horizontally divided red-yellow-light blue with the municipal coat of arms in the middle.

The coat of arms of Ólvega (presentation) is prescribed by Royal Decree No. 1,607, adopted on 2 June 1977 and published on 6 July 1977 in the Spanish official gazette.
The coat of arms is described as follows:

Coat of arms: A rounded-off shield, vert a tower or crenelated and masoned sable, flames gules issuing from its crenelations, port and windows. The shield surmounted by a Royal crown closed.

The only historical representation of the town's coat of arms (18th century) appears on the upper part of the altarpiece of the St. Roch chapel (municipal website). The shield, in Spanish shape, is red, charged with a castle surrounded with flames. The shield is placed on a golden double-headed eagle supported by two cherubs.

The Royal Academy of History validated the arms on 14 February 1975 (Boletín de la Royal Academia de la Historia, 1976, 183, 2: 420).

Eugene Ipavec & Ivan Sache, 16 February 2014