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Vilches (Municipality, Andalusia, Spain)

Last modified: 2019-09-16 by ivan sache
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Flag of Vilches - Image from the Símbolos de Jaén website, 7 December 2015

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Presentation of Vilches

The municipality of Vilches (5,005 inhabitants in 2007; 27,400 ha; municipal website) is located 80 km north-east of Jaén.
The natural monument "El Piélago", registered on 1 October 2001, is located on the municipal territories of Vilches and Linares. It includes the Roman bridge of Vadollano, once part of the Via Augusta linking Rome to Gadés (Cádiz). Downstream from the bridge, river Guarrizos flows into a deep granitic gorge with a series of small cascades.

During the Muslim period, Vilches was defended by a big fortress known as Castrum, erected on the foundations of an old Iberian fortified camp. The chronicle of Rodrigo Ximenez de la Rada, Bishop of Toledo, relates the reconquest of Vilches as follows:

After the triumph of Las Navas de Tolosa [16 July 1212], King Alfonso [VIII] ordered Rodrigo Garcez de Asa [...] to move to the castle of Vilches, a place strongly defended due to the height of the rock on which it had been erected, four leagues from the town of Baeza [...] Besieged by such a battery, the Moors surrendered, expecting to save their life. The contrary occurred, since they were all beheaded, as it occurred in the castles of Ferras, Baños and Tolosa.

The suppressed Muslim population was replaced by colonists coming from upper parts of the Sierra Morena, Vilches being incorporated to the town of Baeza.
Vilches was granted the status of villa in 1627 by Philip IV, separating from Baeza. In the next centuries, new campaigns of colonization caused the separation from Vilches of the municipalities of Arquillos, Carboneros, La Carolina and Santa Elena.

Ivan Sache, 7 December 2015

Symbols of Vilches

The flag and arms of Vilches, adopted on 24 March 2009 by the Municipal Council and submitted the same day to the Directorate General of the Local Administration, are prescribed by a Resolution adopted on 24 April 2009 by the Directorate General of the Local Administration and published on 8 May 2009 in the official gazette of Andalusia, No. 87, p. 65 (text).
The symbols are described as follows:

Flag: Tafetta flag, quadrangular, the lower corners rounded off, with an heraldic design based on triangular shapes, which, grouped by four, form diamond-shaped elements, coloured in turn gules (or, red), azure (or, blue), vert (or, green) and white, without contiguous triangles of the same colour. Diagonally divided in four fields by a saltire azure (a particular cross made of the superimposing of a bend and a bend sinister); the bend charged with four Crosses of Calatrava, two or (or, yellow) and two gules (or, red) and at the ends two lions rampant or; the bend sinister charged with four Crosses of Calatrava gules and two lions rampant or at the ends.
Coat of arms: Quarterly. In the first quarter: Gules (or, red), a castle or, creneled, ports and windows azure (or, blue) masoned sable (or, black). Per pale argent a lion rampant purpure langued and armed gules (or, red) and crowned or. In the second quarter: Or four pallets gules (or, red). Per pale gules (or, red), a chain or placed per cross, saltire and orle, charged in the middle with an emerald proper, that is, vert (or, green). In the third quarter: Gules (or, red) a crescent argent ensigned with a Latin cross or. In the fourth quarter: Azure (or, blue), a signaling pennant, a bishop's crozier and a halberd all or. In the middle, an oval escutcheon azure with three fleurs-de-lis or (or, yellow) placed two and one; a bordure gules (or, red), proper to the reigning dynasty. The shield in Spanish shape, surmounted by a Royal crown closed.

The flag (photo) is the replica of a trophy from the battle of Las Navas de Tolosa.
The flag was hoisted in 2012 on a 9 m high pole erected on the top of the castle of Vilches (photo), as part of the commemoration of the 800th anniversary of the battle of Las Navas de Tolosa and of the seizure of the castle of Vilches.

The elements of the coat of arms are related to the Battle of Las Navas de Tolosa, which was faught in 1212 very close to Vilches. The castle, the lion, the four red pallets and the golden chain symbolize the banners of the different Christian kingdoms united against the "Green King", Al Nasir, that is, Castile, León, Aragón and Navarre, respectively. The Latin cross alludes to the Christian victory while the crescent alludes to the Muslim defeat. The signaling cross, kept as a trophy in the parish church, is believed to have been raised by Canon Domingo Pascual to guide the Christian armies during the battle. The crozier recalls the most significant contribution to the victory of Rodrigo Ximénez de Rada, Archbishop of Toledo. The halberd is a weapon characteristic of the Brotherhood of Crossbowmen, established in Vilches after the battle and commissioned to keep the cross that symbolizes the victory. The fleurs-de-lis allude to the Bourbon dynasty.
[Símbolos de las Entidades Locales de Andalucía. Jaén (PDF file)]

Ivan Sache, 7 December 2015

Flag of the battle of Las Navas de Tolosa

The flag of the battle of Las Navas de Tolosa is also known as the banner of Ximenez de Rada, Archbishop of Toledo. The flag was designed in the beginning of the 13th century in the Spanish-Muslim style, of tafeta on a silk frame. The heraldic composition is applied on a base made of red, blue, green and white triangles with a red border, diagonally subdivided by blue stripes. The heraldic composition includes at the end of the arms of the cross a lion rampant, in the middle of the arms red and yellow crosses of military orders, and, in the center, a white sun charged with a cross and a raised arm; this is the obvious representation of the Holy Cross that miraculously appeared on the battlefield and pushed the Christians to the victory.

The flag, owned by the municipality of Vilches, is shown in a window applied to the central wall of a chapel of the Archangel St. Michael parish church. All along its history, the flag has experienced inappropriate conservation and restoration measures, which have significantly altered its original aspect. The flag was last restored in 1925 upon order of King Alfonso XIII. The IAPH (Instituto Andaluz del Patrimonio Histórico) designed in 1997 a brand new system of exhibition (photo), based on the most recent advances in the science of conservation.
[R. Baglioni. Proyecto de sistema expositivo para "La bandera de la batalla de las Navas de Tolosa" - Vilches, Jaén. PH: Boletín del Instituto Andaluz del Patrimonio Histórico, 1997, 19, 66-71]

Ivan Sache, 29 June 2009