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Valdepiélago (Municipality, Castilla y León, Spain)

Last modified: 2014-12-29 by ivan sache
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Flag of Valdepiélago - Image by Antonio Gutiérrez (VexiLeón website), 1 MArch 2014

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Presentation of Valdepiélago

The municipality of Valdepiélago (361 inhabitants in 2012; 5,681 ha; municipal website) is located 40 km from 30 km from León. The municipality is made of the villages of Valdepiélago (capital), Aviados, Correcillas, La Mata de la Bérbula, Montuerto, Nocedo, Otero de Curueño, Ranedo de Curueño and Valdorria.
The villages have been extensively described by the Leonese writer Julio Llamazares (b. 1955) in the travel story El río del olvido (The Oversight River, 1990).

Valdepiélago is named for a well or a dam on a river. Those piélagos were fishing places highly prized by kings, nobles and bishops; accordingly, they were submitted to strict regulations. The "Real Encartación de Curueño", confirmed in 1584 by King Philip II, mentions the village of Piélago. In the 17th century, the name of the village was changed to Valpiélago, indicating a significant increase of the village's size, although its population remained sparse.

The "Real Encartación de Curueño" (Curueño Royal Chartering) was a civil jurisdiction encompassing Valdepiélago, La Vecilla, and the neighbouring area. The jurisdiction was a form of local self-government, with authorization to appoint officers, exemption from tax and troops levying, proper administration of justice; moreover, as characteristic in Spain, all the inhabitants of the jurisdiction were equally granted the status of nobles.
The territorial entity seems to have been established by King Alfonso III (d. 910). After the castles of the north of León had lost their strategical significance, the kings allocated the areas to monasteries and bishops; the territory around the castle of Montuerto was allocated in the 10th century by Alfonso V, "with all its dependencies and inhabitants", to the Bishop of León, who inherited all the possessions of the monasteries, the castles and the villages.
Ferdinand II re-settled the Leonese mountains by granting charters to the re-established villages, starting in 1160. The original document granting the Royal privilege ("Encartación") has been lost. The Ark of the Three Keys, kept in Valdepiélago, included in 1823 "a tin box enclosing the Royal Privilege, with seals and tassels, together with a confirmation of the other privileges granted by the charter, and a court case won against the Bishop of León". A member of the Álvarez-Acevedo family, from Otero de Curueño, brought the documents to Madrid, where they remained in a place hitherto unknown.
The confirmation of the privilege signed in the 12th century by Alfonso VII gives the list of the 13 villages originally forming the "Real Encartación de Curueño": Valdepiélago (capital), Correcillas, La Mata de la Bérbula, Montuerto, Nocedo and Villarrasil, Otero de Curueño, Ranedo de Curueño and Valdorria (all part of the today's municipality of Valdepiélago), Valverde de Curueño and Valdeteja (part of Valdelugueros), La Vecilla and La Cándana (part of La Vecilla), and La Mata de la Riba (part of Vegaquemada). In 1584, 10 villages out of the 13 got rid of the rule of the bishop of León and purchased the jurisdiction from King Philip II: Valdepiélago (capital), Correcillas, La Mata de la Bérbula, Montuerto, Nocedo, Otero de Curueño, Ranedo de Curueño, Valdorria, Valverde de Curueño and La Vecilla (subsequently incorporated as a separate municipality). The jurisdiction was suppressed, together with the feudal system, in 1849.

Aviados, the westernmost village of the municipality, is dominated by the ruins of a castle said to have been built by the Visigothic lord Gundemaro. This would have happened in the 7th century, before the invasion of Spain by the Moors. Later on, the castle belonged to the Guzmán; as a retaliation for their support to the revolted Comuneros, Charles V ordered the suppression of the castles owned by the Guzmán;, Aviados included.
The castle of Aviados watched the northern entrance of the valley. Communication with the castles of Peña Morquera (Valdepiélago), Montuerto and San Salvador de Curueño (Santa Colomba de Curueño), was performed with smoke signals. The ruins of the castle are the site of several legends. In Los perros d'Aviados (The Dogs of Aviados), Llamazares recalls that the ghost of Al-Mansur, riding a horse, errs sometimes in the village, searching for the treasure he once hid in the castle.

Correcillas is considered, "by many", as the most beautiful village in the León Province; the village has kept its traditional architecture, stone-paved alleys, and channels around the houses - among them, the regiera oscura (dark channel) hides a treasure. The village is linked to Valdorria by an old Roman way. There were once castles nearby, remembered only in the local toponymy (El Castillo, El Castro grande, El Castro pequeñín).

La Mata de Bérbula is the proud youth residence, and, now, summer residence of Llamazares, who wrote "If there is a path in the word on which a traveller can walk with closed eyes, if there is a landscape in earth that he will never forget .., these are exactly the landscape and the path that I am crossing now ... The traveller does not need any clue to walk without a lamp on the path to La Mata".

Montuerto is dominated by the ruins of a castle, about to collapse definitively. Jaime Federico Rollán Ortiz (Los castillos de las dos Hoces: Montuerto y Vegacervera) identified the ruins with the castle of Arbollo, built by King Alfonso III to watch the border with the Kingdom of Castile. The traditional name of the region, Los Argüellos, was derived from Arbollo. Alfonso X's Chronicles lists Arbollo among the castles built by Queen Ximena, Alfonso III's wife. Maximiliano González dated the castle to 866-919, with a probable pre-Roman origin reflected by the toponymy. The chronicler Lucas de Tuy reported that Al-Mansur failed to seize the four-towered castle. (Diario de León, 6 October 2009).

Nocedo was mentioned in 953, as "Nayteto super ripam fluminis Curonia' (Nocedo on the bank of river Curueño). Llamazares describes the village as "Nocedo, hardly twenty houses lined along the river, among the gardens, silently has a siesta, lulled by water and by the leaves of the nut trees that shadow it".
The village was burned down during the Civil War, including a part of the church decorated with a miraculous Virgin who repelled clouds. A spa existed in the village from 1900 to 1986.

Otero de Curueño was the stronghold of the Álvarez-Acevedo family, whose manor built in the 16th century is still visible. A few descendants of the family live in the village. Llamazares wrote: "The eyes are closing, unable to absorb all the light burning the alleys and the trees of Otero Finally there is a fountain. The water basin is located on the top of a slope, between the road and the centenary walls of a manor".

Ranedo de Curueño was mentioned in 1069, as Ranera. Llamazares wrote: "A car road, lonesome and tiny, heads between bramble hedges and pastures, in which sing all the birds of the word". Like those of Otero, the roosters of Ranedo are known to speak and to murmur to announce sunset. At sundown, "the last rays cross the valley, burning down the trees and transforming the whole village in a huge red grove".

Valdorria is the site of the Saint's Rock, a cave where St. Froilán (833-904; the patron saint of Lugo Province and of the León Diocese) retired with his disciple St. Genadio of Astorga (865-936). The tradition says that the saint built a chapel, guided by a dove and helped by a wolf that had killed his donkey. The saint established three monasteries, long disappeared, in Valdecesar (today, Vacesal).
Llamazares wrote: "Valdorria is not a village but an apparition. After the long slope from Nocedo, the vision of the village lost in the mountains appears at the first sight as a dream, a mirage or an illusion".

Ivan Sache, 1 March 2014

Symbols of Valdepiélago

The flag of Valdepiélago is prescribed by a Decree adopted on 28 November 2011 by the Municipal Council, signed on 1 December 2011 by the Mayor, and published on 28 December 2011 in the official gazette of Castilla y León, No. 248, pp. 96,986-96,987 (text). The flag, supported by a memoir written by Ángel Fierro del Valle, was initially approved on 23 April 2011 by the Municipal Council and validated by the Chronicler of Arms of Castilla y León.
The flag is described as follows:

Flag: Rectangular flag in proportions 2:3, horizontally divided into three stripes:
    - Upper stripe: Green, covering 30% of the flag's height;
    - Middle stripe: Crimson red, covering 40% of the flag's height;
    - Lower stripe: Green, covering 30% of the flag's height.
In the middle of the flag is placed the municipal coat of arms in full colours.
The caption "Valdepiélago Real encartación del Curueño", in white letters, Leonese Chancellery font, is placed around the municipal shield to emphasize the old jurisdiction of the territory.

The coat of arms of Valdepiélago is prescribed by a Decree adopted on 29 November 1985 by the Municipal Council, validated on 3 March 1986 by the Government of Castilla y León, and published on 17 March 1986 in the official gazette of Castilla y León No. 28 (text).
The coat of arms, which was validated by the Royal Academy of History, is not described in the Decree.

The coat of arms, designed by Vicente Cadenas y Vicent, is "Per fess, 1. Or a grove of oaks vert, 2. Vert two ruined castles or masoned sable. The shield surmounted with a Royal crown closed".
The grove of oaks represents the place where the Village Council traditionally met. The two ruined castles are those of Aviados and Montuerto (municipal website).

Ivan Sache, 1 March 2014