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Cartagena (Municipality, Region of Murcia, Spain)

Last modified: 2018-10-21 by ivan sache
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Flag of Cartagena - Image by Ivan Sache, 3 May 2015

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Presentation of Cartagena

The municipality of Cartagena (216,451 inhabitants in 2014; 55,808 ha; municipal website) is located in the south of the Region of Murcia, 50 km of Murcia. The town is the seat of the Regional Assembly of the Region of Murcia.

Cartagena was founded in 227 BC by the Carthaginian general Hasdrubal the Fair (c. 270-221 BC), as Qart Hadasht, on a small peninsula bordered by the sea and by the Almarjal lagoon, therefore easy to defend. The Carthaginians, however, were soon expelled from the town by Publius Cornelius Scipio (d. 211) in 209 BC, during the 2nd Punic War. The Roman town peaked between the 3rd century BC and the 2nd century; in 44, the town was granted the status of colony, being renamed Colonia Urbs Iulia Nova Carthago.
Part of the Visigothic domain, Cartagena was seized in 555 by the troops of the Byzantine Emperor Justinian in his attempt to reconquer the former Western Roman Empire; Cartagena became the capital of the Hispania province, which spread from the town to Málaga. Seized back by the Visigoths, Cartagena was ruined in the beginning of the 7th century and fell into oblivion.
Prince Alfonso - subsequently, King Alfonso X the Wise - took over the town from the Moors in 1245 and re-established the bishopric of Cartagena. This did not prevent the town to decline until the economical boom experienced by Spain in the 16th century, and to decline again in the 17th century, the economical crisis being aggravated by the 1648 black plague epidemic.

Cartagena re-emerged in 1726, when made the capital of the Maritime Department of the Mediterranean Sea. The building of the arsenal and the fortification of the town generated a huge commercial and economical activity; the population of the town swiftly increased from 10,000 to 50,000 inhabitants.
After another period of decadence in the beginning of the 19th century, Cartagena experienced another boom due to mining industry. The town was severely damaged after the proclamation of the Cartagena Canton on 12 July 1873, as the revival of the old Kingdom of Murcia. Emancipated from the Spanish Republic, the Cartagena Canton would be the first step towards a Spanish federal state. Approached by the separatists, the US government declined the offer to establish an "American Gibraltar" in Cartagena. The Cartagena Canton was suppressed on 13 January 1874 after the victorious assault of the town by the governmental troops.
During the Civil War, Cartagena was a Republican stronghold, being with Alicante the last town to be seized by General Franco.

The Cartagena fortifications - watching towers, coastal batteries, fortifications and other military buildings - built from the 15th to the 18th century, were registered as a Cultural Monument by the Law on Historical Heritage, adopted in 1985.

Ivan Sache, 3 May 2015

Symbols of Cartagena

The flag of Cartagena is crimson red - aka Cartagena red - with the municipal coat of arms in the middle.

The coat of arms of Cartagena was designed in 1929 by the archivist and chronicler Federico Casal Martínez, who described it in the conference El escudo de armas de la muy noble y muy leal ciudad de Cartagena (The coat of arms of the very noble and very loyal town of Cartagena), as follows:

The coat of arms of the town is made of a castle or, with three crenelated towers, the central one slightly higher, with port and windows gules. The fortress is placed on a background azure, standing on rocks of stone colour beaten by the waves azure of the sea. The bordure is made of eight pieces: four pieces are charged with a castle or on a filed gules and another four pieces are charged with a lion rampant gules on a field argent. The shield is surmounted by a mural crown.

The oldest documented arms of Cartagena are featured on the document stating the victory of Cartagena over Murcia for the possession of the Campo Nubla. Dated 1532, the arms are made of a blue shield with a yellow castle on blue and white waves, placed on a yellow disk surrounded by a blue ring inscribed "ESTE ES EL CASTILLO DE CARTAGENA (This is the Castle of Cartagena).
The old St. Francis fountain, located near the convent of the same name (18th century), bore the same kind of arms - today exhibited in the Municipal Archeological Museum. Here the castle has a single tower and stands on rocks beaten by the sea.
All along the 19th century and until the adoption of the modern coat of arms, the municipality used an oval shield surmounted by a Marquis' coronet. Such a coat of arms can be seen on a door inside the Town Hall.
[Municipal website]

Federico Casal (1867-1955; biography) was appointed Official Chronicler of the town of Cartagena in 1912 and Archivist-Librarian of the municipality in 1922; he was awarded in 1925 the title of "Preferred Son of the Town".
Casal was also spokesman of the General Corps of Official Chroniclers in Spain, member of the Royal Academy "Alfonso X the Wise" in Murcia and corresponding member of the Royal Academy of History. He published in 1930 his masterpiece, Historia de las calles de Cartagena (History of the Streets of Cartagena), including a topographic study supported by a hundred of photos and plans.

Ivan Sache, 3 May 2015

Real Club de Regatas de Cartagena


Burgee of Real Club de Cartagena, as reported by - Image by Eugene Ipavec, 24 June 2003