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Lebrija (Municipality, Andalusia, Spain)

Last modified: 2015-11-20 by ivan sache
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Flag of Lebrija - Image from the Símbolos de Sevilla website, 1 November 2015

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Presentation of Lebrija

The municipality of Lebrija (26,046 inhabitants in 2008; 37,520 ha; municipal website), is located 80 km south of Seville.

Lebrija is located in the estuary of Guadalquivir, once a sea gulf called by the Romans Lago Ligustino; the colony of Nabrissa (Lebrija) was a wealthy and safe inner port. The countryside was exploited by several estates (villae) producing olive oil and wine directly exported to Rome. At the end of the 3rd century, the decline of the Roman Empire broke trade and the villagers withdrew to a fortified town built on the eastern hill of the Cerro del Castillo (Castle Mount), a hill that had already been settled in the Neolithic. In the 6th century, sea navigation was no longer possible since the Lago Ligustino had became a marsh with little access to the sea.
In the Moorish times, Lebrija was no longer a port but a rural town of strategic significance, watching the estuary of Guadalquivir. Built on the Cerro del Castillo, the Moorish fortress was connected to the town walls, so that the town became an alcázar (citadel). Conquered by Ferdinand III the Saint, Lebrija was maintained as a fortress protecting the Kingdom of Castile against the Moorish and Portuguese raids. At the end of the 14th century, the foreign threats vanished and the town developed out of the walls. In the 16th-17th century, the 6,000 inhabitants of the town lived from agriculture, trading their products to America via the port of Cádiz, especially olive oil, which was the source of the wealth of the town in the 18th century.

Ivan Sache, 14 July 2009

Symbols of Lebrija

The flag of Lebrija (photo, photo), adopted on 26 July 2006 by the Municipal Council and submitted on 28 July 2006 to the Directorate General of the Local Administration, is prescribed by a Decree adopted on 28 August 2006 by the Directorate General of the Local Administration and published on 8 September 2006 in the official gazette of Andalusia, No. 175, pp. 42-43 (text).
The flag is described as follows:

Flag: Panel in proportions 3:2 (length per hoist), divided in two equal horizontal stripes: the upper celeste blue and the lower white. In the center, the municipal coat of arms.

The coat of arms of Lebrija, adopted on 16 May 1988 by the Municipal Council and validated on 24 June 1998 by the Royal Academy of History, is prescribed by Decree No. 298, adopted on 11 October 1998 by the Government of Andalusia and published on 1 November 1988 in the official gazette of Andalusia, No. 88, p. 4,435 (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 coat of arms is described as follows:

Coat of arms: Azure over waves argent and azure a duck argent surmounted by a tower or masoned sable port and windows gules accosted by two lynxes argent. The shield surmounted by a Royal crown closed.

Documents of the Council of Lebrija from the 15th century, kept in the Seville Municipal Archives, are stamped with a circular seal featuring a hare over waves, running to the right and surmounted by a three-towered and two-storeyed castle. The hare might refer to a possible etymology of the name of the town, from Latin, lepus, leporis, "a hare" (in Spanish, liebre); hares indeed bred profusely near Lebrija, especially in the marsh of Guadalquivir. The facade of the old Town Hall, erected in the 16th century facing the parish church, bears a stone coat of arms surmounted by a Ducal coronet, showing a tower over waves and a duck nageant on the right: the tower is surrounded by two animals - greyhounds, deers, fallow deers or hares - affronty and leaning their paws against the tower. The shield, undoubtedly, represents the arms used at the time by the Council.
Antonio de Moya (Rasgo Heroyco) sketchily describes the arms of Lebrija as made of "two fallow deers affronty", ignoring the tower and the duck. Manuscript No. 7,306 of the National Library is more explicit, stating that "The arms used by this town are a castle, or a tower, on a celestial field over waves, where three marsh birds, or ducks, sail; on each side of the castle is placed an animal, leaning the four paws against the wall. [...] The castle represents the strength and nobleness of the village, the waves with the birds represent its delicious and abundant situation, as well as the rule exerted on the marsh, which was once wider. There are different explanations of the animals surrounding the castle, all of relevance. Some say these are two dogs, connected to a local legend, or a symbol of loyalty to Infante Henry. They might also be small deers or fallow deers. The arms are decorated with a yellow stripe surrounded by branches and surmounted by a Ducal coronet."

A painting representing the arms, made by Juan Antonio Castañeda, was kept in the town Hall, according to a census made in 1800. Unfortunately, there is no description of the painting, which was subsequently lost. An ink seal dated 1820, kept in the Municipal Archives, features the shield surmounted by a Royal crown. It shows three ducks, about to take off, on a field semé of ermine spots. The ink seal used in 1860 is oval, with a three-crenelled tower surrounded by two greyhounds with the forepaw leaning against the tower and a duck nageant at the right. The seal is inscribed "AYUNTAMIENTO CONSTL. DE LEBRIJA". Madoz' Diccionario Geográfico y Estadístico de España and the Enciclopedia Espasa provide similar descriptions. The latter source adds that the shield is "supported by two angels over grain fields, vineyards and farming tools". This description matches the coat of arms placed in the lower part of the scaled map of Lebrija designed in the middle of the 19th century by the engineer José López Alegría; the arms show a crenelated tower standing in the marsh with a duck sailing at the left and two greyhounds leaning against the tower. The shield is surmounted by a Ducal crown and supported by angels placed over a bunch of grain plants, various fruit and farming tools.
The arms in more recent use were similar to those represented on the aforementioned stone shield, either with one or three ducks.
[Sevilla: La reina de los reinos, by José Bellido

The modern coat of arms was proposed on 13 April 1988 by José Antonio Delgado Orellana.
The castle recalls the Roman fortress erected uphill and increased by the Muslims (Lebrisad), eventually seized in 1249 by Ferdinand III the Saint. The waves evoke the marsh of river Guadalquivir.
The representation of the animals surrounding the castle as lynxes is questionable. Madoz described these animals as "two big dogs or lynxes", which seems to be an adaptation of Piferrer's earlier record, "two big dogs or tigers". Delgado claims that "the inhabitants of Lebrija were once famous for being smart, wise and careful"; accordingly, the lynxes allude to "the natural sagacity of the inhabitants of Lebrija, known by the popular dictums 'to be smarter than a lynx' and "to have lynx' eyes' ". These dictums, however, are not specific to Lebrija; Rodríguez Marín (Mil trescientas comparaciones populares andaluzas recogidas de la tradición oral: concordadas con las de algunos países románicos y anotadas, 1899) recorded them in several Andalusian and Portuguese villages [widespread all over Europe, the lynx' eyes expression was probably coined by the ancient Greece, originally referring to Lynceus, the Argonaut who could see through trees, walls and underground, By "paronymic substitution", "lynx" was subsequently meant instead of "Lynceus", an error that was spread by the Latin writers.]
The use of the Ducal crown in older coat of arms is not substantiated by historical data. Some representations use a Marquis' coronet, which is hardly more appropriate: José de Lila y Valdés, 1st Marquis of Los Álamos del Guadaltete, was a short-lived lord of Lebrija (1685) since the villagers soon offered the same amount of money as paid by the Marquis, which cancelled the sale. The County of Lebrija was erected in 1696 for Luis Pérez de Garayo y López de Robles.
[Juan José Antequera Luengo. Heráldica oficial de la provincia de Sevilla].

Ivan Sache, 1 November 2015

Former flag of Lebrija


Former, unofficial flag of Lebrija - Image by Santiago Dotor, 4 June 2002

The former flag of Lebrija, hoisted at the Town Hall, was horizontally divided blue-white, without the coat of arms.

Francisco Manuel García, 4 June 2002