Arms of Villanueva de los Infantes, Spain

Villanueva de los Infantes

Granted 1421

Blazon: Argent a cross of Santiago gules between in bend two escutcheons or four palets of the second, and in bend sinister a lion rampant of the last and a castle triple-towered of the third windowed azure

There might be a better way to describe the positioning of the charges, but I’m not entirely sure what that would be. I’m hesitant to say they’re laid out in saltire, since most of them are different, and describing the individual position of each charge (eg. in dexter chief, in sinister chief, etc.) seems excessive. I ended up going with the bends because the charges seem to naturally fall into two groups – the lion and castle of Léon and Castile, and the shields of Aragon for Enrique and Alfonso, Infantes of Aragon.

Arms of Villanueva de la Fuente, Spain

Villanueva de la Fuente

Granted 1985

Blazon: Per fess, I per pale argent a cross of Santiago gules and azure a croizer in bend surmounted by a mitre or, II of the last a walled town of the third, pointé in base of the first two bars wavy of the third

Unfortunately, I can’t find any information about these arms, but it’s pretty obvious to me that the base half is canting arms – the name translates to “new town on the river,” and bars wavy are a very traditional method of representing water or rivers. The Order of Santiago did control the town from around 1213 through 1243, which would explain the cross. I’m not entirely sure about the episcopal regalia; it does seem like a bishopric was established in the area under the Visigoths, but I’m not entirely certain about that.

Arms of Villamanrique, Spain

Villamanrique

Granted ?

Blazon: Gules a cross of Santiago voided argent between two cauldrons chequy or and sable, each containing six serpents facing the exterior, in base a point dancetté vert, all within a bordure chequy of the first a castle triple-towered of the third windowed azure and of the second a lion rampant of the field crowned of the third

Whew, okay. Sadly, that blazon is probably going to be longer than anything I can write about it (if I cut out my frustration about the mystery of the snake cauldrons, which I will.) The city was actually named after a Manrique – specifically, Rodrigo Manrique, Grand Master of the Order of Santiago, which probably explains the cross of Santiago. He evidently split the town off from Torre de Juan Abad, and the citizens renamed it in gratitude.

St. James’ Day

Today is the feast of St. James the Greater, also known as Santiago de Compostela, patron saint of Spain. The Bible describes him as one of the first apostles to follow Jesus, and later as a martyr at the hands of Herod. His connection to Spain is… disputed, but tradition stretching back to the 12th century alleges that James went to Spain to preach the Gospel, and after his death, his body was transported back to Spain, where it was interred at Compostela. (Sources differ on whether some of his fellow disciples or a contingent of angels did the transporting.) There is, provably, a cathedral in Compostela with a shrine to the saint. This serves as the termination of the Way of St. James or the Camino de Santiago, a famous and far-reaching pilgrimage network that stretches across a large part of Europe.

Two of the most famous symbols of St. James are extremely common in heraldry. The first is the escallop, or scallop shell. Why, precisely, this is a symbol of St. James is unclear. It may have to do with his origins as a fisherman, but there are other legends about the saint rescuing a knight covered in scallops. In any case, the connection between Santiago and scallops is so well-established that “scallop” in French is coquille St. Jacques, “St. James’ shell,” and in German, it’s Jakobsmuschein, “James’ mussels.” Eventually, the scallop shell became closely associated with the Camino de Santiago, although a lot of that seems to come from pilgrims bringing home shells as souvenirs. However, it’s a very common symbol in architecture and heraldry in northern Spain and southern France where the paths of the Camino de Santiago start to converge. Supposedly, when the escallop is used as a charge in familial or personal arms, it signifies that the bearer or an ancestor went on pilgrimage to Compostela, but I’m highly skeptical of that claim.

Secondly, of course, is the cross of Santiago, the badge of the Order of Santiago. The precise origin of the shape is not especially clear; it might be a sword combined with a scallop shell, or with multiple fleurs-de-lis for honor and purity, or a cross with a sharpened base that could be stuck into the ground, as the Crusaders allegedly carried. Depending on who you listen to, the sword could also symbolize the military valor of the Order’s knights, or the martyrdom of St. James, since he was beheaded with a sword. (I’d personally advise taking all claims of heraldic symbolism pertaining to some intangible virtue and/or more than a couple centuries old with an extremely large grain of salt.) Anyway, the Order was originally founded to protect pilgrims on the Camino de Santiago, but it soon expanded into fighting the Moors, which is how the cross of Santiago ends up on so many Spanish municipal arms.

Arms of Torrenueva, Spain

Torrenueva

Granted 1975

Blazon: Per pale vert a tower or windowed gules and of the last two cauldrons in pale chequy or and sable, each containing eight serpents, four facing the exterior and four facing the interior proper; overall in the fess point an escutcheon argent charged with a cross of Santiago gules

THE SNAKE CAULDRONS STRIKE AGAIN. This is a bafflingly common motif in this region of Spain, and I have no idea why. I’ve been researching this for years – nothing but dead ends. All the sources I’ve found just seem to nonchalantly accept the existence of snake cauldrons as a thing! Seriously, there has to be a story behind these! It’s such specific imagery, and so highly localized! Please, please, if anyone knows ANYTHING about the snake cauldrons, please tell me! What is their DEAL???

Right, yeah, also the cross of Santiago in the arms probably comes from the fact the town belonged to the Order of Santiago from like the Middle Ages to the 19th century and the tower is likely a canting element, whatever, what is UP with the snake cauldrons?

Arms of Terrinches, Spain

Terrinches
Granted 1988

Blazon: Per pale argent a cross of Santiago gules and azure a tower of the first

These may partly be canting arms, as “Terrinches” may be derived from “Torreblanca,” or “white tower.” Alternatively, the sinister half of the arms may be a reference to the town’s defensive importance during the Reconquista. The dexter half reflects the town’s previous ownership by the Order of Santiago.

Arms of Socuéllamos, Spain

Socuellamos
Granted 1955

Blazon: Per pale vert a tower or windowed azure and of the last a cross of Santiago gules fimbriated argent, pointé in base of the fourth a bunch of grapes of the second slipped of the first

The tower is a reference to Torre de Vejezate, a local abandoned town. The cross of Santiago reflects the fact that the land previously belonged to the Order of Santiago, and the grapes refer to the traditional industry of winemaking.