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Argent, cross of gules with four heads of Moorish kings in the quarters. Known as the "Cross of Alcoraz" (Cruz de Alcoraz). Gaspar Torres' Armorial of Aragon, 1536. Provincial Archives of Zaragoza.
Argent, cross of gules with four heads of Moorish kings in the quarters. Known as the "Cross of Alcoraz" (Cruz de Alcoraz). Gaspar Torres' Armorial of Aragon, 1536. Provincial Archives of Zaragoza.

The Cross of Alcoraz is the name given to a heraldic coat of arms and flag made up of the Cross of Saint George, or cross of gules on Argent, with a Maure, or Moor's head, in each quarter. The earliest documented evidence of these arms is in a rare lead-sealed decree from the chancery of Peter III of Aragon, circa 1281, most likely used as the King's personal coat of arms, alluding to the spirit of the Crusades and his ancestral namesake, Peter I of Aragon. The arms also appear in the third quarter of the current Coat of arms of Aragon.[1]

Leaden seals from the decree of 1281 by Peter III of Aragon.
Leaden seals from the decree of 1281 by Peter III of Aragon.

According to XIVth century sources, the 'Cross of Alcoraz' traditionally originated with the Battle of Alcoraz, (in 1096), as King Peter's battle shield, inspired by the legendary miraculous intervention of Saint George in the reconquista of Huesca.[2]

The earliest depiction of the cross, that of the chancery seal of 1281, shows four Moors' heads with beards but no head bands (or bandages).

The original version of the Sardinian flag, showing the Moors' heads blindfolded and facing to the left.
The original version of the Sardinian flag, showing the Moors' heads blindfolded and facing to the left.

Throughout the Middle Ages up to the 20th century, both Aragonese and international variants, (viz. flag of Sardinia), have either turned the orientation of the Moor's heads, made them face each other symmetrically, or have depicted them as the heads of Saracen kings with open crowns.

This heraldic coat of arms was directly attributed to the Kingdom of Aragon from the mid XVth century, and was also adopted as the royal standard of the Kingdom of Sardinia from the second half of the XVth century, when the island was a territory of the Crown of Aragon. In the Sardinian flag the Moors' heads were blindfolded. In the modern flag of Sardinia the heads are facing right and the "blindfolds" have evolved to become headbands.

Rafael Conde, in "La bula de plomo de los reyes de Aragón y la cruz «de Alcoraz» (The leaden seal of the Kings of Aragon and the Cross of Alcoraz", pub. Emblemata, XI (2005), p. 77, points out that the adoption of the so-called «Cross of Alcoraz» by Sardinia most likely dates back to the end of the XVth century, accordoing to a study on the Sardinian flag by Luisa D’Arienzo, in «Lo scudo dei “Quatro mori” e la Sardegna», in Annali della Facoltà di Scienze Politiche dell’Università di Cagliari, IX (1983), págs. 253-292, and «L’escut dels quatre moros», in Els catalans a Sardegna, a cura di Jordi Carbonell i Francesco Manconi, Barcelona, 1984, págs. 199-206.

See also

Notes

  1. ^ Guillermo Redondo Veintemillas, Alberto Montaner Frutos y María Cruz García López, Aragón en sus escudos y banderas (Aragon in her coats of arms and flags, Zaragoza, 2007 (pub. Colección Mariano de Pano y Ruata, 26), pp. 19-20.
  2. ^ "He continued the siege of Huesca, the which was long and difficult by reason of the strength of the place, and the resistance of the Inhabitants assisted by Almocaben King of Saragosse and other Moores, and also by some Christians, of which number were Don Garcia, Earl of Cabra, and Don Goncales, vassales to the King of Castille. These being come to succour Huesca with a mighty army, in the year 1096, thinking to raise a seege, had a battaile in the fields with the Arragonois and Navarrois, who wonne it, killing about 30000 Moores, the rest were wholly put to rout and flight, so as the towne despayring of al succours, yielded to Don Pedro King of Navarre and Arragon. Here they forge the ancient armes of Arragon, upon a vision on which the Spanish writers say had appeared to many Arragonois during the combat: that is, Saint George on horse-backe with a shield of steele and a crosse gueles, fighting for the Christians: and that after the defeat there were foure heads of the chiefe Princes of the Moores found: whereupon they say that Don Pedro the King took for the armes of Arragon a crosse gueles in a field argent, betwixt foure Moores heads of the same collour."'The Generall Historie of Spaine, written in French by Lewis de Mayerne Turquet, 1583, Translated into English by Edward Grimeston, p.264. Published A Flip and G. Eld, London, 1612.

Bibliography

Further reading