The walls of Avila … humanitarian heritage with Islamic traces

The walls of Avila … humanitarian heritage with Islamic traces
The walls of Avila … humanitarian heritage with Islamic traces

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Hind Al Soulia - Riyadh - MADRID — The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) registered the walls of Spanish city of Avila as a World's heritage site in 1985 for being the best preserved and finest medieval fortified walls in all of Spain and Europe.

The fortifications were built in the 12th century in the region of Castille and Leone, on top of smaller fortifications constructed by the Romans. The walls circumference is two and a half kilometers, with an average width of three meters and an average height of 12 meters.

The walls include 88 towers, three secret passageways and nine gates. While the walls are considered a magnificent model of military architecture in the Middle Ages, it should be noted that part of their maintenance was completed by the hands of skilled Muslims.

The Muslims left tangible traces of Islamic art, most notably, the decorative outlines running along the tops of the towers, and the striking lined arches. However, renovations over the past two centuries erased a lot of the beautiful details.

Founded in the 11th century to protect the Spanish territories from the Moors, this 'City of Saints and Stones', the birthplace of St. Teresa and the burial place of the Grand Inquisitor Torquemada, has kept its medieval austerity. This purity of form can still be seen in the Gothic cathedral and the fortifications.

The layout of the city is an even quadrilateral with a perimeter of 2,516 m. Its walls, which consist in part of stones already used in earlier constructions, have an average thickness of 3 m. Access to the city is afforded by nine gates of different periods; twin 20 m high towers, linked by a semi-circular arch, flank the oldest ones, Puerta de San Vicente and Puerta del Alcázar .

The Old Town of Ávila is a serial property, which includes the walled town of Ávila and four extra-muros Romanesque churches: San Segundo, San Andrés, San Vicente, and San Pedro. In 2007, another three Romanesque churches (San Nicolás, Santa María de la Cabeza, and San Martín) and three convents from the 15th and 16th centuries (La Encarnación, San José and the Real Monasterio de Santo Tomás) were added to the inscribed property.

Following the Reconquest of Toledo in 1085 by Alfonso VI, a policy of “repoblaciones” (repopulation) was undertaken to shore up the Kingdom of Castille, which was still vulnerable. The rise of Segovia, Ávila, and Salamanca during the Middle Ages stemmed from this strategic plan.

Ávila alone has kept its surrounding walls, which in part date back to 1090, while the greater part appear to have been rebuilt during the 12th century.

The intra-muros town and the walls that surround it, as well as the other component parts, show the magnificence of the medieval city, reflected in the Romanesque style of the churches, and expressing the ‘Golden Age’ of Avila in the architecture of convents and monasteries. — Agencies


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