Ávila is the very picture of a medieval town, completely surrounded by walls. The walls of Avila are considered the oldest and best- preserved walls in Spain. They are impressive for their sheer monumentality and walk next to them or over them is a fantastic, not to be missed, experience. The Walls of Avila are without a doubt one of Spain´s top tourist attractions.
Walls of Avila
How big are the walls of Avila?
The total of the walls of Avila is about 2.5 km., the average height is around 40 ft. and the thickness is about 10 ft. The walls, built so as to form a trapezium, are defended by 88 towers and crowned with 2,500 merlons (battlements).
Nine gates defend access to the city, all are worth seeing and some are of especial beauty, such as San Vicente and Puerto del Alcázar, which are in the E. and oldest section of the wall. The most striking part is the superb ‘Cimorro’. This is both the cathedral’s apse and also a bastion in the city’s ring of fortifications. It is a solid part of the defensive system, which is itself one of the major works of Spanish fortification.
Where is Avila located?
The city of Avila (the capital of the province with the same name) is located in the center of Spain, 108 kilometers west of Madrid (less than an hour and a half drive) and 65 kilometers southwest of Segovia (50 minutes drive). Avila is one of the top excursions from Madrid.
How to get to Avila from Madrid?
If you are planning a day excursion you may want to consider combining the visit of Avila with the visit to El Escorial or Segovia. The roads are mostly motorways and very safe. You may want to consider enjoying one of the daily group tours that depart from Madrid.
What were the walls of Avila protecting?
At the time the walls were built the second phase of the reconquering process in Spain was taking place (1031-1151) Despite the times of Almanzor (Almanzor and his morrish troops reached as north as Santiago de Compostela) were long ago at the time the walls of Avila were built.
The reconquering process was at full steam against the Taifas Kingdoms (the Taifas were created after the Caliphate of Cordoba Fell in 1030) . The reconquering process sped up at tis time (Toledo was conquered in 1085)
The gates Puerta del Mariscal and Puerta del Carmen are in the North section of the wall, while on the West side stands the Puerta del Puente or Puerta de San Segundo, which is flanked by two towers. Count Raymond of Burgundy (husband of Doña Urraca) had the town walls built at the suggestion of his father-in-law, King Alfonso VI.
How long did it take to build the walls of Avila?
The walls of Avila took nine years to construct, from 1090-99. The direction of the work was given to Casandro, a master of geometry, and Florian de Ponthieu, a Frenchman. Did it really take 9 years to build the walls of Avila? Well, there is much debate about this and most probably the walls were not built from scratch, and they did not reach their current size at the time they were built (that would have implied the walls would have been much bigger than the walls of León, which was the capital of Spain at that time)
Materials from earlier buildings, including Roman freestones, and the remains of tombs and former fortifications were used in the construction.
Mudéjar features, especially in places in the North part of the wall suggest that captive Moors may have been involved in the work.