Cordoba will forever bear the imprint which its Roman, Moorish and Christian rulers left on the city, adapting its streets to its city walls. The Romans proved to be the most influencial, and their layout of the main city lasts to this day. Their walls were maintained by the Moors and later Christian rulers. Extensive portions of these walls still stand today. Below is a map of this historic walled city, followed by an article describing the history of Cordoba and its walls:
Cordoba 's earliest walls date from the Roman Republic , and completely surrounded the city. For Romans, city walls were sacred and those who scaled them instead of passing through the city gates faced the death penalty.
The walls during this time were some 2650m in length and built of carefully cut stone fit together alternating wide and narrow faces. Between a 2-3m stone outer face and a 60cm-1.2m inner wall, the Romans filled a 6-meter-wide gap with stones, rubble and clay. There were semicircular towers and perhaps a rectangular one.
The Imperial era
After the Julius Caesar's attack on the city in his civil war with Pompey, Cordoba lay in ruins. When Augustus granted the city a new lofty status of Colonia Patricia, it once again flourished. The southern wall of the city was demolished, to extend the city limits nearly to the river. Remains have been found in the Alcazar de los Reyes Cristianos, near the Puerta del Puente and along the Avenida de la Ribera. The base of the walls on San Fernando and Cairuán streets date from this period.
In October 711, seven hundred Moorish soldiers lead by Mugit arrived on the southern banks of the Guadalquivir river. Behind the semi-ruined Roman walls, 400 Visigoth soldiers waited for the worst after their governor rejected their terms of surrender. We are told by the chronicles that the Moors, alerted to a weak point in the defenses, scaled the walls in the dead of night, killing the sentinels and opening the Puerta del Puente to the host. They met little resistance and those men who did resist in Saint Acisclo Church were finally executed.
Islamic cities expanded more freely than Roman cities, and they held less respect for their walls. In fact, they used stone from crumbling Roman walls to first repair the neglected Roman bridge, and the city soon outgrew their limits.
The Moors called the old Roman city the Medina, and its walls stayed the same from the Moslem conquest in 711 until the fall of the Caliphate in 1031. With the coming of the civil war among Moslems, which broke Cordoba 's hegemony over Islamic Spain, the extensive unprotected suburbs to the west of the city were sacked and destroyed, disappearing forever.
As Christians from the north drew nearer to Cordoba , conquering Toledo in 1085, the city's new rulers reinforced its defenses. A new wall was built around Cordoba 's eastern suburbs, called the Axerquía (al-Sarquiyya). These walls were stone in their lower parts, and rammed-earth (tapial) in the upper parts. There were rectangular towers and an antemuro , which provided an extra obstacle before reaching the base of the wall, which extended from the northeastern corner of the Caliphate's walls, where the Puerta del Rincón once stood, and curved outward to the east and back to the southeastern corner, near the river.
The longest portion of this wall which still exists stands along Ronda del Marrubial avenue .
One dark rainy night in 1236, Christian mercenaries infiltrated the Axerquía, whose defenses were the most vulnerable, and quickly gained control. Nevertheless, it took King Fernando of Castille, who rushed to Cordoba when he heard the news, 6 months of siege to conquer the superior defenses of the Madina (which came to be called la Villa ).
Christian repairs to the city's walls were made in both stone and rammed-earth (tapial), and it is often difficult to distinguish between Moorish and Christian work because the Christians often hired Moslem workmen living under Christian rule ( Moriscos ). Christian walls ranged from 4-15m in height, with battlements and an inner walkway for the guard.
The conquest of Cordoba left the city completely depopulated of its Moslem inhabitants, and in the 13 th century the course of the Villa's walls remained the same as in Moorish and Imperial Roman times. In the 14 th century, however, the city walls were extended to enclose a new area to the southwest, including the Alcazar de los Reyes Cristianos, la Huerta del Alcazar and the Alcazar Viejo (San Basilio neighborhood). Work began in 1369.
This southwest expansion of the walls is an out-jutting which runs west parallel to the Guadalquivir River from the Albolafia water mill, twisting north and back to the original walls at the Puerta de Sevilla (Seville Gate).
According to Silvia Carmona Berenguer and Inmaculada Martín Urdiroz in "Las murallas cristianas de Córdoba", the wall built at this time on the southern part of the Huerta del Alcazar was built over a previous Islamic wall in its eastern stretch, but was completely new to the west. In the 16 th century the wall was embellished when a public promenade was built.
In the 19th century, the invasion of Spain by Napoleon brought new changes in urbanism. Little by little, stretches of wall, towers and gates were torn down to make way for new streets. Today, the most significant remnants of the city's ancient towers and gates are la Puerta de Almodovar (Almodovar Gate), la Puerta de Sevilla (Seville Gate), la Puerta del Puente (Bridge Gate) and the Malmuerta Tower , which dates from 1408 [Ramírez]. Curiously, the modern inhabitants of Cordoba continue to refer to gates around the city that disappeared well over 100 years ago, such as la Puerta de Gallegos ( Bab al-Amir ) and Puerta Nueva ( Bab al Yadid ).
Silvia Carmona Berenguer and Dolores Ruiz Lara, "La Qurduba Islámica: Las murallas". Guía Arqueológica de Córdoba, pp. 134-136.
Silvia Carmona Berenguer and Inmaculada Martín Urdiroz, "Las murallas cristianas de Córdoba" Guía Arqueológica de Córdoba, pp. 37-40.
Antonio Muñoz Molina, Córdoba de los omeyas. Planeta, 1991. pp.31-34.
Juan Francisco Murillo Redondo, "La Córdoba Republicana: Las Murallas". Guía Arqueológica de Córdoba, pp. 37-40.
Teodomiro Ramírez de Arellano y Gutiérrez, Paseos Por Córdoba. 1873. Paseo tercero.
©2005-2010 Tony Reed