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Direccion
Address Palacio de los Verdugo
C/ Lope Nuñez, 4
05001 Ávila (Ávila)
Concejalía de Patrimonio
 
Telefono
Telephone 920 35 00 00
 
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Route around the walls

Route around the entire perimeter of the walls

Visitors to the city of Ávila don’t always follow the route around the entire perimeter of the walls. This is also logical because it is a "stroll" of almost three kilometres. However, we recommend it. It is worth the effort if you want to appreciate the grandeur of the walls and discover some of the not so well-known places of picturesque beauty.

Visitors can walk around the entire perimeter of the walls on the outside. Inside, it is more complicated since many areas around the footings are part of private or public enclosures. The route that offers the best view follows the allure (top of the walls) along a length of around 1700 m and is open to the public. However, the necessary preparation work on the south face has yet to be completed.

You can start your route as and where you prefer, but a good option if you want to cover all the walls is to start at what is referred to as turret 1, i.e. the apse or upper end of the Cathedral.

 

Click on the section of the walls for more information

Section I. Between the Apse of the Cathedral and the Cubo de la Mula (Turret of the Mule)

This section faces east and is the most readily accessible owing to the flat surrounding land. Accordingly, this wall had to be specially reinforced and furnished with turrets of a height of 15 m and huge defence mechanisms at the gates.

The large apse of the Cathedral (known in Spanish as the Cimorro) is a unique example of military and religious architecture insofar as it integrates the upper end of the Cathedral into a defence wall. Today, the Cathedral building is that which replaced an earlier construction and its extension involved the removal of one of the turrets in the walls. To maintain the solid appearance of the defence construction, the apse was lined to hide the absidioles or small chapels.

Orthophoto Apse of the Cathedral Top end of the Apse
Orthophoto Apse of the Cathedral Top end of the Apse

The refurbishment work led to the opening of the Puerta del Peso de la Harina (Gate of the Flour Weighbridge, which is where the Pote de Ávila was kept for centuries; this was a container that measured the weight of the grain that was brought into the city), also known as the Puerta de los Leales or Puerta de la Catedral (Gate of the Loyal Knights or Gate of the Cathedral), which is the only gate in the walls with a lintel. It also has another name: Puerta de las Carnicerías (Gate of the Butcher’s Shop), since there was a butcher’s shop in the adjoining building for centuries. Today, this old butcher’s shop (a building that dates from the 16th century) is home to a large, modern tourist office and it is also possible to go up to the allure from there to start the visit to the walls along the chemin de ronde.

You then see the only building that is adjoining to the outside of the walls, apart from the old butcher's shop: the Casa de la Misericordia (House of Mercy, with sculptures showing St Martin tearing his cape in half to give it to a poor man), which was where food was given to the poor.

Jardín de Prisciliano (Gardens of Priscillian). Final layout of the dig.

Jardín de Prisciliano (Gardens of Priscillian). Final layout of the dig.

Tourist office in the Casa de las Carnicerías (Butcher’s Shop) Jardín de San Vicente (St Vincent Gardens)
Tourist office in the Casa de las Carnicerías (Butcher’s Shop)

Jardín de San Vicente (St Vincent Gardens)

From turret 4 to the Puerta de San Vicente (Gate of St Vincent), the walls follow an interesting circular route that breaks away from the rectangular layout of the walled enclosure. The reason for this is not yet known.

The most interesting part of this section, comprising the so-called Jardín de San Vicente (St Vincent Gardens) is the way in which many stones of Roman origin have been reused. It is thought that the area was used for the necropolis, the cemetery of the period. When the walls were covered, they had no problem with taking down and using the tombstones, which is why you see:

  • - Cists (ashlars with holes sculpted in the centre in which the ashes were buried).
  • - Steles (these were positioned above the tombs and bear inscriptions).
  • - Verracos (tombs with animal sculptures).
  • - Numerous ashlars in grey granite, mainly positioned at the base, with small holes that were made to quarry them out.

Orthophoto of the Casa de las Carnicerías (Butcher's Shop) and Casa de Misericordia (House of Mercy) Interior of the Puerta del Peso de la Harina (Gate of the Flour Weighbridge)
Orthophoto of the Casa de las Carnicerías (Butcher's Shop) and Casa de Misericordia (House of Mercy) Interior of the Puerta del Peso de la Harina (Gate of the Flour Weighbridge)

This area is thought to have been occupied in Roman times and has been inhabited without interruption since then. One piece of evidence to support this can be seen in the Jardín de Prisciliano (Gardens of Priscillian). The section between turrets 7 and 8 has maintained the remains of homes (Roman houses), industrial buildings (furnaces dating from between the first and fourth centuries) and military buildings (reinforcements built on the walls, such as the barbican or the ravelin that dates from the period from the Middle Ages to the French Revolution) There are also original signs with information about everything that can be seen in this archaeological garden.

The Puerta de San Vicente (Gate of St Vincent) is a monumental gate with very strong turrets flanking the entrance. It is clearly of Roman origin since foundations of two earlier towers have been found at the base. There is also a verraco (animal sculpture) located at the gate and another one that has been moved. This suggests that the gate may have had this type of sculpture on both sides. Two large square turrets were then built and later covered by the semi-circular turrets we see today.

Moving to the north, we come to the turret that marks the vertex of the walled enclosure, passing by the stop for the tourist train that offers visitors trips around the historical centre of Ávila. It is known as the Cubo de la Mula (Turret of the Mule) and forms the northeast vertex of the walls. It gets its name from an animal sculpture (verraco) that has been built in the aspect and whose nape protrudes from it. It was thought to be an equid, but is actually a bovine animal or cow. Tradition has it that it marks the burial place of the mule that spontaneously brought the remains of San Pedro del Barco to the Basilica of San Vicente (see section on Legends).

If you follow the route along the allure, you will see buildings adjoined to the walls with a predominance of yards and patios since adjoining buildings were prohibited for centuries. The prohibition remains in place today. One of the most interesting sights you can see is the Episcopio, a Romanesque building used as a municipal conference and exhibition centre. This large area was home to the former Bishop’s Palace and part of it has been used today for the Public Library.

Puerta de San Vicente (Gate of St Vincent, photo missing)

Puerta de San Vicente (Gate of St Vincent, photo missing)

Section II. Between the Cubo de la Mula (Turret of the Mule) and the Puerta del Carmen (Gate of El Carmen)

Vista general del lienzo norte.

 

After passing by the turret, we see a very interesting view of the walls, one of the most characteristic images of it thanks to the succession of turrets and the absence of buildings nearby.

Here, you can see how the walls adapt to the lie of the land and imagine how a large amount of earth and rubble has been placed at the footings of the defence construction over the centuries, which suggests that its aspect was even more impressive.

The so-called Puerta del Mariscal (Gate of the Marshall, named after Álvaro Dávila, Marshall of King John II of Castile, who paid for its construction) is much more discreet than the gates in the east wall and comprises an arch and surrounding turrets that have not been built to add to the solid appearance of the walls. For its part, the Puerta del Carmen (Gate of El Carmen) is a skewed entrance. This means that to gain access from the outside, a turn is necessary, which prevents it from being approached head-on. This formula was very common in Moslem military architecture and guaranteed a better defence system by impeding a head-on attack. It also differs from other entrances because the turrets around it have a square layout.

Orthophoto of the Arco del Carmen (Arch of El Carmen) Orthophoto of the Arco del Mariscal (Arch of the Marshall)

Orthophoto of the Arco del Carmen (Arch of El Carmen)

Orthophoto of the Arco del Mariscal (Arch of the Marshall)

This gate takes its name from a Carmelite convent that was joined to the walls. The building was then used as the provincial prison and the modern-day Provincial Historical Archive has been built on its remains. The most recognisable remains of the convent is the brick steeple, which has been photographed thousands of times thanks to the spectacular stork’s nests that have been built there.

The Steeple of El Carmen

The Steeple of El Carmen

The archaeological work carried out on this gate showed how one of the turrets had been built hollow, with plaster on the interior and later filled in. It is the only turret of this kind on the entire walls. It is currently used as an exit from the allure and has a small exhibition area.

The interior of the gate contains the Bóvedas del Carmen (Vaults of El Carmen), the former stables of the Mansion of Los Vela, an area used to store the archaeological pieces found at different locations in the city and worthy of a visit.

Walking along the allure in this section reveals a number of patios and gardens that belong to large mansion enclosures concentrated mainly at this northern end of the city. Two of them are worthy of particular mention: the Mansion of Los Sofraga, which stands on the corner between the north and west walls; and the Mansion of Los Águila, which is soon to become a centre of the Museo del Prado (El Prado Museum). These are followed by the Mansion of Los Bracamonte, currently used by the Territorial Department of Culture, and, just before the Gate of El Carmen, the Mansion of Juan de Henao, used as the National Parador Hotel.

The Steeple of El Carmen with section III in the background.

The Steeple of El Carmen with section III in the background.

 

Section III. Between the Puerta del Carmen (Gate of El Carmen) and the Cubo de San Segundo (Turret of San Segundo)

Visitors can also see in this section a number of similar turrets that gain in magnificence thanks to the fact that they stand on a very steep slopes with gardens at their base today. You need to imagine that they would have been even steeper and that the slopes are gentler as a result of the earth that has been placed there over the centuries. For hundreds of people from Ávila, the slopes become improvised sledging slopes when it snows.

Section III at night.

Section III at night.

Visitors can also see in this section a number of similar turrets that gain in magnificence thanks to the fact that they stand on a very steep slopes with gardens at their base today. You need to imagine that they would have been even steeper and that the slopes are gentler as a result of the earth that has been placed there over the centuries. For hundreds of people from Ávila, the slopes become improvised sledging slopes when it snows.

Section III from Los Cuatro Postes (The Four Columns)

Section III from Los Cuatro Postes (The Four Columns)

From the allure, we see how the large mansions disappear and are succeeded by popular buildings with patios facing the walls. From the Middle Ages, this area was apparently occupied by this type of low-level building inhabited by humble people and alternating with areas for craft and trade. Indeed, there are still mediaeval pottery ovens located in Calle San Segundo that are open to the public and date from the post-medieval period, offering an exhibition that takes an interesting look at the history of pottery.

And, on the exterior, the contemporary counterpoint to the walled enclosure comes with the Palacio de Congresos Lienzo Norte (Lienzo Norte Exhibition and Conference Centre), a large construction built to create a cultural offer of quality.

Exhibition and Conference Centre as seen from the allure

Exhibition and Conference Centre as seen from the allure

Section IV. Between turret 41 and the Cubo de la Malaventura (Turret of Misfortune)

Turret 41 or the turret of San Segundo (so-called because it looks onto the Shrine of San Segundo) breaks away sharply from the north-south orientation of the turrets on the north wall, giving the impression of it being 'out of place’. The entire west wall looks to the River Adaja, which must have been used as another defence element, since it prevented easy access by attackers.

The route along the footings of the walls shows milestones of Ávila heritage as characteristic as the ancient bridge (known as the Roman bridge), the dovecot (which is today used as a hostel for pilgrims on the Way of St James) or the tanneries (which is where leather was tanned in the Middle Ages). And, of course, the Shrine of San Segundo, a nice Romanesque shrine devoted to the city's patron saint and destination of a pilgrimage on 2 May.

The Shrine of San Segundo

The Shrine of San Segundo

The different levels inside the walls from the area near the cathedral to the lowest area meant that there were absolute pools that flowed into the lowest area. Evidence of this can be found in the well at the base of the walls, a structure that contains an ancient spring.

The Puerta del Puente (Gate of the Bridge) stands as imposing as those of the east wall, but was uniquely important in that it was used as an entrance to the city for all those who reached Ávila from the west, an area where much of the city's countryside is located. Between the 15th and 16th centuries, it was heavily refurbished and the original mediaeval gateway that can be seen if you stand in the centre of the gate was hidden.

Orthophoto of the Gate of the River Adaja

Orthophoto of the Gate of the River Adaja

From this gate, the walls rise slightly up to the south-west vertex or Cubo de la Malaventura (Turret of Misfortune).

Cubo de la Malaventura (Turret of Misfortune)

Cubo de la Malaventura (Turret of Misfortune)

Inside, there are large areas that have not been built up, gardens with a couple of properties and only a few residential buildings around the gate. The first section contains a new entrance to the allure, fitted with ramps and a lift for visitors with reduced mobility. There is also a digital information point.

All of this section has not yet been prepared for routes along the allure.

 

Section V. From turret 53 to the Puerta de la Santa (Gate of the Convent of St Teresa)

Along this entire section, the walls are built on outcrops of rock, the most imposing of which can be seen at turret 53, also known as the Turret of Misfortune.

 

Section IV with the Amblés Valley in the background

Section IV with the Amblés Valley in the background

Moving along through a large parking area (this area is known by the name of Atrio de San Isidro (Atrium of San Isidro) owing to the fact that it was once the location of a Romanesque shrine devoted to said saint, we come to the Puerta de la Malaventura or Puerta de la Mala Dicha (Gate of Misfortune), known locally as the Arco de los Gitanos (Arch of the Gypsies), a simple arch and the only pedestrian access in the entire enclosure.

For its part, the Puerta de la Santa (Gate of the Convent of St Teresa) or Puerta de Montenegro (Gate of Montenegro) is marked out by two square-shaped turrets. It is crowned by a small machicolation. It receives its name because it leads to the Convent of La Santa, a monastery built on the site where St Teresa was born.

On the left, you see a porticoed gallery, which is part of the Mansion of Blasco Núñez Vela, currently used as the Provincial Court and former stage for a tragic love story (see section on Legends).

Arco de la Malaventura (Arch of Misfortune) Orthophoto of Arco de la Malaventura (Arch of Misfortune)
Arco de la Malaventura (Arch of Misfortune)

Orthophoto of Arco de la Malaventura (Arch of Misfortune)

All of this south section has not yet been prepared for routes along the allure. Inside, the steep slope in the first segment of this section meant that buildings were set at a considerable distance from the footings of the walls. This makes it possible to walk around the nearby area relatively easily until you come to the large adjoining mansions near the Provincial Court.

 

Section VI. Paseo del Rastro

The Paseo del Rastro starts at the Puerta de Montenegro (Gate of Montenegro) but the area is pedestrianized only after the Puerta del Rastro (Gate of El Rastro).

Paseo del Rastro.

Paseo del Rastro.

As we climb, we pass by the modern building used as the Centro de Interpretación de la Mística, (Mysticism Interpretation Centre) on the left, the only one of its kind for explaining the phenomenon of mysticism. And a little further on, the Jardín del Rastro (Gardens of El Rastro), with an excellent view of the Amblés Valley and the surrounding mountain ranges.

The Puerta del Rastro (Gate of El Rastro), of mediaeval origin, was extensively refurbished in the 16th century and a large basket-handle arch was added and characterises it today. The continuous gallery was also added as part of the Mansion of Los Dávila, which is adjoined from inside the walls.

 Orthophoto of the Gate of El Rastro

Orthophoto of the Gate of El Rastro

A pleasant promenade starts from the gate, with the walls on one side and the view of the valley on the other. The large Bishop's Palace, which is currently the Bishop’s see, takes up most of the physical area and several of its sections protrude from or have been integrated into the walls, with a small circular sentry box worthy of particular mention. The last section of this sector, between turrets 78 and 80 and towards the interior, was taken up by the Alcazar, which was demolished at the beginning of the century.

Bishop's Palace and Paseo del Rastro

Bishop's Palace and Paseo del Rastro

Inside, there is a constant succession of mansion enclosures, which show that it was an area occupied by the civil and military authorities, since the most important members of the nobility lived there and it was also very close to the seat of ecclesiastical power (Cathedral, Bishop's see, etc.).

 

Section VII. Between the Cubo del Espina (Turret of El Espina) and the Cathedral

The large building of the Alcazar or the main barracks reached the gate that was named after it, but there is no trace of the building except for a wicket gate that can be seen halfway up. Inside, on what was the former layout, there is a large open area with gardens. It marks the location of another entrance to the allure for visiting the walls from on top.

Arco del Alcázar (Arch of the Alcazar) with the church of San Pedro in the background

Arco del Alcázar (Arch of the Alcazar) with the church of San Pedro in the background

This gate looks onto the flattest and most accessible area and has the most impressive appearance. However, part of its top section has been recently restored with a certain amount of ‘invention' and, at the end of the 16th century, Philip II of Spain transformed it as shown by the inscription and coat of arms that crowns the arch.

The fact that it was the most accessible area and the entrance to the Alcazar or main barracks meant that the entrance was given special protection. The turrets that flank the gate are impressive enough in their aspect, but an advance wall or barbican was also built and remained there until the beginning of the century. The aim was to prevent the war machines, that were becoming more and more complex, reaching the footings of the walls.

Orthophoto of the Gate of the Alcazar

Orthophoto of the Gate of the Alcazar

When the walls were no longer needed as defence, residential buildings of several storeys were built onto the gate until it was almost hidden and the building of the former corn exchange did the same with the barbican. They were demolished in various stages until the area took on its current appearance, facing the plaza that is known locally as El Grande (The Big One - in contrast to El Chico (The Small One), which is the smaller Plaza del Ayuntamiento). The interior of the gate contains one of the entrances to the allure.

Inside the Torreón del Homenaje (The Keep), which you can identify by its large stone overhang, there is a multimedia area with interesting documentaries about the walls and their construction.

Documentaries inside the Torreón del Homenaje (Keep)

Documentaries inside the Torreón del Homenaje (Keep)

The succession of turrets that run parallel to Calle de San Segundo, with gardens at their footings, takes us to the apse of the cathedral, with an excellent view of the upper end of the cathedral and the starting point of this route along the perimeter of the walls.

The allure with El Grande on the right and the cathedral on the left.

The allure with El Grande on the right and the cathedral on the left.

All the photographs included in this route are by David Castro unless expressly indicated otherwise.