Wednesday, 14 November 2018

The Ancient Walls of Avila

The ancient city of Avila is located in central Spain, in the autonomous community of Castile and León, about 100 km to the west of Madrid. This walls is considered as one of the finest walled city in Europe. The Walls of Avila is built on the flat summit of a rocky outcrop which rises abruptly in the middle of a vast treeless plain strewn with immense grey boulders and surrounded by lofty mountains. The Walls of Avila is about 2,500-meter long and almost completely intact. The Old Town of Avila was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1985. The walls construction work was started in 1090 but most of the defensive walls appear to have been rebuilt in the 12th century.  

The Walls of Avila has an average width of 3 meters and an average height of 12 meters.  The city Avila was once part of the Roman Lusitania, before falling to the Arab and Berber invaders in 714 CE. For the next 350 years, the northern Iberian Christian kingdoms tried repeatedly to seize control of the city. However, it was King Alfonso VI of León and Castile, who eventually managed to conquer the Muslims in 1088 ADE. The King instantly started building great stone walls around Avila to protect his latest conquest from further attacks. The job was supervised by his brother-in-law, Raymond of Burgundy, who was a legendary figure himself.

The Walls of Avila is an impressive 2.5 kilometers barrier of stone and granite that surrounds the city’s almost rectangular layout. This wall is up to 10 feet thick and 40 feet high, and topped by a continuous battlement rampart-walk and parapet with merlons and cernels. Protruding out from the Walls are 88 semi-circular defensive towers, placed at uniform intervals.

The Walls of Avila are punctured by 8 or 9 entrance gates. Originally, there was a moat and a barbican outside the walls but they no longer exist. The huge fortification was completed in less than a decade. The area enclosed by the walls is now designated the Old Town. It contains all of the city’s historic landmarks including the Gothic cathedral. The Convent of Santo Tomás, containing the tombs of Tomás de Torquemada, who was the first grand inquisitor of Spain, and of Don Juan, the only son of Ferdinand and Isabella, and several Romanesque churches.

Nowadays it is possible to walk upon the walls for approximately half their circumference. At night the entire circumference of the walls is beautifully lit up by yellow-orange halogen lights. Which are making it the largest fully illuminated monument in the world?

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