Segovia Old Town (World Heritage)

By | August 7, 2021

The medieval old town has an impressive architectural heritage with 18 Romanesque churches and a magical castle complex. The Roman aqueduct from the 2nd century is a technical masterpiece. The bridge is 730 m long and consists of huge granite blocks that build 118 arches, some of which are two-story.

Segovia Old Town: Facts

Official title: Segovia old town with aqueduct
Cultural monument: Old town; two-storey aqueduct built without mortar from granite blocks with a total length of 728 m; Water pipe with 116 arches, maximum height 28 m
Continent: Europe
Country: Spain, Castile-Leon
Location: Segovia, at an altitude of 1,000 m on a rocky promontory between the Eresma and Clamores rivers, northwest of Madrid
Appointment: 1985
Meaning: the very well preserved Roman aqueduct with its double storey as the most important evidence of Roman times in Spain in harmony and contrast to the preserved medieval old town

Segovia old town: history

1./2. Century Roman city complex with aqueduct
714 Conquest by the Moors
11th century Recapture by Alfonso VI.
1088 Fortification of the city
12th century Expansion of the palace fortress (Alcázar)
13.-15. Century Heyday, royal residence, construction of the Romanesque church of San Martín
1208 Consecration of the Church of La Vera Cruz, Church of the Knights Templar
1474 Isabella the Catholic is proclaimed Queen
1525 Start of construction on the cathedral with its 88 m high tower, the last late Gothic cathedral in Spain

A ship on a limestone cliff

Its silhouette is reminiscent of a ship: the palace fortress as a bow, the tower of the cathedral as a mast, the aqueduct as an oar. But this ship has been stranded with its bow on a limestone cliff for ages. Only the rudder was in its element from the start. The Romans already conducted mountain water into the city via Spain’s most famous aqueduct, which they developed into an important army base after they had defeated the Celtiberians.

According to legend, human laziness was the origin of the aqueduct. One day a water carrier, tired of her work, made a pact with the devil. According to the diabolical agreement, he could freely dispose of her soul if he could manage to lead water to her doorstep by the first crowing of the cock. While the water bearer prayed incessantly for her soul, Satan worked in the sweat of his brow, put pad on pad and bow on bow, finally took the last stone to hand, confident of victory; but in vain, for the rooster was already crowing. Now the lord of hell had lost a soul, but his work remained in the end.

Even if it was the Romans – and not the devil himself – who laid hands on Segovia’s landmark, the question of when it was built remains unanswered. Which Romans were the resourceful builders? Perhaps those in Vespasian’s time in the second half of the first century? Or a later generation under Emperor Trajan? What is certain is that they left us one of the greatest works of Roman civil architecture. The canal initially led underground from the distant Ríofrío to two collection and cleaning towers. The aim was to supply the upper town with water, in which the fort was located. Since the Romans only knew slopes, they had to go particularly high in Segovia. On the last kilometer, the line led straight into the upper city center via pillar-supported arches, some of which were two-story.

In the struggle between Christian and Muslim Spain, according to computerannals, the building, which is almost 2,000 years old today, suffered from a Moorish attack, in which 36 arches of the water pipe were badly damaged. However, the Catholic kings Ferdinand II of Aragon and Isabella I of Castile took care of their reconstruction.

Almost completely enclosed by a wall, Segovia offers not only the aqueduct but also other charming cityscapes: You struggle to get to the Alcázar, which looks like a witch’s castle and knight’s castle at the same time. The festival was the starting point and end of a three-kilometer-long city wall and courtly palace of many Spanish kings: from Alfonso X the Wise, who studied the firmament from the towers, to the Catholic Kings, to Philip II, who was here Anna von Austria married as his fourth queen of hearts. After a conflagration in the middle of the 19th century, the fortress was completely restored and now shines in its old lordly splendor with the magnificent wall frieze of the Castilian rulers in the royal hall and the almost 400 pine cones of the coffered ceiling of the Sala de Piñas.

A late Gothic “Lady of the Spanish Cathedrals” rises above the tiled roofs of the old town, showing her elegant appearance outside and inside: the almost 90 meter high tower, the huge crossing dome, the cloister, which was moved here stone by stone from the old cathedral, and the chapels adorned with twisted columns, shells, angels and putti. The choir of the cathedral borders on the old, almost forgotten quarter of the Jews, over which five synagogues were once spread.

The atmospheric old town squares, where the young people of Segovia meet at weekends, are filled with life. The charm of the “old town quarter of canons and nobles” is mainly in its numerous churches and palaces from all eras. The six-storey church tower of the Church of San Esteban, which is also popularly known as the “Queen of the Church Spiers of Spain”, rises here.

Segovia Old Town (World Heritage)