Christian Walls of Madrid

Detail drawing by Anton van den Wyngaerde in 1562, where is observed the Christian Walls of Madrid, since its start in the Muslim Walls near of the gate Puerta de la Vega (left) to the gate Puerta de Moros, in the current Plaza del Humilladero (at the right).

The Christian Walls of Madrid, also known as Medieval Walls, were built in the Spanish city of Madrid between the 11th and 12th centuries, once the city passed to the Crown of Castile.

They were built as an extension of the original walled enclosure (9th century), of Muslim origin, to accommodate the new districts which emerged after the Reconquista. With the establishment of the Court in 1561, it fell into disuse, demolished almost entirely.

Still standing are some remains integrated into the structure of various buildings of El Madrid de los Austrias, a name designating the Habsburgs's historic center of the city.

The most important are in the calles (streets) of los Mancebos, of Don Pedro, of del Almendro, of Escalinata, of del Espejo, of de Mesón de Paños and of the Cava Baja and as in Plaza de Isabel II and in the underground parking of the Plaza de Oriente. The remains that are still standing were declared a Historical and Artistic Monument in 1954.


Cloth of the Walls in the Calle Escalinata (near the Plaza de Isabel II).

The tradition attributes to the King Alfonso VII of León and Castile (1126–1157) its construction, although it is assumed that work began before his reign, in the years immediately following the Christian conquest of Madrid (1083), during the times of Alfonso VI of León and Castile (1040–1109).

At the beginning of the 13th century, the Walls were not yet completed, as stated in the Fuero de Madrid of 1202: "all the caloñas of the Council invest in the works of the Walls until finished". Various municipal documents suggest that could be completed in the second decade of the 13th century.

In the plan of Madrid of Pedro Teixeira (1656) some remains of the Christian Walls were noted, as in the case of this fortification located between the calles of Almendro and of Cava Baja.

The defensive role the Walls played after the Reconquista, as consolidation of the places snatched by the Christians to the Muslims, and in the process of Christian repopulation was blurring in the 14th century and, especially in the 15th century.[1]

The remarkable urban growth experienced by Madrid, with the development of new suburbs beyond the city walls, led to their demolition, especially after the 16th century, with the designation of the city as the capital of Spain.


Commemorative placard located at the confluence of the calles de la Unión and de Vergara, where it is remember that, around that place, was the Puerta de Valnadú.
This late-Medieval arc of the Christian Walls is displayed in the basement of a restaurant, at number 3 of the Plaza de Isabel II.
Remains of the Walls on Calle de los Mancebos.
Foundations of the Tower de los Huesos, in the underground parking of the Plaza de Oriente. Built in limestone and flint, was built in the 11th century by the Muslim population and subsequently integrated into the Christian Walls.

The Christian Walls of Madrid protected an area of just over 33 hectares (82 acres), as eight times larger than the space within the primitive Muslim Walls, of about 4 ha (9.9 acres). The total length was 2,200 meters (1.4 miles).

Unlike the Arab walled enclosure, built in quadrangular towers, the Christian structure was articulated from semicircular keep towers on layers of flint. The properties of this stone (which, when struck, causes sparks) gave rise to one of the historic city slogans: "I was on water built, my walls are of fire."

It is estimated that there could have been between 130 and 140 towers, one every 10 or 15 meters (33 or 49 ft). The Walls were surrounded by an outer moat, along most of the perimeter, and as supports the toponymy of some Madrilenian routes. The calles of Cava Alta, of Cava Baja and of Cava de San Miguel were drawn on this pit or cava, after it was covered.

It included four gates, constructed in turn, each protected by the proximity of one or more strong towers. There are not preserved any archaeological remains of them:

At these accesses are added the three gates of the primitive Muslim Walls: the Arc de Santa María, the Puerta de la Vega, and Puerta de la Sagra.

Along the Walls were built several albarrana towers and watchtowers, which had a strategic location. These included the Tower de Alzapierna or de Gaona, that had a mandate to monitor sources Caños del Peral (in the current Plaza de Isabel II). The Tower de los Huesos, built in the 11th century by the Muslim population, was incorporated into the Christian Walls to protect the Puerta de Valnadú.[2] The remains of the latter are exhibited in the underground car park of the Plaza de Oriente.

Most relevant remains

The most important remains of the Christian Walls of Madrid are integrated in various buildings and urban infrastructures.[3] In most cases, its access is very limited, given the private nature of the apartment blocks where its are located:

See also


  1. Gea Ortigas, María Isabel; Castellanos Oñate, José Manuel (2008). Muslim, Jewish and Christian Madrid. The Medieval Walls of Madrid. Madrid, Spain: La Librería. ISBN 978-84-95889-93-5.
  2. Castellanos Oñate; José Manuel (2005). "Second enclosure: Christian Walls". Spain: El Madrid medieval. Retrieved 2008. Check date values in: |access-date= (help)
  3. Gea Ortigas; María Isabel (1999). Las murallas de Madrid. Madrid, Spain: La Librería. ISBN 84-89411-29-8.
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