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Home»Microsites»Francisco Peralta's Puppetry Collection

Santiago Gate

The Wall of Segovia

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The first medieval wall of the city of Segovia was raised between the end of the 11th and the beginning of the 12th centuries. It was built with some urgency to defend the city after its Reconquest by Raymond of Burgundy. The occupation of Toledo turned Segovia into a border city against the Arabic enemy in the South. This explains the importance of its defences.

Most of what is preserved today from the wall was built between the end of the 12th and the beginning of the 13th centuries. It had 80 towers, five gates (three are still preserved: the one discussed below, San Cebrián Gate and San Andrés Gate) and several shutters (El Sol, La Luna, San Juan, etc.).
It was mainly built with limestone although granite ashlars and Roman materials can also be seen, proving that these were reutilised. The brick details are related to the Mudejar tradition of the city from around the 13th century.

The location of Segovia endows it with natural defences that are boosted by this wall making it nearly unassailable. In fact, it was never captured.

 

Nine Centuries of History of the Santiago Gate

The first reference to the wall dates from 1122, and it was called "of Rodrigo Ordónez". Back then, the gate had one single floor that reached the parapet walk of the wall.

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Above it, a homage tower emerged, standing out on the sides oriented towards the city (all of it finished with battlements).

Between 1247 and 1290, the gate changed its name to "of Santiago" making reference to the nearby church of Santiago that was standing until 1836.
For the rest of the Middle Ages, the gate kept the same appearance and records are preserved about specific budgets allotted for the repairs. By the end of this period, the small, circular tower oriented towards the city was adjoined. Its purpose is still not very clear.

This gate was used by those travellers coming from Medina del Campo or Arévalo and it communicated the city within the walls with the San Marcos district, the Fuencisla, and the Veracruz.

The gate is located on a steep, almost inaccessible cliff and it is surrounded by a wall creating a bend. In order to make it unassailable, it was provided with a loophole protruding over the entrance from which liquids and objects could be thrown. To complete its defence, there were two double doors, a middle portcullis (that could be lowered and raised) and a Guard House (commonly known as "bodegón"). The Guard House, which was opened on the South wall, was later walled in and there were three loopholes on it that allowed access to be monitored and avoided blind spots from where potential enemies could approach.

The final reform of the gate was undertaken at the end of the 16th century. It was supervised by the notable architect Francisco de Mora and its appearance was dramatically changed: its medieval aspect disappeared and its strong defensive character was replaced by a fiscal and inhabitable one.

The façade oriented towards the city was conceived around a semicircular arch limited by bolstered granite ashlars and stone voussoirs. On it, a pictorial space was planned, framed among Mannerist plasterwork. The rest of the façade was covered in lime mortar that was decorated with smooth sgraffito work of diamond-pointed tips.

The walls were extended in height. This meant the demolition of the homage tower and the sealing of the merlons and the battlements. In origin, the gate did not have a roof, but by 1666 the frame was covered by a hip roof.

By 1820 the gate was in such a decrepit condition that the City Council decided to demolish it. Luckily, this measure was never executed (though it happened again in 1883).

After a decade in a state of abandonment, the City Council gave the Santiago Gate to the Junta de Socorros [Aid Council] to be used as a shelter for the poor because many homeless people had been evicted from the caves where they were living in the nearby valleys due to the unhealthy conditions. Gómez de la Serna saw it used as such, a shelter for the homeless, with one floor for women and another one for men.

Between 1938 and 1952 the local architect F. J. Cabello Doredo directed a dramatic refurbishment of the entrance to the wall and the tower itself, turning the first floor into a house. This space was relinquished to the painter Santos Sanz for his studio.
In the second half of the 20th century, several restorations were carried out. They did not affect much the distribution of the inside and barely anything of the external appearance.

The Santiago Gate in the 21st Century

The restoration executed between 2011 and 2012 has been the most complete and best documented of the ones carried out on the gate because, until then, the interventions had been exceptional cases.

The project was developed from several studies in which different physical aspects of the monument were analysed according to the methodology used by the Heritage Foundation of Castile and León.

The restoration included several detailed works, some of which are summarized in the photographic evidence below:
- Discovery of the original paving in the area under the arch
- Discovery of merlons on the first gate
- Cleaning of the wooden frame
- Open explorations in the walls of the first floor
- Roof sealing
- Scaffolding during the restoration
- Blind façade inside the arch
- Blackened masonry before the restoration
- Present day stairs
- Strengthening of the ornamented stucco work
- Detail of one of the brick arches
- Detail of the diamond-pointed tips, the decoration on the eastern façade

 

 The Guard House or "bodegón"

The Santiago Gate gave access to the city of Segovia at least since the beginning of the 12th century. This small space, the Guard House, was built into the wall. It was a surveillance site at least until the end of the Middle Ages, when the gate lost its military and defensive role.

Although nowadays it can only be accessed from the upper part of the building, in origin it was at street level and access was gained through a door surrounded by three narrow windows – loopholes.

Designed for the surveillance and defence of the crossing of the wall, access from the upper part of the building is difficult, with steep stairs made of stone masonry and covered by brick vaults. The walls of the rest of the space were made of the same material and they were finished with a layer of lime in horizontal bands.

The Guard House, also commonly known as "bodegón", is in a similar state to that of its origin. Its peculiar architecture has undergone the radical refurbishment that was carried out on the rest of the building. At the time of its restoration, it was barely accessible, full of rubble, with the windows bricked up and the walls covered in a thick layer of soot (due to the fires lit during the various uses of this historical space).

 

 

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