As you enter the Old Town of Santiago de Compostela, you notice a great architectural difference with the buildings before. This is because the Old Town of Santiago used to be surrounded by a strong wall in Medieval times. This wall and the 7 entrance doors however have almost completely disappeared. The main entrance to Santiago’s Old Town however keep the original names.
In this article, we would like to explain why that wall was built and where were each entrance.
The protective wall of Santiago de Compostela
The final years of the 9th century were terrible dark times in Santiago de Compostela. The frequent invasions of powerful armies that wished to conquer the Spanish peninsula ravaged, raped and murdered the most vulnerable towns. Amongst those enemies were the legendary Vikings and the Arabs of the Almoravids dynasty.
Santiago de Compostela with its recently acquired wealth and its importance to Christianity became as can expected victim to those attacks.
Therefore in order to protect the City from the pillages, the church who was under the rule of the archbishop Sisnando II, ordered the construction of strong protective walls around the town.
Those walls helped protect the town from a number of small invaders mostly Vikings but they barely resisted against the armies of the Arabs of Almanzor.
The pillage of 11th of august 997
On the black day of the 11th of august 997, Almanzor’s soldiers entered the city like wild rampaging bulls. They tore down the cities buildings, killed, plundered and pillaged everything. As a trophy they took the cathedral bells which were ordered to be transported to Cordoba in Andalucia on “the shoulders of Christians”.
The 11th century defensive wall
But against all odds, Santiago managed to recover from its sacred ashes and rose ever stronger the very next year thanks to the archbishop Pedro de Mezonzo, whose motivation and charisma helped orchestrate the city’s resurgence.
By the middle of the 11th century, the archbishop Crescendo had built another wall around the city of almost two kilometres in length.
There were seven gateways in the walls, though nowadays these no longer stand. All that is really left of are their names: Faxeiras, Mamoa, Entremuros, Enremurallas, Atalaya, Porto do Camino and Mazarelos of which some remains can still be seen.