You may wish to see two introductory pages to this section first.
The site of the city has something of a very martial air, built
upon a high rude rock; by which means most of the entrances
to it are steep, and disagreeable, especially as you are obliged to
make several zigzag-windings before you can gain the summit. (..)
On the castle or palace-side of the town is a deep, natural foss, formed by two contiguous
ridges of mountain; on the northern side a small river runs at the
foot of the rock.
Edward Clarke - Letters concerning the Spanish nation: written during the years 1760 and 1761
The unevenness of the crown of the hill, gives a wild look to this city. The Alcazar, or Castle, stands in one of the finest positions possible, on a rock rising above the open country; a very pretty river washes the foot of the precipice, and the city lies admirably well on each side on the brow of the hill; the declivity is woody, and the banks charmingly rural; the snowy mountains and dark forests of Saint Ildefonso, compose an awful background to the picture.
Henry Swinburne - Travels through Spain in the Years 1775 and 1776 in which several monuments of Roman and Moorish architecture are illustrated
Segovia represents the singular figure of a ship, of which the stern points to the east, the prow to the west; it commands an immense rock, and appears buried between two deep valleys, one of which is to the north, the other to the south; the first is watered by a stream called Clamores, which forms a junction with the Eresma, the last by the Eresma.
Alexandre de Laborde - A View of Spain - translated into English for Longman, Hurst, etc. 1809
Colmenares, the Writer of the history of Segovia, (..) in order to make his native city,
Segovia, as old as possible, tells us at once, that the aqueduct was
built by Hercules. Hercules certainly did great wonders
but I believe built few aqueducts: and if it must be the work of
some strong man, he might as well have called in Samson. (..) I am therefore, upon the whole, inclined to think this
aqueduct is undoubtedly Roman. For though I grant to Colmenares that there is nothing now visible upon the aqueduct itself, no
remains of an inscription, no traces left to decide this question. (..) And tho' it be true, that the Romans, when
they executed such great works as these, generally took sufficient
care to secure their title to it, and their name upon it: Yet all
these arguments and objections do not weigh with me: I am where I was, I think it Roman. There is something in the grandeur of
the Roman works, that still speaks for them, though their usual
witnesses should happen to be lost: a greatness, that no other nation has attempted, or ever been able to equal. Clarke
The first object in Segovia that attracts the eye, is the Aqueduct; as the road from Saint Ildefonso runs near it a considerable way through the suburbs. (..) This Aqueduct is not only an admirable monument of antiquity for its solidity and good mason's work, which have withstood the violence of so many barbarians, and the inclemencies of the seasons during so many ages, but also wonderfully beautiful and light in its design. I do not think the Pont du Gard equal to it in elegance of proportions. Swinburne
The noblest monument of Segovia is an aqueduct. (..) Few monuments of antiquity have so well resisted the encroachments of time, or so happily united substantial solidity with dignified magnificence. Laborde
The grandest point of view is from the corner of Calle de Gascos.(..) This Roman work (..) was probably erected by Trajan, but neither Segovia nor its aqueduct are mentioned by the ancients, with whom such mighty works seem to have been things of course.
Richard Ford - A Handbook for Travellers in Spain - 1855
When the region of Segovia was conquered by the Romans in the early Ist century BC a settlement existed already on the hill where the historical part of the town stands. Segovia is not mentioned by ancient geographers or historians, nor it is shown in Tabula Peutingeriana, a Vth century map of the roads of the Roman Empire, which instead shows Cauca (Coca), today a very small town north of Segovia.
(left) Coat of arms of Segovia at the beginning of the visible part of the aqueduct; (right) initial section, similar to that of a Roman aqueduct at Kemerhisar in Turkey
The extent of this Aqueduct is said to be about three miles;
at the eastern entrance of the town it begins with small arches
gradually encreasing, and rising, till it expands into a double row
of arches and pillars, and has then the noblest effect you can possibly conceive. Why the
Spanish writers chose to call this the Bridge of Segovia, and
not the Aqueduct, is a solecism I cannot account for. (..) A
Spaniard being asked, why he called it The Puente de Segovia, answered, because it was a bridge, for though it was not indeed a bridge for people to walk over, yet it was a bridge for water to go over. And perhaps this may be their reason, though it
certainly is a very odd one. Clarke
It is perfectly well preserved, and does not seem leaky in any part. From the first low arches to the reservoir in the town, its length is two thousand four hundred Spanish feet. Antiquaries have not agreed upon the epocha of its erection. (..) The Romans certainly were the builders of it, but no inscription remains sufficiently legible to lead to the knowledge of the precise period of their empire, in which it was constructed; perhaps a person accustomed for years to study among the ruins of Rome, the different modes of building adopted in different ages by that people, might be able, from an inspection of the stone-work, to determine the era. Swinburne
The city bears "el Puente" on its shield .(..) The aqueduct commences with single arches which rise higher as the dip of the ground deepens. Ford
It seems to be built without any cement,
and the stones are about three feet long, and two feet thick; all
roughly hewn, and with the edges rounded, not sharp. Clarke
There can be no doubt that this useful work originated with the Romans, but at what period, and by whose authority, whether that of Licinius Larcius (a wealthy praetorian legate, i.e. governor of "Hispania Tarraconensis" in the mid of the Ist century AD) or Trajan, is uncertain. The materials are of rough freestone. (..) It commences at a large stone basin, (about fifty paces from the town) from whence it receives the water, which it conveys through an open canal towards the south. At its origin the fabric is erected on a long range of seventy-five arches. It is built of square stones, which are placed one on the other without any appearance of cement. Laborde
Roman aqueduct: (left) bend at the former convent of San Francisco; (right) the last section across the valley
The last single row arch, which is at the
convent of St. Francisco, is thirty-three feet six inches. At this
point begins a double row of arches, supported one over the
other, which run in the direction of east and west, and cross
the valley and the place of Azoquejo (a word from the Arabic "suq" meaning marketplace, similar to Zocodover at Toledo). Laborde
The aqueduct begins near San Gabriel, and makes many bends in its progress, to give stability and to break the water current. It runs 216 feet to the first angle, then 462 feet to the second at La Conception, then 925 feet to the third at San Francisco, and then 937 feet to the city wall. (..) Some portions are comparatively modern, although they are so admirably repaired, that it is not easy to distinguish the new work from the old. This aqueduct, respected by the Goths, was broken down in 1071 by the Moors of Toledo, who sacked Segovia and destroyed 35 arches. It remained in ruin until Aug. 26, 1483, when Isabella employed in its repairs a monk of the Parral convent, one Juan Escovedo; this architect (..) had the good taste to imitate the model before him, and therefore was the first to restore the Greco-Romano style in Spain. (..) The new work is intermixed with the old, and occurs chiefly near the angles of la Concepcion and San Francisco. Ford
The people have built so many
houses round this Aqueduct, it would grieve any true Antiquarian to the heart; since you are hindered from having so full and
complete a view of it, as a whole, which every curious spectator would wish. Clarke
Its greatest height is one hundred and four feet; it is there composed of a double row of arches, built of large square stones without mortar, and over them a hollow wall of coarser materials, for the channel of the water, covered with large oblong slabs. Of the lower range of arcades, which are fifteen feet wide by sixty-five high, there are forty-two. The upper arches are one hundred and nineteen in number; their height twenty-seven Spanish feet, their breadth seventeen; the transversal thickness or depth of the piers eight feet. Swinburne
This noble work is constructed of granite without cement or mortar; and, like other similar erections of the Romans (see the aqueducts of Rome, that of los Milagros at Merida and the Temple of Waters at Ziqua in Tunisia), unites simplicity, proportion, solidity, and utility, and its grandeur is rather the result of these qualities than of the intention of the architect. An inscription formerly ran between the tiers of the central arches, and the learned strive in vain to make out what the words were, guessing from the holes which remain for the pins of the bronze letters which have been extracted. The niche here above, is supposed to have held a statue of Trajan. Ford
It is likely
to remain in its present state as long as Segovia exists; for the situation of that city
on a dry rock renders this supply a thing of
indispensable necessity. Swinburne
The unlearned people call it el Puente del Diablo, "the devil's bridge" (also at Tarragona a Roman aqueduct has this name), because his Satanic majesty was in love with a Segoviana, and offered his services to her in return for her favours; she, tired of going up and down hill to fetch water, promised to consent, provided he would build an aqueduct in one night, which he did. One stone, however, having been found wanting, the church decided the contract to be void, and so the hard-working wicked one was done. Ford
Porta San Andres and nearby towers which were built making use of ancient stones
is entirely surrounded with a lofty old Moorish wall, with battlements and turrets, in the stile of the fortifications of those days;
which indeed were almost impregnable. There are several Roman inscriptions in the walls; some too high ever to be read,
others turned wrong side upwards, others defaced, and some with
the inscription turned inwards: For as the Moors considered these only as meer stones to build with, it is no wonder to find them
in such strange positions. Clarke
The gate of San Andres is quite a picture. Ford
The aqueduct is the only remaining Roman monument of Segovia. Some ancient stones were used to build the medieval walls. Beginning with the XIIth century the town experienced a period of great economic development due to its wool factories. The site where presumably some Roman monuments stood was heavily built.
Porta San Andres was redesigned in the early XVIth century and its crumbling left tower was restored at the end of the XIXth century.
Museum of Segovia: IVth century AD Roman mosaic (above) and fresco (below)
The fragments of a mosaic were found in the heart of the medieval town and with those of a fresco are among the very few exhibits of the Roman period which are on display in the museum of the town.
Museum of Segovia: (left) cast of a Xth century capital with an inscription from Cordoba (see some original capitals and architectural elements in that city); (right) wall decorated with a Moorish pattern; the image used as background for this page shows a similarly decorated wall of the Alcazar
The museum, in order to provide visitors with a comprehensive illustration of the history of the town, displays some casts of capitals from Cordoba to cover the period of the Arab rule over Segovia. The town was part of the Caliphate of Cordoba and later on of the Emirate of Toledo, but very little material evidence of those days has been found.
Mudéjar horseshoe arches at Palacio de Cascales (left) and at bell tower of Iglesia de San Andres (right)
Mudéjar is the term used to indicate the Moorish style which characterizes some monuments which were built after the Christian Reconquista of Spain, the finest example being the Real Alcazar of Seville. The use of some architectural patterns which were typical of the Moorish style coexisted at Segovia with the construction of a large number of Romanesque churches, which constitute the main attraction of the town from an architectural point of view.
Torre de Arias Davila (XVth century) with "esgrafiados", a decoration which brings to mind Arab patterns
Some sort of Moorish influence can be noticed also in monuments which were built many centuries after the Christian conquest. The esgrafiados of this tower show a variety of geometric patterns, something we can say was broadly influenced by Islamic art. The term esgrafiado (scratched) derives from Italian graffito, a technique which was used to decorate large surfaces of towers and palaces during the Renaissance, but in a very different manner.
I went to the Alcazar, or royal palace, situated
on a rock, detached by a deep dry ditch from the city, with
which it communicates by a strong stone bridge. It was built
by the Moors in the eighth century; was afterwards inhabited
by the kings of Castile, and is now used for a state prison:
there were thirteen Turkish corsair captains confined in it at
the time I was there. Part of the palace is converted into a military school, in which eighty cadets are educated, who also reside here.
The castle is built of white stone, a tower rises from the center,
environed with many turrets; the roof of the whole is covered
Richard Twiss - Travels through Portugal and Spain, in 1772-1773
The antique palace has seldom been inhabited by any but prisoners since the reign of Ferdinand and Isabella, who were much attached to this situation. (..) The royal apartments are now occupied by a college of young gentlemen cadets, educated at the king's expence in all the sciences requisite for forming an engineer. (..) Another court of the palace is allotted as a prison to eleven Algerine Reis, or captains of ships. Their crews work in the arsenal of Carthagena. These Turks are very handsome, portly figures, with clean looks, and well-combed beards; they are well treated, and left to themselves. Most of their time is spent in conversation, walking up and down a long gallery, smoking, and playing at chess, except when they go down at stated hours to fetch water for their own use. Swinburne
The Alcazar was originally Moorish, and was magnificently repaired in 1452-1458 by Henrique IV, who resided and kept his treasures in it. (..) The castle palace was at last made into an artillery college, and being one of the few in Spain which the French did not destroy, remains as a specimen of what so many others were before their fatal invasion. (..) The keep is studded with those bartizans or turrets at the angles which are so common in Castilian castles (see that at Coca), but the slate and French-like roofs in other portions mar the effect. Ford
Alcazar: ceilings with Moorish decorative features at Sala de los Reyes (above) and Sala de la Galera (right)
In the royal saloon, round the wall, are fifty-two
statues of painted wood; they represent a series of the kings
and queens of Spain, sitting on thrones, and of several eminent
persons, all as large as the life, with an inscription under each.
The ceiling of this room, and of several others, is so well gilt,
that though it probably was done seven centuries ago, it appears
quite fresh and new. Twiss
There are some magnificent halls in it, with much gilding in the ceilings, in a semi-barbarous taste. All the kings of Spain are seated in state along the cornice of the great saloon: I know not whether they are like the princes whose names they bear, but if that resemblance be wanting, I am sure they have no other merit to claim. Swinburne
The Alcazar, which was formerly the residence of the Castillan kings, bears the character of venerable antiquity. (..) The principal court and the staircase were constructed in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. (..) The spacious apartments are fretted with mosaic work, which is still fresh. One of the halls presents a curious historical series of statues, including all the ancient monarchs of Oviedo, Leon, and Castile, from Fruela the First, who reigned in 757, to queen Joanna, who died in 1555; after whom commenced the Austrian dynasty. To these is added the statue of Fernando Gonzalez, first count of Castile, and the illustrious warrior Roderigo Diaz, so renowned in history and romance as the Cid Campeador. These statues, which are fifty-two in number, are of painted wood, and are each distinguished by an appropriate inscription. Laborde
Convento de San Antonio el Real: XVth century "artesonados", mudéjar coffered wooden ceilings
Move to Romanesque Segovia.
Plan of this section (see its introductory pages):
|Andalusia||Almeria Antequera Baelo Claudia Carmona Cordoba Granada Italica Jerez de la Frontera Medina Azahara Ronda Seville Tarifa|
|Castile||Archaeological Park of Carranque Castillo de Coca Olmedo Segovia Toledo Villa La Olmeda|
|Catalonia||Barcelona Emporiae Girona Tarragona|