Medieval Madrid. The origins of the Spanish capital
The cosmopolitan, modern and intense Madrid that we know does not have much to do with what it was time ago. Today we want to get closer to that medieval Madrid so that you know what you can see and visit of everything that has endured, in one way or another, in time.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
The origins of Madrid
Madrid has its origins in a small Muslim city of the ninth century. It was an extension of few hectares that was distributed in the surroundings of the actual Almudena Cathedral.
In this place, there was a fortress protected by a wall that Mohamed I, the emir of Córdoba, had ordered built at the end of the ninth century.
Outside these walls, the Christian population was settled. This created a peripheral Mozarabic neighborhood around the church of San Andrés.
The city was conquered in 1083 by the troops of the Christian King Alfonso VI. Some mosques were transformed into churches: San Salvador, for example, also San Pedro and the church of San Nicolás; the latter is considered the oldest in the entire city.
From all this time there are several vestiges in the Spanish capital that you can see. That is why we are going to make an exciting route through medieval Madrid that will take you to visit the most unique streets and corners, places that will tell you something of the Christian and Arab history that coexisted in the origins of Madrid.
The route through medieval Madrid: What to see
In this tour, we can contemplate places that tell us about the history during the Middle Age and help us to understand a little more about the roots of the Spanish capital and its inhabitants. Let’s see some of the most important ones:
Church of San Nicolás
As we have anticipated before, the church of San Nicolás is the oldest in the city. It is located near the main street, in a square with the same name, and is a rather modest parish with a tower and beautiful architecture.
The history situates its construction before the Christian conquest so, as we have also commented, its tower would be in its origins the minaret of a mosque located in the peripheral neighborhood that was outside the walled enclosure of Arab origin.
However, we will also tell you that there is another current that ensures that this tower is of Mudejar origin and was always integrated into a Christian church.
The medieval walls of Madrid
This route through medieval Madrid leads us to discover the existence of two medieval walls, one from the 9th century and another dating from the 12th century.
We begin with the oldest one.
The Arab wall
The Arab wall of Madrid was raised in the ninth century as part of a fortress around which the city was expanding. Still of that wall archaeological remains are conserved. There are some of them on the slope of La Vega, for example, integrated into the park Mohamed I.
At number 83 of the main street, on the other hand, there are some ruins of the tower of Narigües; It was separated from the wall but joined to it by a small wall. Under the Plaza de la Armería appeared a section of this wall that could be one of the entrances to the enclosure.
The Christian wall of Madrid
The Christian wall of Madrid, popularly known as the medieval wall, was built between the eleventh and twelfth centuries when the city became part of the Crown of Castile.
It is a construction that was carried out to extend the enclosure of the 9th century, which was of Muslim origin as we already know, and thus welcome the neighborhoods that had appeared after the reconquest.
This wall, more than 2,200 meters long, protected an area of about 33 hectares, eight times more space than its Muslim predecessor. It is believed that it could have had about 140 towers. The wall, in turn, was surrounded by a moat, a place on which later some of the streets that today still allow seeing some remains of the wall were traced.
And it is that this wall is preserved several remains that are integrated into some buildings located in the Madrid of Los Austrias. For example, we find remains of the medieval wall of Madrid in Calle de Don Pedro, Calle de los Mancebos, Calle del Espejo, Calle de la Escalinata, Cava Baja, Plaza Isabel II and the parking place of Plaza de Oriente, among other locations.
The remains that are still alive of both medieval walls became a Historic-Artistic Monument in 1954.
Plaza de la Villa
The Plaza de la Villa in Madrid is one of those places where you can still breath a particular aroma of the Middle Ages. We find it, above all, in some buildings that take us back to past times, such as the Casa de la Villa or the Casa and Torre de los Lujanes.
Calle Codo or Codo Street is also part of our medieval route. It is a narrow alley located on one side of the Plaza de la Villa. At that time it could be a kind of path that ran between buildings and buildings that were emerging due to the expansion of the city. A charming place to visit, for sure.