Vitoria-Gasteiz, 6 October 2006.
On 16 October, Vitoria-Gasteiz will present a new cultural attraction:
a section of the city´s old medieval (11th century) wall.
Blocked by buildings and streets, the wall has been out of sight for
centuries. Its rediscovery a few months ago complements the restoration
of the city´s historic heritage and the revitalization of the
The tour, which travels along a 3,000 sqm landscaped path, will pass along part of the fortified defence wall. From a network of walkways, visitors will be able to see 136 metres of the wall flanked by two large towers. At its highest point, the wall is 11 metres tall, while the towers reach 15 metres in height.
The first section of the wall that has been restored sits between the cantons of Las Carnicerías and La Soledad behind the buildings located at 98 to 104 Correría Street. The Escoriaza Esquivel Palace has been built up against it.
Visitors can take guided tours and enjoy a unique journey to one the most unknown, interesting sights the city has to offer. The research conducted over the last two years has led to important discoveries regarding the town´s origins and urban planning.
The restoration and newfound appreciation for the fortified city wall is part of the efforts that the Vitoria-Gasteiz Town Council, through the Municipal Agency for Urban Restoration, is putting forth in order to breathe new life into the Historic Quarter. The Culture Department of the Basque Government is also collaborating on this project. The work being done on the wall is part of a series of activities that are making Vitoria-Gasteiz and Alava a benchmark for cultural heritage restoration.
In order to promote the medieval wall´s most interesting historical, architectural and tourism aspects, the Agency for Urban Restoration has signed an agreement with the Santa Maria Cathedral Foundation, which will be responsible for managing the guided tours programme. The collaboration between both institutions is supported by both the important role that the Catedral Vieja (Old Cathedral) has in promoting the Historic Quarter´s restoration, as well as by its close historical and architectural connection with the wall.
This connection has been confirmed by research conducted by the UPV/EHU Archaeology of Architecture Research Group.
“During the archaeological excavations carried out in the subsoil of the Catedral Vieja during 2001, remains of an old wall were discovered. These remains revealed a section of the wall and one of its towers, which dated back to the second half of the 11th century. There are similarities between these remains (both with regard to its dimensions as well as to the techniques used for its construction) and the part of the wall that is still standing at the city´s highest point. This has led the UPV/EHU team to the hypothesis that the walls, thought to have been built by Sancho el Sabio (the Wise), are actually older than initially believed. They are now thought to date back to 1181.
A study co-financed by the Vitoria-Gasteiz Town Council and the Basque Government Department of Culture (2003-2005), has made the in-depth research on these old walls possible. Thus, it was confirmed that the old stretch of wall in Vitoria is older than originally thought. It was also decided that the wall would be restored so that it could be used again and enjoyed by the Vitoria community and the locals of the Historic Quarter.
What the public will be able to witness now is a small part of a much more grandiose project, which, over time, will explore the entire area that was old Gasteiz during the first centuries of the Middle Ages. This ambitious project has two goals: 1: To create what will be the most expressive and significant image of our city´s historic past. 2: To establish quality urban spaces that increase the distinctive quality of our Historic Quarter.
Agustín Azkarate, Archaeology Professor at UPV/EHU.
The restoration project currently underway is not only restoring the wall physically, but also restoring its status as a feature worthy of being in the city´s foreground. The Vitoria community now has the unique opportunity of recovering and sharing an important part of their history thanks to the guided tours programme.
The wall holds traces of the medieval city, the City of Guilds, Renaissance Vitoria, urban progress and the preparations carried out by the town against the sieges of the Carlist Wars.
GREEN RING SURROUNDING THE WALL
During this first phase, the restoration of the old medieval wall also includes the development of a 3,000 sqm landscaped area between the wall itself and the buildings on Correría Street. Archaeological excavations carried out in this area by the UPV/EHU team have also discovered traces of the old abattoirs and the market, which operated in the area for hundreds of years until the beginning of the 20th century.
The design for the wall´s Green Ring includes a network of wooden walkways and landscaped areas. The route begins at an entrance located in a space that became available following the demolition of a municipal building, which had been built against the Casa de las Duchas in the canton of Las Carnicerías.
The walkway runs along the entire perimeter of the parapet and by way of a ramp, goes up the four metre slope until reaching a vantage point located on the buttress built against the Escoriaza Esquivel Palace.
Once visitors have seen the first section of the restored wall, they will be able to witness the work being completed on the second section, which will be included in this historical and scenic route in just a few months.
The guided tours of the old medieval wall begin at the Santa Maria Cathedral Visitor´s Centre. From the Santa Maria canton, an explanation is given surrounding the close connection between both monuments, which is proven by the traces of the city wall that are, to this day, preserved in the interior and walls of the Catedral Vieja.
From this canton, visitors are led down Cuchillería Street until they reach the Catedral Vieja entrance, located in 18th century buildings that were next to the church itself. Here, an audiovisual presentation and five models illustrate the city´s history and urban evolution, tracing the past from the old hamlet of Gasteiz (8th c.) to the construction of Santa Maria.
The models, of which three are currently completed, are the work of the Escuela Taller of the Santa Maria Cathedral Foundation and the Archaeology of Architecture Research Group of the Basque Country University (UPV). Thus, they are reliable recreations depicting the evolution of the hill known as El Campillo.
By way of a special wooden staircase, visitors will enter the lower level of the Cathedral, which contains the apse or retrochoir, where one can see the solid, blank walls that form part of the church´s perimeter up close.
From the retrochoir, visitor´s can go to the altar via a walkway system. This space holds enormous stone remains, which are part of the 11th century wall, as well as the excavation trench of one of the towers.
The tour exits the Catedral Vieja through the Santa Ana façade, where visitors can witness the archaeological excavations taking place in the Santa Maria Plaza. The route then continues by way of Fray Zacarías Martínez Street towards the entrance to the wall´s walkway. In passing, visitor´s can view the Escoriaza Esquivel Palace (16th c.), built against the fortified wall.
The first section of the wall that has been restored sits between the cantons of Las Carnicerías and La Soledad behind the buildings located at 98 to 104 Correría Street. The entrance is located in a space that became available following the demolition of a municipal building, which had been built up against the Casa de las Duchas and the wall itself.
The tour, following the 3,000 sqm landscaped path, passes along part of the fortified defence wall. From a network of walkways, visitors will be able to see 136 metres of the wall flanked by two large towers. At its highest point, the wall is 11 metres tall, while the towers reach 15 metres in height.
The walkway runs along the entire perimeter of the parapet and, by way of a ramp, goes up the four metre slope until reaching a vantage point located on the buttress built against the Escoriaza Esquivel Palace. From here, one can see the archaeological remains of the old abattoirs and the city´s market, which operated in this area for hundreds of years until the beginning of the 20th century.
INFORMATION AND RESERVATIONS
Those interested in taking a guided tour of the old medieval wall should make their reservation at the Santa Maria Cathedral Visitor´s Centre or call 945 255 135.
The Santa Maria Cathedral Foundation, responsible for managing the guided tours, offers four daily visits that last approximately one hour each. The scheduled tour times are: in the morning at 11:15am and 12:45pm and in the afternoons at 5:15pm and 7:45pm. The price is 2 euros per person.