Puerta de Alfonso VI, Toledo, Spain

Category: Toledo

Are you planning to travel to Spain this year, either for business, a family holiday or romantic getaway?  Will these travels perhaps take to you the center of the country, specifically to the small and very historically rich city of Toledo?  The city of Toledo, located about an hour’s drive from Madrid, the Spanish capital, is a must-see destination when visiting Spain; a place that has to be witnessed firsthand to truly appreciate.  Its history dates back to Roman times (or earlier), when it was the main commercial and governmental hub of the Roman province of Cartaginesis.  After the fall of Rome, it served as the capital city of Visigoth Spain, a distinction it held until the 8th century, when Iberia was conquered by the Moors.  Christians retook the city in the early 11th century, and throughout the 16th century Toledo served as the capital of Castile, until the monarchy was ultimately moved, first to Valladolid and then to Madrid.

Although Toledo’s political and commercial importance began to diminish after the Spanish court was moved to Madrid, its past lives on in the structures and monuments that still remain in the city, representing the various eras of the city’s history.  One such structure is the Puerta de Alfonso VI, also known as the Puerta Vieja de Bisagra (Old Bisagra Gate), a city gate, built in the 10th century in the time of the Taifa of Toledo, during the Moorish era.  Originally named the Bab al-Saqra by its Arab builders, the gate is now often referred to by locals as the “Bisagra Antigua,” a name used to distinguish it from the new Bisagra gateway, the Puerta Nueva de Bisagra, which was built in 1559.
Dating back to the Andalusian period, the Puerta de Alfonso VI was once the main entrance to Toledo and is located in the northern end of town.  Today it is the only Moorish gate that still remains within the medieval walls.  Like several other buildings in Toledo from that period, including the Synagogue of Santa Maria la Blanca and the Santiago del Arrabal, the gate is a brilliant example of the Mudejar style of architecture.  The proportions of the stonework and the horseshoe arch demonstrate to scholars that the lower portion of the bridge was almost certainly constructed in the 10th century, while the upper parts were most likely completed in the early 13thc century.

The Puerta de Alfonso VI was completely rebuilt under the reigns of Charles V and Philip II, according to the designs of architect Alonso de Covarrubias.  This rebuilt version, known as the Puerta Nueva de Bisagra, consists of two parts:  the outer body and the inner body.  The colossal outer body consists of a triumphal arch made of rusticated ashlar.  It is topped by a huge shield portraying the Imperial City, with a distinctive and highly detailed double-headed eagle, flanked by two large semicircular masonry towers and two figures of seated kings.

The inner body of the Puerta de Alfonso VI consists of a horseshoe-shaped arch, flanked by square towers topped with spires, one of which depicts the coat of arms of Emperor Charles V.

The Puerta de Alfonso VI is one of the oldest structures still intact in Toledo, and its history, monumental size and amazing detail makes it one of the many must-see attractions when visiting this majestic, yet charming Spanish city.