The Walled City of Toledo

Toledo’s walls have had many iterations but have been around since Roman times. In 674 A.D a Visigoth king Wamba rebuilt them once more but the ones we are left with today are largely from the period of Arab rule (although some remains of the Roman walls are still around). After reconquering the city from the Moors in 1085, Alfonso VI finished off the walls to sure up the city’s defences. As you can see, one of the functions of the wall is protecting the city’s weak underbelly where the Tagus doesn’t provide a natural defence.

But that isn’t the wall’s only function. Through the system of gates and bridges the entry of people in and out of the city was controlled, ensuring that incoming people paid the correct taxes, known as a portazgo. Therefore, another function was tax collection.

Last but not least the walls have a third function – stopping the spread of disease during epidemics such as the plague. At the highest point of the Puerta de Bisagra, one of the gates into the city, is a sculpture of an angel: a guardian angel. Legend has it that one day the plague wanted to enter the city but the guardian angel sat upon the gate held it back with its sword. The plague said “God has given me permission to kill seven people” so the angel let the plague come in.

During the plague seven thousand Toledanos died.

When the plague headed out the city through the same gate, the angel reproached the plague: “You said to me you’d only kill seven people and you ended up killing seven thousand”, to which the plague responded:

“I only killed seven people, panic killed the rest”.

Toledo’s walls not only defended the city but also served as a means of tax collection