The Spanish city of Zamora, because of its geographical location, is in an important strategic place. It was built in an elevated point over the Douro River. This city had in the past three wall lines, whose importance was transferred to the whole city, which is known since then as “the well fortified city of Zamora”.
Nowadays, some parts of the city walls are preserved, but not all of them. The first wall line was built during the 11th century, and it is the best preserved one. It surrounds the historic part of Zamora, where we can find the castle, one of the most important constructions of the city. The second wall line was built during the 13th century to the east of the first one and it is the worst preserved part. The third wall line was built during the 14th century to the south of the others.
The walls of Zamora have suffered modifications on its route throughout history due to several battles and to the growth of the city. In the middle of the 19th century the walls of the city lost their defensive and fiscal function, what leaded to the beginning of the destruction of the walls.
In 1871 some parts of the walls were offered for sale applying the Disentailment Law of Madoz approved in 1855. Most sales were the prior step to the demolition of the sold parts, according to their owners needs. Some of these people used their parts of the wall as load bearing walls of other constructions.
Moreover, the local government started then to destroy other parts of the wall claiming that it would mean a better status of hygiene and improvements on the urban planning of the city.
The Provincial Monuments Commission tried to preserve the monument against the people who bought parts of the wall and the local government purposes. However, the result was not satisfactory and some parts of the walls continued being offered for sale until not many years ago.
Nowadays the situation is quite different. The Ministry of Education, Culture and Sports of Spain has implemented some measures aimed at repairing the wall. All of these projects are included in the National Plan of Defensive Architecture.
National Plans were created at the end of the last century with the purpose of organizing the restoration and preservation of the historic heritage. One of these plans is the National Plan of Defensive Architecture, focused on the structures built throughout history to defend and control important locations.
Director Plans contains all the information necessary to have a thorough knowledge of the monument and to take measures to look after the monument and repair it. The aim of the Director Plan of the Walls of Zamora was the study of the location of the walls, existing or not, in the actual city to discover all the modifications of the construction over the years.
Now, the goals of the measures held by the local government and the Ministry of Culture are the clearance of the surroundings of the wall and the reparation and maintaining of the monument. Up to now, more than the 50% of the monument has been recovered thanks to the local government during the last ten years.
One of the biggest problems is the recovery of the parts of the wall that were bought since 1871 and now are part of the houses of the descendants of the original buyers. Firstly, the local government negotiated with the actual owners offering money in exchange for their properties, but now the local government offers new properties to the owners instead of money.
One of the buildings that are not demolish now, stopping the process of recovery of the whole monument (Ronda de la Feria, Zamora)
All the works in the walls of the first wall line have cost 891.000€ in total, paid by the Ministry of Culture of Spain. These works, directed by the local architect Francisco Somoza, have been focused on the cleaning and reparation of eroded parts, recovering the original structure of the monument.
The castle and its surroundings have also been restored, taking a new appearance. The works held in that area allows people to visit the whole structure, even the crenels, and the main tower has become a great viewpoint.
The building know as “the giants house”, that was part of the defensive parts of the castle, has been transformed in a museum dedicated to the international sculptor Baltasar Lobo, who was born in Zamora in 1910. Almost seventy sculptures of this sculptor can be contemplated both in the museum and in the gardens outside the castle.
Thus, the castle is not only a historical building, but also a place where the art has become an essential factor, taking part in the historic environment of the city.
On the left, one of the parts of the wall completely restored, with the Romanesque bridge over the Douro. On the right, one of the sculptures of Baltasar Lobo in the gardens of the castle of Zamora.
Nowadays, even though the recovering process of the walls is not completed, it is possible to enjoy the monument and its surroundings not only from the touristic and cultural point of view. The space opened beside the walls by demolishing some buildings has become a public space opened to the citizens, making a “ring” that goes around the centre of the city with gardens, fountains, walking areas and open spaces that help to increase the value of a monument that has been the witness of the rich history of the city of Zamora.
PABLO ALONSO MEDINA
Universidad Politécnica de Madrid