Photograph: Guillermo Maestro CasadoPhotograph: Guillermo Maestro CasadoPhotograph: Guillermo Maestro CasadoPhotograph: Guillermo Maestro Casado

Name of Monument:

Old Gate of Bisagra


Calle Alfonso VI, s/n, Toledo, Spain

Date of Monument:

Hegira 4th century / AD 10th century

Period / Dynasty

Umayyad of al-Andalus, Caliphate period


The Old Gate of Bisagra, Bibxacra or bab al-Saqra is the only gate from the Muslim age to have survived in reasonably good condition, possibly because it was closed up when the remodelling of the city was ordered. Documentation confirms its existence from the beginning of the AH 5th / AD 11th century. The first reference dates to the year AH 400 / AD 1009–10, and it is subsequently mentioned in a variety of documents that tell of transactions and the payment of tolls. People had to pass through the gate to get to the cemetery located outside the walls, and the passage of goods made it one of the most fruitful toll points for the city.
The gateway is part of a northerly extension to the walled enclosure. Its outer façade, in a projection of the enclosure, sets the entrance back. It is made up of two towers, reconstructed at the top, which flank a section of wall that contains a horseshoe arch with a span of 2.5 m between jambs, the same as the diameter of the arch, and a height of 5.40 m. The arch is horseshoe-shaped prolonged three-fifths of the radius, with the arrangement of the voussoirs converging on the lines of the imposts. It is toothed to the level of the haunches, where we find the usual wedges that launch the unclad radial arch, and framed by an alfiz panel, the top of which reaches a height of 6.58 m. The voussoirs are made up of salvaged pieces, which is evident from the uneven size of the masonry and a limestone near the keystone that still bears a Visigothic-period plant motif. The keystone is a reused white stone decorated with secant circles of similar style. At the level of the springers there is a huge lintel acting as a brace from which there would have been a brick bond up to the level of the intrados. The upper part, with small corner-columns, and the organisation of the inside of the gateway are Mudéjar work, possibly from the AH 7th / AD 13th century.
During the cleaning and restoration work carried out in 1907, a postern or door was discovered in the left turret, which was walled up but whose existence is documented in photographs from the time. Its original purpose is unknown, as it considerably reduced the defensive effectiveness of the arch. The head of the cleaning work, Ricardo Arredondo, believes that the door would have been one of the traps intended to make it difficult for besiegers to take control of the entrance and to penetrate the town. He constructed the lateral façade and the back horseshoe arch beside the town, copying the lines of the original gateway. The work has restored a gateway of great structural and historical importance that was threatened with ruin.

View Short Description

So called because it led to the fertile district of Shaqra or Sagra, this gateway was one of the most important in the city of Toledo as it had to be passed to reach the cemetery outside the city walls and it generated substantial toll revenues from goods traffic.
The gateway is a northward extension of the enclosure wall and consists of two towers, remodelled at the top, either side of a horseshoe arch.

How Monument was dated:

There are documentary references from 400 / 1009–10 where it is mentioned in relation to the death and burial of a significant Arab personality, Ibn Maymun.

Selected bibliography:

Amador de los Ríos, R., Puerta Antigua de Bisagra en Toledo, Madrid, 1877.
Amador de los Ríos, R., Monumentos Arquitectónicos de España: Toledo, Madrid, 1905, pp.439–42.
Delgado Valero, C., Toledo Islámico: Ciudad, Arte e Historia, Toledo, 1987, pp.172–9.
Gómez Moreno, M., El Arte árabe Español Hasta los Almohades: Arte Mozárabe,Ars Hispaniae, Vol. III, Madrid, 1951, pp.198–200.
Martín, E., “Arredondo en la Restauración de la Antigua Puerta de Visagra”, Toledo: Revista de Arte, 63, 15 December 1916, p.2.

Citation of this web page:

Ángela Franco "Old Gate of Bisagra" in Discover Islamic Art, Museum With No Frontiers, 2016. 2016.;ISL;es;Mon01;12;en

Prepared by: Ángela FrancoÁngela Franco

Ángela Franco es Jefa del Departamento de Antigüedades Medievales en el Museo Arqueológico Nacional.
Obtuvo el Grado de Doctor por la Universidad Complutense de Madrid con la tesis Escultura gótica en León y provincia, premiada y publicada parcialmente (Madrid, 1976; reed. León, 1998); y la Diplomatura en Paleografía y Archivística por la Scuola Vaticana di Paleografia, Diplomatica e Archivistica, con la tesis L'Archivio paleografico italiano: indici dei manoscritti, publicada en castellano (Madrid, 1985). Becas de investigación: beca posdoctoral del Ministerio de Asuntos Exteriores, Academia Española de Bellas Artes de Roma (1974-75); beca posdoctoral del Ministerio de Educación y Ciencia, Academia Española de Bellas Artes de Roma (1975-77); beca de la Fundación Juan March de Madrid (1978).
Tiene en su haber 202 publicaciones, fundamentalmente sobre arte medieval cristiano, en especial la iconografía: Crucifijo gótico doloroso, Doble Credo, Danzas de la Muerte, temática bíblica en relación con la liturgia (el Génesis y el Éxodo en relación con la vigilia Pascual) o con el teatro (Secundum legem debet mori, sobre el “pozo de Moisés” de la cartuja de Dijon). Es autora de cuatro catálogos monográficos del Museo Arqueológico Nacional, entre ellos el de Dedales islámicos (Madrid, 1993), y de publicaciones sobre escultura gótica y pintura en la catedral de León y sobre escultura gótica en Ávila, así como de numerosas fichas para catálogos de exposiciones.
Ha participado en innumerables congresos nacionales e internacionales, presentando ponencias y mesas redondas, y ha dirigido cursos y ciclos de conferencias. Es Secretaria de Publicaciones en el Museo Arqueológico Nacional desde 1989.

Copyedited by: Rosalía AllerRosalía Aller

Rosalía Aller Maisonnave, licenciada en Letras (Universidad Católica del Uruguay), y en Filología Hispánica y magíster en Gestión Cultural de Música, Teatro y Danza (Universidad Complutense de Madrid), ha obtenido becas de la Agencia Española de Cooperación Internacional y la Universidad Nacional de Educación a Distancia de Madrid, así como el Diplôme de Langue Française (Alliance Française), el Certificate of Proficiency in English (University of Cambridge) y el Certificado Superior en inglés y francés (Escuela Oficial de Idiomas de Madrid). Profesora de Estética de la Poesía y Teoría Literaria en la Universidad Católica del Uruguay, actualmente es docente de Lengua Castellana y Literatura en institutos de Enseñanza Secundaria y formación del profesorado en Madrid. Desde 1983, ha realizado traducción y edición de textos en Automated Training Systems, Applied Learning International, Videobanco Formación y El Derecho Editores. Integra el equipo de Museo Sin Fronteras desde 1999 y ha colaborado en la revisión de los catálogos de “El Arte Islámico en el Mediterráneo”. Así mismo, ha realizado publicaciones sobre temas literarios y didácticos, ha dictado conferencias y ha participado en recitales poéticos.

Translation by: Laurence Nunny
Translation copyedited by: Monica Allen

MWNF Working Number: SP 15


Related monuments

 Artistic Introduction

 Timeline for this item

Islamic Dynasties / Period

Umayyads of al-Andalus


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