Photograph: Guillermo Maestro Casado
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Name of Monument:
Old Gate of BisagraLocation:
Calle Alfonso VI, s/n, Toledo, SpainDate of Monument:
Hegira 4th century / AD 10th centuryPeriod / Dynasty
Umayyad of al-Andalus, Caliphate periodDescription:
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 DescriptionHow 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.Citation of this web page:
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.
Ángela Franco "Old Gate of Bisagra" in Discover Islamic Art, Museum With No Frontiers, 2016. http://www.discoverislamicart.org/database_item.php?id=monument;ISL;es;Mon01;12;en
Prepared by: Ángela Franco
Copyedited by: Rosalía Aller
Translation by: Laurence Nunny
Translation copyedited by: Monica Allen
MWNF Working Number: SP 15