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The Roman Fortification
09 July 2020 @ 19:29



The walls of Lugo are an outstanding construction  which illustrates various significant periods of human history. Starting with their Roman origins and passing through the problematical Middle Ages to the innovatory and disturbed 19th century, they unite in a single monumental construction over 2 km long different proofs and facets of the evolution of the town from the original Lucus Augusti.



There was a Roman military camp here during the campaign of Augustus, and it was here that the new town, Lucus Augusti, was founded in 15-13 BCE. The original chequerboard plan did not require the town to be enclosed by a defensive wall, because of the effectiveness of the Pax Romana. The town prospered in the succeeding centuries, because of the mineral resources of the region. This administrative centre acquired impressive public buildings and luxurious urban villas, which spread over a wide area.

However, in the mid-2nd century Frankish and Alemannic invaders crossed the limes and ravaged Gaul, penetrating into Hispania before being driven out. This resulted in the construction of massive urban defences at all the towns of the western Roman provinces. Lucus received its walls between 263 and 276 (perhaps less against barbarian invaders from across the Rhine than against the local tribesmen, who had never fully accepted the Roman occupation of their lands). As in most colonial towns, the area enclosed by the walls was less than that of the urban settlement: a considerable part of the town in the south-east remained outside. Despite the strength of its fortifications, Lugo was unable to resist the Suevi when they swept into the peninsula in the early 5th century and destroyed the town by fire. They were to be dislodged in their turn by the Visigoths, who captured the town in 457 and settled it once again. The irresistible Moorish invasion of Spain saw Lugo overwhelmed and sacked in 714, but it was recaptured for Christendom by Alfonso I of Asturias in 755 and restored by Bishop Odarius. The town was to be ravaged once again in 968 by the Normans, on their way to the Mediterranean, and it was not restored until the following century.

The structure of the Roman walls of Lugo consists of internal and external stone facings with a core filling of earth, stones and pieces of worked Roman stone from demolished buildings. There are ten gates: five ancient and five recent. Five stairways and a ramp give access to the parapet walk. A number of double staircases giving access from the parapet walk to the towers have been found within the thickness of the walls, and it is assumed that each of the towers was provided with similar stairways. Of the original interval towers, 46 have survived intact, and there are a further 39 that are wholly or partly dismantled. They are spaced at irregular intervals round the walls; they were two-storeyed and most of them are roughly semi-circular in plan, the gap in the wall in which they were constructed varying in width from 5.35 m to 12.80 m.

Several take the form of slightly tapering truncated cones, and a few have rectangular plans. One of the towers, known as La Moschera, is surmounted by the remains of its superstructure containing two arched windows. There is a variety of materials to be observed in their construction, and in that of the walls themselves. The main stones used were dressed granite and, in particular, slate. There is some variety in the forms of laying the stones and in their size. In some cases the slate walls rise from foundation courses of granite; in other examples these basal courses are also in slate. Yet another common wall make-up consists of the courses in the lower half or two-thirds being of dressed granite with the remainder in slate, but with some granite blocks interspersed. The parapet is crenellated in places, but this is certainly post-Roman work. Considerable reconstruction work took place at what is now known as the Reducto de Santa Cristina in 1836- 37, to create a fort that accorded with the military architecture of the period.

The original gates have undergone a number of transformations since the 3rd century. The best preserved are the Falsa Gate and the Miñá Gate, which still has its original vaulted arch set between two towers, in characteristic Roman form; traces of the now disappeared guard chamber can be seen on the interior wall (also visible at the San Pedro Gate).

A walkway over the walls now allows visitors to stroll along the entire length. The town also has a visitor's centre dedicated to the walls, the Centro de Interpretación de la Muralla. Since the inscription of the walls on the World Heritage List in 2000, Lugo holds a popular festival called Arde Lucus each year to celebrate its Roman past.



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