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PUERTA DE PALMAS

Puerta de PalmasPuerta de Palmas

            Puerta de Palmas and Palmas bridge are an inseparable ensemble. For this reason, before studying Puerta de Palmas, we will stop at how the bridge was built in order to set a context and understand the reasons that lead to the opening of this door.

 

           As the course of the Guadiana ran through Badajoz, it had numerous fords that let people flank the river (Mayordomo, Moro, etc.), although there is also evidence of the existence of rowboats in Telena, Talavera, and Badajoz. The one used in Badajoz must have been a flat rowboat or raft that would move thanks to a cable or rope set up on both sides of the river.

 

            The latest investigations let us affirm that it was Alfonso XI (1311-1350) who ordered the construction of the bridge, although we don´t know if the construction work ever commenced. In any case, the bridge wasn´t finished, since in May 1504 only eight pillars had been built (five outside the water and three in solid ground). Badajoz´s mayor, Mister Fernando de la Rocha, asked the Catholic Kings for the bridge to be completed. Badajoz´s claims were heard and the construction work recommenced in 1511. On 23 July 1511 Badajoz´s council hired Pedro de Larrea to be in charge of the construction of the bridge. It´s believed that the bridge was completed between 1521 and 1526.

 

            Puerta de Palmas was opened as a result of the construction of the bridge since this one needed a new entrance that was both, aligned with its paved road and levelled off with it.

 

            It hasn´t been possible to identify the author of the “puerta” but it seems to have been built by engineer and architect Gaspar Méndez.

 

            The “puerta” is like an arch of triumph with a large semicircular arch with big marble voussoirs flanked by two cylindrical turrets crenellated and decorated with stone cord that refers us to “manuelina” aesthetics. The turrets are covered with decoration that emulates ashlars (fake ashlars) and they have had different usages throughout history (weighing flour, prison, octroi, tourist office, etc).

 

            On the exterior façade the highlights are the dome of panels and the inscription at the top. From the inscription we can deduce that its construction ended in 1551. It is worth to mention the two medallions with busts (a masculine one and a feminine one) which identities have not been clarified (Carlos I, Felipe II for the masculine bust and the famous, Juana la Loca e Isabel de Portugal for the feminine one). Over the arch of the “puerta” we can see a magnificent Emperor´s emblem and at the start of the dome we can find two small emblems that may correspond to Badajoz´s primitive emblem.

 

 

On the internal façade the most outstanding element is the niche, where the image of Los Ángeles Virgin was placed, although a big number of renovations took place on the internal facade during the XVII century. It was around 1621 when the granite façade was built as well as the stairway that used to give access to it (which now now longer exists). In 1681 an arch was built overt the granite façade.

 

            The image of Our Lady of Angels remained in the chapel until 1761, when it was moved to de la Cruz Hospital. After moving the image the chapel was bricked up and it remained like this until the mid-twentieth century.

 

            In 1905, the military authority, responsible for the forts, authorised the council to open  two lateral walkways next to the turrets of the door. Nevertheless, in order to open these walkways, it was necessary to demolish part of the wall, the stairs and the guard post that were adjoined to the left and to the right of the door respectively.

           

            The intervention in 1960 by the architect Francisco Vaca, was very aggressive since it modified the internal façade to the point of making it unrecognisable. In this occasion the chapel built in 1681 was completely opened and an iron balcony was built in its place. To this date, this balcony remains  in the internal façade.