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Puerta de PalmasPuerta de Palmas


The Gate of Palm along with the Bridge of Palms form a remarkable integrated ensemble. Therefore, before studying the gate it will be relevant to look upon the construction process of the bridge in order to contextualize and understand the reasons why the gate was build.

The Guadiana river on its way through the city of Badajoz had numerous fords (known by the names of Mayordomo and Moro amongst others) that allowed to cross the river. On the other hand, we also know of the existence of boats in Telena, Talavera and Badajoz. The one that was used in Badajoz must have been a flat boat or raft that was moved by means of a lifeline or rope stretched from shore to shore.

The latest research leads us to state that it was Alfonso XI (1311-1350) who ordered the building of the bridge, although we do not know if the construction was ever begun. Be that as it may, the bridge would not reach completion, as in May,1504 only eight pillars had been built (five out of the water and three on the mainland) and the Mayor of Badajoz, Don Fernando de la Rocha, requested their Majesties the King and Queen of Spain to proceed with the rest of the works left undone so that the construction of the bridge could finally be  completed.        

The claims by the local authorities were met and the constuction work was resumed in 1511. Likewise, on July 23, 1511 the Council of Badajoz hired the services of Pedro de Larrea to take over the bridge works. The bridge must have been completed between 1521 and 1526.

Therefore, the Gate of Palms was built as a result of the construction of the bridge, since it required a new entrance aligned with its causeway and flush with it. However, it has not been possible so far to identify the designer of the gate, although everything would seem to indicate that being the work of the engineer and architect Gaspar Méndez.

The gate was designed as a triumphal archway with a rounded arch of large marble voussoirs. It was flanked by two cylindrical fortified towers provided with battlements and decorated with stone cords that were reminiscent of the Manueline-style aesthetic. The towers were furnished with a decoration that features ashlars (false ashlar masonry) and have been used throughout history for different purposes such as the place where the flour used to be gathered and weighed, as a prison, a local tax office, a tourist office, etc.

Outstanding on the outside is the vault of coffered ceilings and the inscription that finishes off the façade. From the text of the inscription, we can learn that the works were completed in 1551. Also worth mentioning are two medallions with two busts (male and female) whose identity has not been revealed (either Carlos I or Felipe II for the male figure and Juan la Loca or Isabel of Portugal for the female one). A magnificent coat of arms of the Emperor looms over the archway of the gate and at the stem of the archs of the coffer vault are two small shields that could correspond to the former shield of the city of Badajoz.



On the inner side of the façade, the most remarkable element is the vaulted niche in which the image of the Virgin of the Angels was placed. Notwithstanding, throughout the seventeenth century this side of the façade underwent a great number of refurbishments and repairs. Thus towards 1621, the granite masonry façade was built along with a stairway (now disappeared) to give access to it. Eventually, in 1681 an arch was built over the granite doorway of the façade featuring a small vaulted niche like a chapel.

The statue of Our Lady of the Angels remained in the chapel until August 1761, when it was taken to the Hospital de la Cruz (Hospital of the Cross). Once the image of the Virgin was removed, the chapel, which had been built in 1681, was bricked into the wall and remained bricked until the middle of the twentieth century.

In 1905, the military authority, which the fortifications were subject to, comissioned the City Council to open two side passageways next to the gate towers. However, to open the above mentioned passageways it was necessary to demolish part of the city wall, as well as the staircase and the guard post that were attached to the left and right of the gate respectively.

In1960, the renovation work carried out by architect Francisco Vaca, was quite aggressive, since it modified the interior façade in such a way that it was unrecognizable. On this occasion, the chapel built in 1681 was left uncovered to be built in its place  the iron balcony that it presents today.