Mi segundo viaje de un día.

My second day trip in as many days took me to Segovia.  It’s a short 30 minute train trip from Chamartin Station after the 30 minute commute from my hotel.

Segovia is a great city.  There are many things to see there.  However, I only had time to see three in depth.  But the really big attraction for me was The Aqueduct of Segovia.  If you remember how thrilled I was spending a day at Point Du Gare in Southern France eight years ago this aqueduct is beyond thrilling.  More about it and the other things I saw today in a bit.  First, of course a little history.

Segovia was founded by Celtiberian tribes, was occupied by the Romans in 80 BC and rose to become an important town of Roman Hispania. As Christian Spain recovered from the initial shock of the Muslim attack, Segovia became something of a frontline city until the invaders were definitively evicted in 1085. Later a favorite residence of Castilla’s roaming royalty, the city backed Isabel and saw her proclaimed queen in the Iglesia de San Miguel in 1474. After backing the wrong side in the Guerra de las Comunidades (War of the Communities) in 1520, Segovia slid into obscurity until the 1960s, when tourism helped regenerate the town. This rebirth gained added momentum in 1985 when the Old Town and the aqueduct were added to Unesco’s World Heritage list, bringing Segovia to the attention of the world and sparking a tourist boom.

The first place I visited was Alcázar.  Rapunzel towers, turrets topped with slate witches’ hats and a deep moat at its base make the Alcázar a prototype fairy-tale castle, so much so that its design inspired Walt Disney’s vision of Sleeping Beauty’s castle at Disney Land.

Fortified since Roman days, the site takes its name from the Arabic al-qasr (fortress). It was rebuilt and expanded in the 13th and 14th centuries, but castle burned down in 1862. What I saw today is a reconstruction of the original.  Still it was cool and there are a lot of examples of instruments of battles including some pretty scary suits of armor.  I climbed all 132 steps to the tower where there were some grand views.

Next the Cathedral of Segovia. Construction began in 1525 after its Romanesque predecessor had burned to the ground in the War of the Communities, Segovia’s cathedral is a final, powerful expression of Gothic architecture in Spain that took almost 200 years to complete. The austere three-nave interior is anchored by an imposing choir stall and enlivened by 20-odd chapels. One of these, the Capilla del Cristo del Consuelo , which leads into the Gothic cloister although you were not allowed to venture into the garden.  The attached Museo Catedralicio has a fine collection of religious art.  I liked this cathedral a whole lot more than the one I saw in Toledo yesterday.  For one thing the side chapels were all open and when you walked in each of them become illuminated.  Very nice.  The choir was open as well, however, the high alter had a very large and imposing gate to keep the 99% out. This cathedral has a rather large organ if the 3 organ chests are any indication.  i would love to hear it.

After some lunch it was time for the main event.  It was time for Big Lou to play at the aqueduct.  Here are a lot of facts and figures about the Aqueduct of Segovia, which I picked up from the tourist office.  It has brought water to the city for over 2,000 years.  I believe that it still does although according to the guide book modern water pipes have replaced whatever material was used to carry the water through the aqueduct.  The part of the aqueduct that runs through the city has 167 arches made of granite from Guadarrama and are made up of unmortared brick-like ashlars joined by means of an ingenuous force equilibrium.  

The Aqueduct of Segovia can be historically divided into three different section:

1. Outlying stretch, where the water was collected and channelling began.

2. Peri-urban stretch.  Channelling

3. Urban stretch.  Channelling and distribution.  3a. Areal and monumental Aqueduct.  3b. Subterranean channel

The water collection point which according to written records dating from the 15th century  consists of a weir in the Río Frío.  From here, the water traverses diverse natural landscapes, reaching Segovia by means of an incline.  Before being elevated above the arches, water passes through two settling tanks.  The intramural route starts in the Postigo del Consuelo (consolation wicket), developing a sophisticated distribution through small distribution basins branching off to supply fountains and the wells of private dwellings.  All of this last stretch was subterranean until reaching the current Alcázar, the end of the route, and was known as the ¨Mother of the Water¨.

The length is 10 miles, 415 feet from the river intake to the main entrance of the Alcázar of Segovia.  From the river intake, (the dam from 1929 included) to the first urban sand trap is 8 miles, 1,700 feet.  Stretch covered between the two sand traps is 2,604 feet.  From the San Gabriel sand trap to the Avendaño Square (monumental stretch is 2,545 feet. The subterranean channel (from Obispo Grandasegui street to the Alcázar gate is 4,002 feet.  The maximum height of the bridge is 92 feet, the total number of pillars is 120, the total number of arches in the bridge is 167, the width of the arches is 14 feet, 9 inches, the number of granite ashlars is 20,400, the approximate volume of granite is 7,500 cubic meters and the maximum volume of water flow is 8 gallons per minute.

Finally, taken directly from the pamphlet is, the legend of the aqueduct.  Sloth rather than Rome was the real mother of the Aqueduct.  A young lady who worked as a water carrier, fed  up with carrying her pitcher through the steep streets of the city, made a pact with the devil.  He would keep the women’s soul if, before the cock crowed the following dawn, he had found a means for water to reach her dwelling.  Conscious of her guilt, the young lady began praying incessantly to avoid the loss of her soul.  Meanwhile, a storm broke out and the devil started working frantically.  Suddenly, the cock crowed and the devil gave a terrifying shriek, for the sake of just one more stone he had yet to put in place, he lost the girl’s soul.  The girl confessed her deed to the people of Segovia, who, after sprinkling the arches with holy water to wipe out any traces of sulphur, happily accepted the new addition to the city.  It is said that the holes which can be seen even today are the devil´s hoof-prints   Well, I´ve seen the holes and there are a lot of them.  But I don´t know how they got there.

A great day in a really.  I had a great time especially at the aqueduct.  Tomorrow I leave Madrid and head north to the city of Bilbao.

1.Louis.skypala@verizon.net © Louis M. Skypala 2014