The walls are the image that is unmistakably associated with the town of Ávila and they were the main reason, together with the Romanesque churches, why the UNESCO included the town on its list of World Heritage Sites in 1985. This impressive defence construction has a perimeter of 2516 m, 87 turrets and 9 gates and the walls of Ávila are the best-conserved example of their kind in the world. Tourists should not leave the town without going up to the allure of the walls or walking around its perimeter. Visitors can today walk along 1700 m of the allure and there are four entrance points, one of which is suitable for the disabled.
The Middle Ages provided the stage for the construction of the city walls more or less as we know them today, with a perimeter of approximately 2.5 km and the actual walls, towers and main gates. They were built during the 12th century, but the mediaeval city had always been protected by walls. The population gradually found its place inside and outside the walls, forming suburbs around the parish churches that were built in the Romanesque style of architecture during periods of intense development. Other buildings were also interrelated with the walls, as is the case of the Alcazar. These buildings either found their place as an actual part of the walls, such as the upper end of the Cathedral, or were built on the inside face, as is the case of the Bishop's Palace. During the Middle Ages, the defence constructions were altered and repaired as a result not only of the wear and tear that affected buildings of such characteristics and size, but also of the progress that was made and new developments in warfare.
Although we do not have details of its construction or the names of those who took part in it, it was probably built by Christian and Mudejar workers. The Mudejar builders are thought to be responsible for the angled-brick friezes and the brickwork that finishes off much of the north and west sides of the walls, as well as the brick arches that provide access to the turrets in the same area.
The walls were maintained by the council and the municipal offices included a works supervisor for the walls. A document published by Serafín de Tapia describes how the maintenance work was shared out: the knights and noblemen were responsible for the watch, citizens kept vigil, the peasants repaired the allure, cleaned the moats and carried the material that was necessary while the Moors provided the labour and the Jews provided the iron; these minority groups were also obliged to keep vigil.
Visitors can see how the walls and turrets were constructed to suit the lie of the land. The south sides are lower owing to the natural gradient on which they are built, while the west and north are stronger and the east side is the most developed. This was necessary to strengthen the town's defences in the area where it was most accessible. Consequently, it was where the alcazar was built, the two gates were reinforced and became the strongest (those of El Alcazar and San Vicente) and a defence system comprising a moat and barbican was set up in front of the walls.
Visitors to the walls will discover the nine gates that provide access to the interior the Gates of El Alcázar, El Peso de la Harina, San Vicente, El Mariscal, El Carmen, El Adaja, La Malaventura, La Santa or Montenegro and El Rastro. Each one has its own function and design. The variety can also be seen in the battlements that finish off the walls and turrets, despite the fact that they all look the same.
The walls have reached modern times reasonably well-conserved, but a great deal of refurbishment work has been necessary. Most of such work has been carried out correctly and, regardless of limitations, it has been important for their current condition and appearance. Maintenance work has been carried out regularly since the walls were built, but it has been intensified in recent decades to turn the defence construction into a tourist attraction.
The walls can be accessed at three places: House of Las Carnicería (next to the apse of the Cathedral), Gate of El Alcazar and Gate of El Puente (this section is open to visitors). There is also a fourth exit at the Gate of El Carmen.
The walls have always formed part of local Ávila life and of visits to the town and a good number of cultural events take place around it. The most important include the following:
- Theatre on the walls (from the end of June to the beginning of September)
- The Ronda de las Leyendas (Legends on the Allure, first weekend of June)
- Mediaeval Days (first weekend of September)
- Poetry on the Allure
For more information, please visit the website on the walls at: