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Best Sights of Segovia
In 1985 Segovia was declared a World Heritage City by the UNESCO for its unique beauty and rich monumental heritage. These are some of the best sights to see in the city.
1. The Segovia Aqueduct
This aqueduct is one of the Roman Empire's most astounding engineering feats and one of the best preserved in Spain. It is the most important Roman artefact in Spain and it is the symbol of the City of Segovia. It was built at the end of the 1st century, probably during the reign of Nerva, and has been used until the middle of the 19th century. There are 166 stone arches on granite ashlars and they have been set without cement or mortar. The blocks of ashlar were dressed so that they did not need mortar. The aqueduct is the highest and most imposing at the Azoguejo Square.
The aqueduct got water from the Fuenfria Spring that is located in the mountains that are 17 km away. At its tallest, the aqueduct is 28.9 m tall and 728 meters in length. The structure has both single and double arches that are supported by pillars. When the water reached the city, it first went to the Almenara Tower, which allowed only 20 liters of water to pass per second. The water then went to a second tower that contained a large cistern. The water was decanted here to remove suspended sand and floating matter.
In 1072 the Moorish king of Toledo (Al-Mamun) caused some damage to the aqueduct. During the reign of the Catholic Kings, the Hieronymite monk from El Parral, Juan de Escobedo, repaired this damage.
The aqueduct is also known as the “Puente de Diablo” or Devil’s Bridge. There is a legend that the devil built the bridge in one night to win a young woman's soul. However he failed because he did not have the final stone when dawn came. The legend also says that the holes on the stones are the marks of the devil's fingers.
2. The Alcazar
The Segovia Castle was first built during Roman times at the confluence of the Eresma and Clamores Rivers. The first documented record is from the 12th century, when the Moors were there. Alfonso VI of Castile captured Segovia from the Moors around 1122. The Alcazar was rebuilt several times because it was the favorite castle of the kings of Castilla and it was considered impregnable. It looks like the bow of a ship today. In the 13th century it took a Gothic look. The fortress was always important in the control of Castile. This was the place where Isabella was proclaimed queen and where she later married Ferdinand. King John II built the New Tower and was the king who made the most modifications to the castle. Later King Felipe II made more modifications to the castle and added the sharp slate spires that were in style in Central Europe. Later the castle served as a prison and later as a military college. In 1862 a big fire destroyed the roofs of the building, but reconstruction started immediately and this continued through the 1940s. The Alcazar Trust was created in 1953 and this trust is in charge of the museum toay.
The important rooms are the Hall of Ajimeces, the Throne Hall and the Hall of Kings, which has a frieze that shows 52 images of the Spanish Kings and Queens of Asturias, Leon and Castile. The castle has works of art and also a display of knights' armor. There are 156 steep steps to go up a spiral staircase to the upper part of the Juan II Tower, and one can get a good view of the city from there. There is a Sala de las Piñas, which is decorated with wood paneling that contains 92 golden pineapples. The chapel has two beautiful altarpieces. One was made in the 16th century and made by Viana de Cega. The other is dedicated to the apostle St. James and has the painting Adoration of the Kings that was made by the artist Bartolome Carducho in 1600.
3. The Segovia Cathedral
The Cathedral of Santa Maria was started in 1525 and construction was finished in 1768. It occupies the highest point of the city. This is the last Gothic church built in Spain. The style is late Gothic and it replaced the old Romanesque Cathedral after it was destroyed in a fire during the uprising of the Comuneros in 1520.
The ground plan has three naves and chapels in the periphery. The architect was Juan Gil de Hontañon. The main facade has an entrance that was designed by Juan Guas. There are two other doors called the San Geroteo and San Frutos Doors. The dimensions of the church are 105 m long, 50 m wide and 33 m high at the main nave. The tower is 88 m high. The Cathedral has plenty of light and beautiful stained glass windows, many made in the 17th century.
The main altarpiece is made of marble, jasper and bronze, and is in the Neo-classic style. This was designed by Sabatini and it has a 12th century statue of the Virgen de la Paz in the center. The screens in the choir and main chapel are masterpieces of Baroque grill work. There are many chapels and one ends up in the cloister that overlooks the beautiful garden. The treasure room, or cathedral museum, is very impressive. There is a salon where the bishop meets with the priests. This is also a very impressive room, in the Renaissance style, with an impressive white and gold ceiling. On the ceiling beams were huge faces of men, with wings of angels. Usually angels are portrayed as children, but not here. There are fine paintings and beautiful Flemish tapestries also. Some of the artists featured are Van Eyck, Berruguete, and Morales.
There is a library collection that was donated to the Cathedral by the Bishop Arias Davila. There are two very important books in this collection. One is the Cancionero de la Catedral, which is an anthology of songs from Castile and other European countries from the end of the 15th century. The other book is the Sinodal de Aguilafuente, which was printed in Segovia by Juan Parix in 1472 and was the first book printed in Spain.
4. Casa de los Picos House
This is the most famous palace in Segovia, located at Calle de Juan Bravo, 33. Its façade is covered by granite blocks carved into diamond-shapes. This gives an optical effect of light and shadow that is beautiful to see. This type of masonry was common in Italian palaces. There is a portal with a round arch. The house was first owned by Pedro Lopez de Ayala, the Count of Fuensalida, and he built it in the 15th century. The De la Hoz family later owned the house and their coat of arms is displayed above the main portal. The entrance and patio has tiles from Talavera. Today the building is occupied by the School of Applied Arts and Crafts.
5. Segovia City Walls
These were rebuilt in the 11th century of limestone, with granite blocks, blind arches, and towers. The two large towers have the San Andres Gate between them. There are also the San Cebrian Gate and the Santiago Gate, both having horseshoe arches. The ramparts can be visited, and they have very good views of the Jewish Quarter, the Jewish cemetery, and the medieval military architecture. Today the walls have a length of three kilometers.
6. San Millan Church
This church was built in the 12th century (the oldest in the city) in the Romanesque style and is located in the Plaza de San Millan, in the Moorish quarter. Alfonso, the King of Aragon ordered the church to be built. There are three naves and three apses, with a small apse in the north gallery. The Mudejar influence is seen in the horseshoe arches. The capitals on the columns are noteworthy, as well as a 14th century Gothic crucifixion and many carvings. There are also many paintings. In the baptistery are murals by Alonso de Herrera. There are two beautiful statues by the Segovian sculptor Aniceto Marinas. The stained glass windows are new and were done by Muñoz de Pablos. This church is considered one of the best examples of Spanish Romanesque religious architecture.
7. Santísima Trinidad Church
This church is Romanesque in style, built in the 12th century, and has a nave, a tower, and a semicircular apse with windows. The church is one of the best preserved Romanesque churches in the city. The church was built on top of an earlier church. There are impressive windows and high arches resting on twin columns in the walls. The Del Campo y Trinidad Family has a Gothic chapel, with paintings by Ambrosio Benson and J. Pontormo. Beside the entrance to this chapel is an altarpiece with six beautiful panels and painted by the Segovian artists Andres Lopez and Anton de la Vega. These were commissioned by the Del Campo family. The church has a wonderful painting of the Holy Face, that is held up by two angels. The artist for this work was Ambrosio Benson.
8. San Martin Church
This church is one of the most beautiful Romanesque churches in Segovia. There is a porticoed gallery that opens onto the Calle Juan de Juan Bravo. There is an impressive atrium which has round arches resting on columns with Roman capitals. The apses are in the Romanesque style. There is a church tower in Mudejar style in the center of the nave. The ground plan is in the shape of a Greek cross. The church features tombs of important people, such as the Herrera Family, and 15th century paintings of the Segovian school. The church has a wonderful sculpture of Saint Francis of Assisi by Pedro de Mena. The artist Gregorio Fernandez sculpted the Recumbent Christ. There is a triptych from Flanders that was brought to the church by Alonso Moreno in the 16th century. There is a marble panel with the image of San Martín on the outside of the apse.
There is also a triptych by the Flemish painter Adrian Isembrandt. When this church was built, it was in the richest and most important parish of the city.
9. Vera Cruz Church
This church is located just out of the city on the Carretera de Zamarramala. The Knights Templar founded the church in 1208, and when this Order was dissolved, it passed to the Knights of Malta. In the late 17th century the church was abandoned but it was salvaged in 1845 by the Provincial Monuments Commission. It was designated as a National Monument in 1919. In 1951 it was returned to the Knights of Malta and restored.
The church is Romanesque, but has an unusual ground plan using a 12-sided polygon. There is a tower to the south and there are 3 chapels with tympanums and 2 portals with archivolts on columns. It was inspired by the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem, where the Templar Order originated.
The north side has a large altarpiece of painted panels that dates to 1516. The chapel contained the piece of the True Cross that was donated to the church in 1224 by the Pope Honorius III. Vera Cruz means the True Cross.
10. El Parral Monastery
This monastery is located on the outskirts of the city in the Eresma Valley and is dedicated to Santa Maria del Parral. The founder was Henry IV of Spain and since 1914 it has been a National Monument. Juan Pacheco was the Marquis of Villena and charged with its protection and his coat of arms is displayed at one of the doorways. The main Gothic chapel has a stunning polychromed altarpiece. There is a tower that was built at in 1529 by Juan Campero and has a Plateresque style. There is a magnificent gilded polychromatic altarpiece that has carvings by Juan Rodriguez, Blas Hernandez, and Jeronimo Pellicer, and this was finished in 1528. There are tombs of the Marquises of Villena, Juan Pacheco and Maria de Portocarrero, on each side of the altarpiece. The tombs' sculptures show them at prayer. The sculptors of these statues were Juan Rodriguez and Luis Giraldo.
The Gothic entrance doorway to the sacristy is special. The windows have the statues of the twelve apostles, created by Sebastian de Almonacid, and date from 1494. There are four cloisters: the Porter's Lodge, the Guest's Quarters, the Infirmary and the Main Cloister. It is known that Henry IV protected the Moors, and the Moorish artisans, the Mudejars, worked on this monastery and that is why the Main Cloister is in the Gothic Mudejar style.
In 1835 the Hieronymite Order was disbanded, and this order had been occupying the monastery. The order was reestablished in 1927 and took over the monastery again. The church is really spectacular and the gardens are very pleasing.
11. Plaza Mayor
The Plaza Mayor is the center of Segovia and was built in the 17th century. On one side is the Town Hall, which was designed by Pedro de Bizuela in 1609. The facade of this building is quite simple, although the front is made of granite. There are two decorative towers on the facade. This building has a famous White Hall, which has a ceiling that has a fresco decorated by Antonio Garcia, showing the conquest of Madrid and the defeat of the Moors by Segovian captains Fernan Garcia and Dia Sanz. The Salon de Plenos has many 19th century paintings.
Another side of the Plaza Mayor has the Teatro Juan Bravo, built in 1918. This is the theater where the city has cultural events. There are music, dance, and plays very often in this theater. Juan Bravo was the leader of the rebels in the Castilian War of the Communities (Revolt of the Comuneros) that took place in 1520 and 1521 against Carlos V. The revolt was stopped and Juan Bravo was executed. There is a monument to him at the Plaza de San Martin.
The arcades of the Plaza Mayor started in 1884 by the architect Odriozola, but finished only in 1917. Today the Plaza Mayor is a favorite meeting place of the people of Segovia.
12. San Juan de los Caballeros Church
The San Juan de los Caballeros Church was built at the end of the 11th century and is one of the oldest churches in Segovia. It stands on the site of an early Christian church. The nobility of the city was buried here. In 1905 Daniel Zuloaga bought the church and restored it, making it his home. He made it his ceramics workshop also. Later it became a museum that was dedicated to his family and showed his collection of ceramics and his document archive. Today it belongs to the government. Cultural activities are held in the summer in the area between the wall and the church and this is called "Los Zuloagas".
13. San Esteban Church
San Esteban Church is famous for its tower, built in the Romanesque style, which is 53 meters high. It has five sections supported by a base of the same height as the nave of the church and is crowned with a spire. A fire in 1896 destroyed the spire, but this was rebuilt and finished in 1928. Since 1896 the tower has been a national monument. In the 1960s the old slate spire was replaced by one of tiles. The tower is a characteristic mast in the city's outline and calls attention.
The church has a 13th century Stations of the Cross in which Christ is shown stretching out his right hand.
14. San Justo Church
On the hill of El Cerrillo one can find the Church of San Justo. It is a 17th century Romanesque church with a graceful tower. The apse of the tower has valuable paintings. There is a small portal that goes to the tower and there is a sculpture of showing the discovery of the Holy Sepulcher by Saint Helena. The presbytery is decorated with frescoes, and one of the outstanding frescoes is the Pantocrator, who is surrounded by the 24 ancients of the Apocalypse. The entrance to the presbytery has frescoes of the Passion of Christ, with the Lamb in the center. Other frescoes show the lives of the saints. There is a 13th century statue called the Dying Christ and also called the Christ of the Gascones. The story is that this wooden sculpture was brought to Segovia by Gascon travelers on the back of a mare. The mare fell dead in front of the doors of the church and this meant that this was where the image should remain. This Christ is carried through the streets of Segovia during the Good Friday procession and is highly venerated. The church is considered as a Romanesque jewel.
15. San Antonio El Real Convent
Enrique IV was a prince and only 14 when he had a hunting palace built. He donated the palace in 1455 to the Franciscans, who built a monastery there and called it San Antonio El Real. In 1488 the Franciscans left the monastery to go to the Monastery of San Francisco and left this monastery to the order of St. Clare, who now occupy the buildings. The church has a simple Gothic portal, which has a diminished arch, an ogee arch, and a trefoil arch, under Mudejar eaves.
The Plateresque facade is decorated with the praying statues of the Catholic Kings, Isabel and Fernando.
There is a stunning Mudejar coffered ceiling over the main chapel and a one of a kind sculpted Flemish altarpiece from the 15h century that recounts the Passion of Christ in several scenes. This is considered to be the finest sculpture of the Flemish period to be found in the whole of Europe. There are many other works of art inside the church.
Part of the monastery is open to the public, including the cloisters, the throne room, the chapter house with its beautiful coffered ceilings, the refectory with frescos from the times of Enrique IV, and the Mudejar-Gothic cloister with its medieval garden. There are three triptychs with terracotta figures of the school of Utrecht and collections of documents, sculptures, paintings and furniture.
16. Plaza del Alcazar
In front of the Alcazar is the Plaza del Alcazar, also known as the Plaza de la Reina Victoria Eugenia. The original cathedral used to be here, but it was destroyed by the Comuneros during their revolt. There is a wonderful monument to Luis Daoiz and Pedro Velarde, who were the heroes of the May 2 uprising in Madrid against the French troops. They were artillery officials of the Cuartel de Monteleon. This monument was made by Aniceto Marinas in 1910. The monument has a height of 12.6 meters and there is a grill that encloses the monument.
17. La Granja de San Ildefonso
This royal palace was built by Felipe V, the first Bourbon king in Spain who came from France. Felipe V fell in love with the area where the palace was built and ordered the palace to be built as his retirement home. The palace was started in 1720 and finished in 1723. French architects who worked on the palace and gardens of Versailles were used. The style was late baroque.
On the second floor, there are rooms of the king and those of the queen. All of them have beautiful crystal chandeliers, and atop the chandeliers are modern spot lights that focus on the beautiful frescoes of the ceilings. There is a lot of light in every single room, so one can appreciate the beautiful floors, the furniture, and the art work.
Downstairs are the sculpture galleries, that run the length of the building. When Queen Cristina of Sweden (there was a movie of her made by Greta Garbo) passed away in Rome, her heir did not want to keep the sculpture collection that she amassed, so the representative of Felipe V bought the whole collection at a very good price. The sculpture was brought to La Granja, but in the past the original pieces were brought to the Prado in Madrid, and they made plaster copies of the statues for La Granja. The sculptures are impressive and very beautiful.
What makes La Granja impressive are the gardens, probably the most extensive of the royal palaces in Spain. The main garden comes down a small hill towards the palace, and it is full of fountains that have a lot of water that flow towards the palace by gravity. The palace overlooks the gardens and from inside the palace one has a good view of the gardens. There are many different gardens and beautiful paths to explore.
All in all, the palace of La Granja is one of the most beautiful palaces in Spain, because of the well maintained interiors and also because of the impressive gardens. The fountains are turned on only once a week and their website gives details on this.
18. Museo del Vidrio
Close to the Palace of La Granja is the Museo del Vidrio, or the glass making museum. In 1770 the Spanish government established the glass factory to produce beautiful glasses for the moneyed class. The object was to keep money in Spain, because before this a lot of glass was imported from France and other countries. The factory was closed in 1970 and now is a huge museum. There are technicians who illustrate glass blowing. More impressive is the modern glass exhibition on the second floor. Many international artists have produced beautiful glass masterpieces for this permanent exhibition.
Pedraza is a small medieval village that was named as a Historic-Artistic Site in 1951. It has one of the most beautiful main squares in Spain. The streets have cobble stones and the houses are restored medieval houses, some of them having very trendy stores. There is a town gate and also a castle, with a tower that is now a museum, where the painter Zuloaga had a studio. Other places of interest in the village are the Church of San Juan and the medieval prison. This village is a favorite place for Madrileños to pass the weekend.