Things to see and do - Segovia
The kingdom of Castile :
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The kingdom of Castile
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Segovia has its water delivered by a famous aqueduct which was built at the time of the Emperor Trajan. The Romans built it to bring water from the river Acebeda in the Fuenfria Sierra to the highest part of the town. It is 728m long and 28m high and is evidence of the genius of the Roman engineers. It is still in service today.
It was Philip V, grandson of Louis XIV, who wanted to make La Granja into a «little Versailles» at an altitude of 1,192m. In the Palace, a Tapestry Museum exhibits 16C Flemish hangings and a 15C Gothic tapestry. The gardens of 145 ha were inspired by Versailles. The water features enliven the Neptune basin while the fountain of the Famous throws a jet of water up to 40m. There is a glass Museum in the Royal factory.
At the entrance to the village, this fortress, like a monumental organ, is the oldest remaining example of Mudéjar military architecture in Spain. Built by Moorish craftsmen at the end of the 15C, it is made up of three walls with polygon corner towers, round towers on the sides and a sturdy keep. You can visit the keep and chapel, which has fine wooden sculptures from the Romanesque period. Along the courtyards, you can see the entre fortified system.
No other place could provide a more beautiful showcase for the National Museum of Polychrome Sculpture than the Saint Gregory College, a major building in the Isabelline style. The building, founded at the end of the 15C by Alonso de Burgos, confessor of Isabella the Catholic, is distinctive firstly because of its richly decorated doorway. Attributed to Gil de Siloé and Simon of Cologne, two masters of the art, the doorway has a very hierarchical composition, leading the eye first of all to the porch then to the heraldic motif which is on top of it. The statues on display, mainly in polychrome wood, bear witness to the vitality of Castilian sculpture, dominated by Valladolid in the 16C and 17C. One of its masters was Alonso Berruguete, who studied with Michelangelo. His Martyrdom of Saint Sebastian has a great deal of expression and his altarpiece for Saint Benedict's Church is wonderful (taken to pieces, it is on show in different rooms). Juan de Juni, also from the 16C and just as highly regarded, created more dramatic works, like the Entombment. A century later, Gregorio Fernández, creator of a very fine recumbent Christ, is easily distinguished by his emotive and tortured faces. The museum of course has a number of other works and artists on show, such as Pompeyo Leoni, Juan de Mena and Philip of Burgundy. Throughout the visit, the beauties of San Gregorio are revealed: its panelled ceilings, a chapel designed by Juan Guas and especially an impressive patio on two levels, the upper gallery of which is emphasised by a magnificent balustrade.
Saint Paul's Church is especially remarkable for its façade from the beginning of the Renaissance. It illustrates the transition from the Isabelline style to the plateresque style. The lower part of the main church, designed by Simon of Cologne, belongs to the former and the upper part to the latter. The lower part, with its rose window, can be distinguished by its perforations and its ogee arches, the upper part, divided into panels decorated with statues, has a clearer composition.
On a hillside by the town, made of bricks and flanked by an enormous keep, the castle stands proud. Jeanne la Folle stayed here often and the sinister Cesar Borgia was imprisoned here for two years.
Built from 1151-1174, the building has been changed many times. Note the craftwork here: gates on the coro, two 15C Mudéjar pulpits and stalls decorated with Biblical characters. In the episcopal museum, there is a collection of 15C Flemish tapestries and the garden has views of the Douro.
Heart of the city, Plaza Mayor is home to many typical cafés where locals and visitors mix to talk or wander. Built by Philip V from 1729 to 1755 to thank the city for its loyalty during the war of succession, it is one of the loveliest monumental squares in Spain. You can admire the galleries with arcades and pediments of the town hall and royal pavilion that carries the bust of Philip V.
The builders of the New Cathedral luckily respected the Old Cathedral that stands by its side. It seems like a good example of a romanesque cathedral, and the lantern tower, with two levels of windows, is one of the most beautiful of its kind. The Chapel of San Martin is decorated with 13C frescos. The grand retable in the central apse is made up of 53 compartments with surprisingly fresh colours and fine detail.
Ávila's high walls punctuated by 90 towers, eight gateways and various posterns, enclose a quadrilateral area of about 900m by 450m. An invaluable testimony to fortifications in the Middle Ages, they date from the 11C and have managed to keep an overall impression of great unity in spite of modifications in the 14C. The best place for a general view of them is a spot known as Cuatro Postes or Four Posts on the Salamanca road. You can also take the sentry path along the top.