Spain Guide

 

Segovia History

Originally founded by the Celts, Segovia was an important Roman settlement before its later domination by the Visigoths and Moors. After it fell to the Christians in the 11th century it became one of the most illustrious cities in the whole of the Iberian Peninsula.

The Romans left a spectacular legacy in the awe inspiring aqueduct which is the tallest in Spain and one of the best preserved in the world. The sheer scale of this magnificent feat of engineering suggests that the Segovia of 2,000 years ago must have had more or less the same number of inhabitants as it does today (around 50,000). The Romans came here in 80 BC and it's believed the Emperor Trajan, one of the Spanish rulers of the mighty Roman Empire, ordered the construction of the aqueduct towards the end of the first century AD. The Romans were the master plumbers of ancient times and no expense was spared in constructing this elaborate structure designed to bring water to the city from a mountain river 14 kilometres to the east. They created the aqueduct out of no less than 20,400 free standing stone blocks and not a drop of mortar was used to hold them together. The aqueduct has withstood hurricanes and earthquakes and continued to bring water to the city until 1950. Today it's all that's left of the town the Romans called "Segobriga".

The period of occupation by the Visigoths from the 6th century and later the Moors, who held sway in the region for 200 years, was not one of distinction for Segovia. A siege by the Moors in the 11th century led to the destruction of several of the aqueduct's arches it was another 400 years before they were repaired on the orders of Queen Isabella.

The Moors laid the foundations of the alcazar fortress but it was only after the city finally fell to the Christians in 1088 that Segovia's fortunes took flight. At that time it was little more than a few hamlets.

During the 12th and 13th centuries the great castle was built on the site of the older fortress and numerous splendid Romanesque buildings were constructed.

It was at the alcazar that Isabella of Castile met Ferdinand of Aragon at the beginning of a Royal partnership which united the great kingdoms of Spain and signalled the dawn of one of the most important periods in the country's history. Christopher Columbus visited Isabella at the alcazar to plead for her support for his voyages to the New World. The gold and silver which subsequently poured into Spain after the discoveries of Columbus led to the construction of the Royal Mint in Segovia by order of King Felipe II. Until that time all coins had been crudely hammer struck. In 1585 the first nearly flawless coins rolled off the machines brought from Germany in one of the biggest ever transfers of industrial technology ever seen. The Royal Mint in Segovia was the most technologically advanced in the whole of Spain until 1700 when modern screw presses were installed at the mints in Seville where the precious metals arrived from the Americas.

In 1520 a group of rebels known as the "comuneros" rose up against the nobility and declared Segovia a republic. The subsequent War of the Communities, which ended with Emperor Charles V quashing the rebels in 1521, caused widespread destruction in the city and led to a decline in its fortunes until the 18th century when King Felipe V built his castle at nearby La Granja.

After the Spanish Civil War (1936 39) a commercial and business zone began to develop beyond the city's ancient walls and tourism began to flourish as an important industry as Segovia established a reputation as one of the most beautiful and historic cities of Spain.

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