Suckling pig in Segovia: Journey with the History Guru to England and Spain

Posted on Jan 30, 2012 in category


The fast train from Madrid did the trick again to Segovia. A short bus trip from the station followed by an even shorter walk saw us in front of the surviving section of the Roman aqueduct built circa A.D.50 (Emperor Claudius). Pliny the Elder, Encyclopedia 36.123, wrote:

“If anyone should carefully calculate the abundance of waters in Rome’s public fountains, baths, pools, open canals, homes, gardens, and suburban estates, or the miles of delivery channels, the tall arcades, the tunnels under mountains and bridges across valleys, he would admit that there is nothing on earth more worthy of our wonder.”

Segovia’s aqueduct is no exception, truly ‘a worthy wonder’! Originally, the 18 kilometres of aqueduct brought water from the Río Frío in the Sierra de Gaudarrama with an average gradient of 1%. The biggest feat of this aqueduct was at the end where it entered the fortified hill of the town - an 813 metres masonry section with 128 pillars was built with the highest section at 28.5 metres. Comparisons have been made with Rome’s ‘Aqua Claudia’ built between A.D.38-52.


Over 20,000 stone blocks were used in the construction of the arched pillars and it was used until quite recently.

Segovia along with its Roman aqueduct were added to UNESCO’s World Heritage list in 1985; however, in 2005 the aqueduct was classified as one of ‘100 Most Endangered Sites’ by the World Monuments Fund. It’s good to see that only pedestrian traffic is allowed around the aqueduct.

Charles V built Segovia Cathedral after the original Romanesque cathedral was destroyed by fire in A.D.1521. Construction began in 1525 but was not officially consecrated until 43 years later. Some of the former cathedral’s treasures were rescued from the fire and were reused such as the cloister, baptismal font and the some of the choir. The Cathedral is dedicated to the ‘Ascension of Mary to Heaven’ and the patron saint of Segovia, Saint Frutos, an 8th century A.D. hermit monk who managed to persuade the invading Saracens to allow the existence of his small Christian sanctuary. A total of twenty chapels help to make a visit to Segovia’s Cathedral worthwhile.


Late Gothic as well as Renaissance features are evident in the Cathedral of Segovia


A 17th century grille designed by Antonio de Elorza stands guard over the central Choir


Seven chapels in the apse wrap themselves around the Cathedral’s Chancel (altar to the ‘Virgin of Peace’)

Segovia’s Alcazar (fortress or royal residence) is largely a 14 years restoration or reconstruction begun in 1882 as a consequence of an earlier devastating fire (1862). Evidence of Roman and Arab occupations on the site have been found with many additions made by Spanish monarchs starting with Alfonso VIII (A.D.1158-1214), brother-in-law to Richard the Lionheart of England. For an interesting account of Alfonso VIII or ‘the Noble’ see:

Queen Isabella of Spain was also fond of Segovia living in the fortress for many years and, already married to Ferdinand of Aragon since A.D.1769, was crowned Queen of Castile in A.D.1474. Another monarch, Philip II (A.D.1558-1598) married his fourth wife, Anna of Austria, in Segovia adding many new features to the Alcazar; however, he preferred to rebuild and live in Madrid.


Entrance to the Alcazar of Segovia with its unique masonry wall decoration

A climb up the Tower of John II (A.D.1405-1454) enabled me to enjoy a scene of Segovian stone buildings, walls, an unused 26 metres deep moat and scenic parkland.


Tower of John II with its twelve round turrets


Watchtower views over Segovia from the Tower of John II

King Carlos III founded a Royal Artillery School within the Alcazar in 1762. Today it houses the General Military Archives and a collection of armaments.

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A 15th century ‘perdrero’ cannon (stone shots only!) View of the well-stocked ‘Armoury’

For an informative account of smoothbore cannons see:

Segovia is also famous for its gastronomic delights such as suckling pig. After a tour of Segovia’s many other iconic buildings such as convents (storks were nesting on one of the roofs!), houses and churches we were very lucky to find a quality restaurant serving this delicacy on a Monday – Casa Vicente (highly recommended and very reasonable too).

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Convent of Santo Domingo de Guzman (right) in front of 13th century ‘Tower of Hercules’ (two storks’ nests on roof)


15th century ‘Casa de los Picos’ (now the School of Arts) with granite pyramids as decoration

For a good guidebook to Segovia copy and paste the following pdf file into your address bar:

Tomorrow the fast train beckons again; this time it’s Seville in Andulusia.

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