The heart of Lugo, the ancient Lvcvs Avgvsti, is surrounded by a Roman wall with a perimeter of more than 2 kilometres. Those of you who are familiar with the medieval walls that can still be seen in many European cities today, will be amazed by the sheer size of this unique monument: indeed, this impressive urban fortress is the only one of its kind to conserve the entire perimeter on the three continents the Roman Empire extended over. It is precisely for this reason that on 2nd December, the Roman Wall of Lugo was officially listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, in accordance with the agreement adopted on 30th November. Following the so-called Cantabrian Wars and Gallaecia’s consequent annexation to the Roman Empire, the region was divided into three large conventus iuridicus or administrative subdivisions: the conventus bracarensis, asturicensis and lucensis. The territory we know today as Galicia occupies the entire conventus lucensis, part of the bracarensis and an even smaller section of the asturicensis.
Lucus Augusti was an important provincial city, standing in a strategic location at an essential communication junction. Indeed, as Pliny wrote, the mines of Gallaecia yielded ten thousand pounds of gold a year for Rome. And as it was the period of the Pax Romana, it was also an open city.
Between the end of the 3rd century and the start of the 4th, when the city had already celebrated its third centenary, work was carried out to move the layout slightly to the north, although much of the city remained on its original site. Yet these were times of political and military unrest, and new, more robust fortifications were erected around the city: an imposing stone wall with a circuit measuring 2,117 metres, crowned by 85 large semi-circular turrets, each with a large opening and measuring between ten and thirteen metres in diameter. Originally, they rose up two floors over the ramparts, whilst in all likelihood the flanking towers next to the gates were three storeys high. All or practically all the towers could be accessed from inside the city via open flights of steps situated halfway up the wall, and which were probably completed with wooden ladders. The sections of the wall between each tower measured between 8.80 and 16.40 metres and the average thickness of the wall is six metres. Originally, the ramparts, which are now between eight and twelve metres above ground level, would be at a similar height around the entire perimeter.
Such was the Roman Wall of Lugo, a city whose history dates back two thousand years. Seventeen centuries later, the city lost its military function and the towers gradually collapsed, except for the remains of one in La Mosqueira. New gates were opened and the population spread outside the walls… Yet the perimeter remains intact, and 71 turrets rising up to the ramparts can still be seen, lending this magnificent fortress its unmistakable appearance and character.
Three of the original gates have changed little over the centuries, and one of them, Porta Miñá, is practically as it was when it was first built. Several of the original flights of steps used by the garrisons can still be seen today. The ramparts, which are some four metres wide, provide a truly enjoyable walk that is a long-standing tradition among local residents and visitors alike. They can be accessed by a relatively modern flight of steps next to the inner section of the wall. During the day, it is a magnificent viewpoint affording spectacular views of the historic quarter; by night, thanks to the discrete floodlighting, it is a romantic wall filled with mystery and intrigue. Yet Lugo has much more to offer…