Throughout history, people have looked to their city’s walls for shelter in troubled times. Every city has a unique story to tell and over the centuries war and conflict will have touched the stones of most.
Whilst many of the walls that once encircled cities have long been demolished as urban growth and modernisation outstripped their need, according to UNESCO there are still more than 50 cities around the world with city walls that remain almost complete or wholly standing. These give a tangible link through history to their protected communities.
The Flexicover Team takes a closer look at some sights that have withstood the armies of Time!
The fabled Colossus, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, may no longer be standing but the 14th century walled city that would follow it certainly is. In 1309, Rhodes was occupied by the Knights Hospitaller (aka Order of Knights of St John) after the capture of Jerusalem in the Ninth Crusade. They rebuilt the city in a western medieval style and constructed the magnificent Palace of the Grand Master, a major tourist draw these days. The city’s 4km fortifications were long considered to be impenetrable and were successful in protecting the city for centuries, notably thwarting the attempts of the Egyptian fleet in 1444 and the first Ottoman invasion in 1480. However, Rhodes finally fell to the Ottoman Empire in 1522 with the Knights and their fellow Christians forced to retreat to Sicily and, later, Malta...
Xi’an (known as Chang'an in ancient times) is one of the oldest cities in China, dating back more than 3,000 years, and is one of the Four Great Ancient Capitals of China. It marks the eastern start of the major historical trading route known as the Silk Road. It’s also home to the Mausoleum of Qin Shi Huang, first emperor of China, and his famous Terracotta Army. The current walls around the city were rebuilt during the Ming Dynasty in the 14th century and are not only some of the best preserved in the world but, at 14km long, 12m high and ranging from 12-18m in thickness, they are also some of the biggest!
Located in south-west France, this strategic trading post and UNESCO World Heritage Site is considered to be one of the best preserved medieval cities in Europe. The city is divided into two parts, the ville basse ('lower city') on the low ground by the River Aude and the Cité. The charm of the well-preserved and lively ville basse notwithstanding, the 2,500 year old history of the Cité is the main draw for tourists. Its 3km long double walls are interspersed with 52 towers surrounding the citadel, including the Château Comtal, the 12th century castle which famously featured in the movie Robin Hood – Prince of Thieves. Whilst the outer wall was constructed in the 13th century during the reign of Louis IX, parts of the inner wall date back to Roman times!
Following their exile from Rhodes, the Knights Hospitaller spent seven years moving around Europe, until 1530, when Emperor Charles V gave the Order the islands of Malta and Gozo. The Maltese capital is another cultural and architectural legacy left by the Order, now known as the Knights of Malta. They once again incurred the wrath of the Ottoman Empire who staged a series of assaults in the 16th century, prompting the Knights to fortify the island. Construction on Valletta (named after Grand Master Jean Parisot de la Valette) started in 1566 and completed, with impressive bastions, forts and cathedral, in the astonishingly short time of 15 years! Valletta is surrounded on three sides by the Mediterranean and on all four sides by the vast bastion walls. Today, it’s one of the most concentrated historic areas in the world and its panoramic views make it a treasure to visit and explore.
Often ranked the second most-visited city in England after London, York is steeped in history. Founded by the Romans in 71AD as a strategic military fortification on the banks of the River Ouse, known as Eboracum, it became the capital of the Roman province of Britannia Inferior. Strong walls were constructed to enclose both the fort and the surrounding town, surviving until 866AD when the Danish Vikings invaded and made the city the capital of their new territory in northern England, calling it Jórvík. They buried much of the Roman wall under an earth bank topped with a palisade (with the exception of the Multangular Tower) and extended the walls southwards over the Rivers Ouse and Foss, then back down to where the two rivers meet. The majority of the wall you see today dates from the 12th to 14th centuries and stretches over 3km. An entire circuit takes around 2 hours to walk, but you may want to take your time and take in the grand history of this fantastic city.
Wherever your travels take you this year and whatever historical site takes your fancy, we at Flexicover are committed to providing you the highest level of protection to ensure that you are safe and secure, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year when away. Safe travels!