I was built over water, my walls are made of fire

Madrid has a historical motto that has been part of the city since the 12th century: ” I was built over water, my walls are made of fire “

This motto is always being remembering thanks to a mural painting created by Alberto Corazón in a building situated at the “Puerta cerrada” square. There, we can read the next sentence: I was built over water, my walls are made of fire.

I was built over water my walls are made of fire
Mural – Plaza de Puerta Cerrada

A small part of the citizens are aware of this painting, and the ones who know it always ask, what’s the meaning of this motto?

To know the meaning of “I was built over water”, we have to come back to the origins of the city of Madrid in the 9th century. Madrid was built in a zone where we can find thousands of underground small rivers, the ones who have watered our plants and life since forever.

These underground rivers were so important that the Muslims, the first ones in creating this city, called the place Mayrit which means “mother river”.

So, knowing already that thanks to that water “over the one I was built” the city of Madrid received the name, its logical that nowadays it will be part of the city motto. But we still have to discover the meaning of the second part “my walls are made of fire”.

To investigate more about this, we have to travel to the 9th century and to the defensive wall created by Mohamed I to protect the small village of Madrid from the Christian attacks. We can still find the ruins of this wall in front of the Almudena´s Cathedral, in the Cuesta de la Vega street. This wall was built with the common materials in this area. The most common Stone at that period was “silex”. A kind of Stone that has been used since the Prehistoric to create tools like knives, spearheads or arrowhead´s and also for… making fire! If you hit one silex Stone with other Stone or with a metal, you will make fire sparkles and so… fire! Don´t you see where we want to go?

During the different Christian attacks to the village of Mayrit when trying to reconquer it in the middle ages, those spears and arrows threw by them impacted in the defensive walls making the flashes of fire! These sparks made the walls of the village look like fire walls from far away!

And this is how the water that gave us our name and the walls that have historically protected us, give us a motto as beautiful as unknown to the city of Madrid: “ I was built over water my walls are made of fire”

But it is not the only secret we can find in this old square as its name also hids a story: Puerta Cerrada means “Closed Gate”. This place is called so because it was part of the Christian wall! A wall emplaced there from the 12th century to the 16th that in this precisely part of the defence had one of the gates that gave the access to the town of Madrid.

Puerta Cerrada I was built over water my walls are made of fire

This gate was situated close of the outskirts of the city, so it was very common to have disputes, fights and quarrels. Hence, the authority decided to keep this gate closed at nights. Therefore, if the door was almost always closed? What better name for it that “Closed Gate”, right? The nowadays name of the Square.

And this is how in this traditional square, the history of Madrid, its Muslim origins and its Christian development comes together. Two extreme opposites that have made us who we are nowadays.

We hope you liked this story about the Old Madrid. If you want to keep on Discovering more stories and secrets of the City come to find us from Monday to Saturday in our Free Tour Madrid ! We will be waiting for you open arms with a lot of new stories about the City!

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