El Burgo de Osma: A Medieval Walled City in Spain

El Burgo de Osma: A Medieval Walled City in Spain

Vista_de_El_Burgo_de_Osma_desde_el_castillo_de_Osma_(cropped)
El Burgo de Osma. Photo courtesy Daniel Muñoz.

Central Spain is filled with castles and walled cities. Until the end of the Reconquista in 1492, the peninsula saw a series of wars between Muslims and Christians, or between Christian rulers who sometimes called on the Muslims for help. Central Spain is especially rich in medieval fortifications because for many years it was the frontier between the two cultures. One of the best preserved medieval cities in Soria is El Burgo de Osma.

The city wall and main gate, with the cathedral behind.
The city wall and main gate, with the cathedral behind. The city wall was constructed at the order of the local bishop in 1458. Much of it was destroyed in the 18th century and reconstructed in modern times, although there are two stretches of the wall that are original.

El Burgo de Osma dates back to Celtiberian times and was later a Roman settlement. It has been an episcopal city since the 597 AD when the Visigoths ruled the peninsula. They were defeated by the Arabs, who held the region until the early 12th century, when it was taken back as part of the Reconquista.

The city has kept much of its medieval feel. Even today its population numbers barely 5,000. It’s surrounded by a 15th century wall fronted by a deep moat. The most impressive building is La Catedral de Santa María de la Asunción, a large Gothic cathedral built in 1232 over a succession of earlier churches.

The cathedral has a large collection of Renaissance art and codices. It front a traditional arcaded plaza.
The cathedral has a large collection of Renaissance art and codices. In front is a traditional arcaded plaza.
Like many Spanish cathedrals, the one at El Burgo de Osma has been added to over the years. The cathedral's Baroque tower was built in 1739.
Like many Spanish cathedrals, the one at El Burgo de Osma has been added to over the years. The cathedral’s Baroque tower was built in 1739.
Sculptures at the main entrance to the cathedral.
Sculptures at the main entrance to the cathedral.

The surrounding countryside is filled with historic remains. A stroll from the city’s main gate will take you to the river Ucero and the remains of a Roman bridge. Further on, atop a steep, rocky hill that dominates the city, stand the ruins of the Castle of Osma. Most of it dates to the 15th century, but there was a fortification at this strategic point here as early as the 8th century when this was still a border between Muslim and Christian.

A short drive will take you to the verdant El Cañon del Rio Lobos, where there’s a Templar church and a cave with Bronze Age carvings. Also nearby is the formidable El Castillo de Gormaz, a Moorish castle that’s said to be the largest in Europe.

If you’re planning on visiting Spain and have the time and inclination to get out of the big cities, I’d highly recommend a road trip around Soria. Medieval remains are literally everywhere. And of course, the food and wine are great too!

The Castle of Osma overlooking the city.
The Castle of Osma overlooking the city. Photo courtesy M. Peinado.

All photos copyright Sean McLachlan unless otherwise noted.


Sean McLachlan is a freelance travel and history writer. He is the author of the historical fantasy novel A Fine Likeness, set in Civil War Missouri, and several other titles. His most recent novel, Trench Raiders, takes place in the opening weeks of World War One. His historical fantasy novella The Quintessence of Absence, was published by Black Gate. Find out more about him on his blog and Amazon author’s page.

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Joe H.

I need to go there. And read Guy Gavriel Kay’s Lions of Al-Rassan.

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