Fuenterrabia, Puerta Principal

The name of this gate implies that it was once the most important entrance to the city. Notice, though, that it is not much larger than is required to permit a wagonload of hay to pass into the city. The smaller the gate, the stronger, and the easier it is to defend.

Again we see the city's shield, this time with a text engraved beneath.

The street was laid out with four curves visible from this vantage point, all of them quite subtle. This may have been done purely for reasons of topography, to hold the gradient of the street and the amount of excavation to a minimum. However, given that few medieval streets are straight for any distance, I believe that another force is also at work in this and most other medieval streets. These gentle curves close off the view, thereby creating a comfortable sense of enclosure. In addition, the curves expose the facades of buildings to the approaching pedestrian, and the buildings so exposed are usually of more than ordinary importance. In this case, what appears to be the tower of an important church can just be seen in the background.

Notice also that the sidewalk is not carried through the gate. This serves to induce congestion at the gate itself, because the effective width of the street is thereby considerably reduced. In times when those entering or leaving the city would have been subject to at least casual inspection by those guarding the gate, this slowing down would have made it easier to keep tabs on who was coming and going. The collection of taxes on goods entering the city would have been easier by virtue of the enforced slow-down.

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Text ©2001-2002 J.Crawford