After the Privilege of the Union, the medieval city walls fell into disuse. Their obsolescence was confirmed by the conquest of Pamplona at the hands of the artillery of the Duke of Alba in 1512.
By the 16th century, Pamplona was an outpost of the Castilian crown bordering France, which meant that a first-rate defensive system needed to be built, with sloping walls able to withstand modern artillery, bastions, ravelins, counterguards, drawbridges and so on. The San Bartolomé Fort was built in the 18th century, to strengthen the defensive capabilities of the 16th century walls.It was designed by Jorge Próspero de Verboom, a disciple of the famous French engineer Vauban.
Next is the Labrit Bastion, the oldest bastion in the entire fortified area. Next to it are the Archbishop's Palace, the Labrit pediment and the Jito Alai.
Following the wall-walk north, we arrive at the El Redín Bastion, one of the most emblematic spots in the city and an unbeatable viewpoint over its typical Renaissance defensive system. The historicist inn now on the bastion was built in the 1960s and has since lent its name to the location, Caballo Blanco Corner. The Fort of San Cristóbal, the city’s most recent defensive construction and the scene of tragic events during the Spanish Civil War, watches from Mount Ezkaba.
As a fortified city, Pamplona only had six gates, all built between the 16th and 18th centuries. Local taxes on food, drink and fuel brought from outside the walls were levied in their gatehouses. Next to El Redín is the Gate of France, the only one of the six still occupying its original position. Consisting of three gateways, it still preserves its system of counterweights and bending structure.
Further on, going up the Rochapea Gate, which gives its name to the wall front, we find the Portal Nuevo, which despite having undergone numerous modifications, is one of the most spectacular entrances to Pamplona.
Once we arrive at the Taconera Gardens, located in the Taconera Bastion, we will be able to discover portals as triumphal arches, such as the portal of its namesake and the San Nicolás Gate, in addition to the Taconera Bastion. The two remaining doors of the walled enclosure are the Rochapea Gate and the Tejería Gate, which disappeared at the beginning of the 20th century.
Fortification of the city was not complete, however, until the Citadel, most probably the best exponent of military architecture from the Spanish Renaissance, was built. Ferdinand the Catholic demolished the mediaeval castle of Luis Hutín and built the Fortress of Santiago, but it was not until the reigns of Charles I and Philip II of Spain that Pamplona’s Renaissance defensive system began to take shape. The Pamplona Citadel, the ‘most main castle’, now the city’s green lung and a contemporary art centre, is the oldest pentagonal citadel in the world still standing. By order of King Philip II, it was designed in 1571 by the Italian Giacomo Palearo, the Fratin, and the Viceroy of Navarre Vespasiano Gonzaga y Colonna. Those unaware of the fact that two of its five bastions used to face the interior of the city will fail to understand its true function; as the engineer Antonelli informed Philip II, ‘it should serve to defend from external danger, and from internal danger, too.’
It is possible to access the interior of the square from the main door of Avenida del Ejército or from Socorro Gate for free.
Hemingway and the walls of Pamplona
Ernest Hemingway wrote about the walls of Pamplona in his very famous book 'The Sun Also Rises/Fiesta'.
Extract about the Citadel:
'We walked out across the wet grass and onto the stone wall of the fortifications'.
'Across the plain, it was dark, and we could see the mountains'.
'There were the lights of a car on the road climbing the mountain. Up on the top of the mountain we saw the lights of the fort'.
'Together we walked down the gravel path in the park in the dark, under the trees and then out from under the trees and past the gate into the street that led into town'.
Extract about 'Corralillos del gas pens':
'All along the old walls and ramparts people were standing. The three lines of fortifications made three black lines of people. Above the walls there were heads in the windows of the houses'.