Originally a Celtic settlement, Asturica later became a Roman military camp.
Parts of the defensive enclosure of quartered troops, including a line of moats,
have been excavated surrounding the hill on which Asturica Augusta was settled in 14 BC.
Its proximity to the gold mines of the area made it a very important holding.
|Roman Military Camp Asturica|
Plinius called Astorga Urbs magnifica (“magnificent city.”)
One of the first three bishoprics in Spain was founded here,
and the title of Bishop of Astorga is one of the oldest religious titles of Europe.
|Roman City Asturica|
After the wars against the Moors from 739 to 757,
Astorga was abandoned.
However, in the 11th century it became a major stop on the Camino Frances
for pilgrims on their way to Santiago de Compostela.
Construction of the cathedral
(which began in the 15th century and continued until it was finished in the late 18th century),
hospitals, and houses helped the city to again grow.
The arrival of the railroad caused further expansion outside the city walls.
|Green = fort Black = Asturica City Red = current city|
The walls surrounding Astorga are ancient.
A new set of walls was built around 1242.
Those underwent several repairs during the Middle Ages.
The walls have a perimeter of 2,100 meters, surrounding 27 hectares
with a trapezoid shape.
They sport 30 semicircular turrets, each with an average diameter of 7 meters.
These city walls form one of the best known images of Astorga.
|View from the walls of the city.|
Consider a walk in the park high inside the city walls.
From there, you have a fantastic view of the rooftops and surrounding lands.
|Thermal Bath Furnaces|
One of the most impressive public buildings of ancient Asturica
were the Roman Thermal Baths.
They were placed in the intersection of the two most important roads
and in direct connection with two of the main sewers, still in use today
Although you can’t see most of them, if you walk the perimeter of the city walls,
there are a few viewing windows where you can see current excavation going on.
Built in the middle of the 1st century,
the baths were abandoned sometime in the 5th century.
Ongoing archeological digs have identified a large frigidarium (cold plunge)
and several spaces heated by means of hypocaustum,
in addition to an apodyterium (changing room).
The public baths were used for both personal cleanliness
and to establish and nurture social relationships.
Rooms were combined with water at various temperatures, from cold to hot.
There was also a dry sauna (sudatorium) and a steam sauna (laconicum).
The saunas were heated by underground air chambers
fed by one of several furnaces under the rooms.
During excavation, several jewels were found in the drains,
suggesting these baths were used by the privileged classes.
|Ergastula and Museum|
|Here you can see Roman mosaic floors|
One of the best-preserved buildings of Roman Astorga is the Ergastula,
a large vaulted gallery, which is semi-subterranean.
Today the preserved portion is a spectacular gallery.
The walls and vault were made in Roman concrete (opus caementicium)
and planked in wood.
Construction may date back to 30 years after Christ.
After being used as part of houses or private business,
the gallery was eventually purchased by the city and
now serves as the base of the Roman Museum of the city.
There is a great deal of information in the Roman Museum.
If you have an hour or two to spare, be sure and visit!
There you will find paintings, inscriptions, bronzes, coins, jewels and pottery
found under the houses of the modern city,
providing us with an wonderful overview of Astorga’s history.
In the reception hall, you can see the mosaic of the bear and the birds,
dedicated to Orpheus.
The Romans paid close attention to health matters.
Sewers were built around their cities and ran under
the pavement of streets and roads,
enabling removal of sewage water into the rivers.
Initially shallow channels were built, but due to the city’s growth,
a second network with higher flow rates was necessary.
Around 80 AD, vaulted galleries were erected, sometimes up to 1.80 meters.
These were built of masonry walls, complemented with stone and mortar.
The floor was usually of slate.
In 1978 Astorga was declared a City of Archaeological Heritage,
and its excavations became protected.
Presently, more than 150 archaeological sites have been discovered,
greatly enriching the knowledge of ancient Asturica.
Oct 1 to June 30:
Tuesday to Saturday 10am -1:30 pm
4pm - 6 pm
Public Holidays and Sundays:
10 am - 1:30 pm
July 1 to Sept 30:
Tuesday to Saturday 10am-1:30
4:30pm - 7:00pm
Other things to see in Astorga:
Santa Maria Cathedral
The Cathedral was built on top of a Romanesque church.
It was not finished until the 18th century, when its two towers were completed.
Its structure is late Gothic with some Baroque and Plateresque elements,
such as the main entrance and two of its towers.
The main altarpiece is octagonal, a solution by its architect, Gaspar Becerra,
to adapt it to the shape of the apse.
The main entrance is in the flamboyant Gothic style and is exceptionally beautiful,
abundantly decorated with plants and cherubs.
The doors of the vestry are by Gil de Hontañón.
Of particular interest is the walnut-wood pulpit with bas-relief attributed
to the master Becerra.
There are sculptures of great value
such as an Inmaculada by Gregorio Fernández inside.
The Diocesan Museum is located in a room off the cloister.
Plaza de la Catedral s/n
24700 Astorga (León)
From Monday to Saturday
From 9:00 AM to 10:30 AM
Public holidays and Sundays
From 11:00 AM to 1:00 PM
Prices: Admission free
Services: Audio guides In-house publications Specialist shop Guided tour
|Gaudi Palace or Episocopal Palace|
The Gaudi Palace (Astorga Episcopal Palace)
Antonio Gaudi is the most important Modernist architect in Spain,
and one of the most famous in the world.
When the old Archbishop´s Palace was destroyed by fire in 1886,
the Bishop of the town commissioned Gaudi
the building of a new episcopal see.
The construction of the Palace begun in 1887
and was not completed until 1893.
The building comprises a cellar, ground floor, first floor and attic.
The outer walls are made of grey granite.
The whimsical inside is really worth seeing.
The palace now houses the very large Episcopal museum
filled with artwork.
The building has beautiful modern stained glass windows,
some with symmetrical designs.
There are three enormous metal angels in the gardens.
Unfortunately Gaudi never completed this work.
When the bishop who had commissioned him the palace died,
the architect gave up the project.
Nevertheless, those who continued the works
tried to follow the plans as dreamed up by Gaudi.
Open 20 Sept to 19 March: 11 am - 2 pm and 4 pm to 6 pm
Open 20 March to 19 September: 10 am to 2 pm and 4 pm to 8 pm
Closed Sundays and holidays
Admission: 2.5 Euros. Special prices for groups.
Tickets are available to both palace and Cathedral for 4 euros.
If you'd like to walk the Camino
but aren't quite ready to do it alone,
see my website:
but aren't quite ready to do it alone,
see my website:
for more information about
Guided Walks on the Camino Santiago
and on other Pilgrimage Trails of Europe