Madrid enters History by the hand of the Emir Muhammad I of Córdoba (850-866), when he orders the construction of a defensive bastion on the heights of a hill on the left bank of the river Manzanares.

This castle-fortress will form part of a defensive belt, stretching between the Massif Central and the city of Toledo, which had been capital of the ancient Visigothic kingdom.

The purpose of this network of watch-towers, look-outs and castles was to establish an impenetrable wall that would let the Moors know enough beforehand of possible advances of Christian troops, and which would serve also to block these attacks. The various garrisons would communicate with each other by smoke signals during day and by bonfires at night.

It is known that the fortress at Madrid was an important piece in the functions of this system. Castles and watch-towers were placed near the natural lines of penetration, from north to south, descending from Gredos and the Guadarrama mountains.

Many of these place-names have come down to our days, either for their ruins or by their topographic names, as La Alameda, Torrelodones, Valdetorres, Buitrago, El Berrueco, Mirabel, Torrelaguna, Venturada or El Vellón, and the list could be longer.

That bastion at Madrid was constructed as a leading fortress, with solid walls and other fortifications. The very word in Castilian, "almudena" which originated in Arabic and continued to be used, indicates clearly what type of fortress was made.

Furthermore, the fact that the castle-fort at Madrid should be located midway on the road between the Guadarrama mountains and the city of Toledo, told its character as a key-point, or linking-point, in a security system for the Arabs.

In this first "almudena" of the 9th century, there were regular inhabitants as well as soldiers living there. What seems to show this is the very great amount of space that, coming from the castle, was included within the walls, thus permitting a considerable interior area.

If the garrison was large, a populace that could support and supply food and necessary services, would be needed.

And so we find, not only the physical presence of a castle fortress, embryo of a future Madrid, but also we have the first townspeople of Madrid. These inhabitants, although they might be occupied in tasks that were not directly warlike, would be dependent upon the military chiefs of the garrison.

"Almudayna" means also "citadel" - a fortified urban center, - and the area of nine hectares (22.24 acres) within the walls, would offer sufficient ground for numerous little streets and houses.

It is risky to state that the Moslem military authorities would plan from the outset of their constructions, any special ground for the civilian population, but the spatial separation between the castle proper and the walls was enormous.

Within these boundaries three zones are distinguishable: on the north, the castle; in the center, a vacant space like a field for military exercises, called the Campo del Rey, and today called Plaza de la Armería, a name which may be found in important fortifications. And on the south, the "almudayna" or small city.

It is not by chance that the population should gravitate toward the south, for in that zone an exit was easier, facing the ravines of north and west.

Communication in this southern zone with the outer areas was easier, for from that flank two gateways could open.

The circumference-line of that first wall of the 9th century measured about two kilometers. Various gates were opened in it, whose approximate locations are known although none are preserved.

The walling started from the southern corner of the castle, continuing with the slope of the ravine, which drops to the Campo del Moro, coming up to the Cuesta de la Vega, where one of the gates opened.

It continued along a wall which today is the largest and best still in preservation; then skirted on the north along modern Viaducto but without crossing the ravine. At some point in this stretch there jutted out a "coracha" or small arm from the wall, which died away in the famous Torre Narigués, and had to be a guard against the drop of the terrain.

It continued on behind the present-day building of the Capitanía, stopped in the Calle Mayor facing the street named Factor, to open at another gate which the Christians called the Gate of Santa María, named for its proximity to the parish church of the same name, but which the Arabs knew as the Arco de la Almudena.

Arriving at this point, at the start of the road of Alcalá de Henares, the line of the wall now takes another turn, going to the north, through Calle Factor, to come out at the Plaza de Oriente and joins the castle. It is possible here that once there was a third gate, called de la Sagra, which had perhaps only military use.

The gate at the southwest, - de la Vega - and that in the southeast, - de la Almudena - were for the most part the gates of greatest use.

Both, in their central structuring, had a great horseshoe arch, flanked at either side by two massive towers. In one of these, the Gate de la Vega, some remains may still be seen, although it is very possible that underneath the modern paving of the street, may yet lie the lower portion of the whole construction.

This, at least, is a description of two gates of Madrid as left to us by López de Hoyos and Jerónimo de la Quintana, writers of the last years of the 16th century and beginnings of the 17th.

These two gentlemen could still have seen personally the Gate de la Vega, but the Gate de la Almudena, or Arco de Santa María, had, by their times, disappeared, although tradition preserved the place names. Those two erudite writers must have dealt with older written or oral records.

The Gate de la Vega, or de Al-vega, was located at the end of the present-day Calle Mayor, beyond the façade of the crypt of the new Cathedral de la Almudena, initiating, in the street-lore of Madrid, what is still called the Cuesta de la Vega.

Hispanic-Moslem warriors and
the remains of the old Moslem walls.

- A Hispanic Moslem warrior.
He wears a metal helmet, has a long lance and a wooden mace.
The wrist-band is a decoration.

- A Hispanic-Moslem military chief.
He is wearing a short lance with "amentum," or handle,
in order to throw with more force.

- Berber warrior.
His helmet is of leather with a pointed top.
He is armed with a light-weight javelin, long sword and
a leathern club weighted with stones.

- Remains of the old Moslem wall at the Cuesta de la Vega.
In the background, the apse of the Cathedral.

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