Studied during several excavation campaigns in the 1990s, the Funerary Monuments of Puerta Gallegos are two of the most significant examples of monumental funerary architecture in Roman Córdoba, both for its size, 13 m. diameter, as for the architectonic type in which they can be classified. They are located on both sides of the Roman road connecting the city since Republican times, the so-called Corduba-Hispalis, on the right bank of the river Guadalquivir. This road forked in two; one of them was Camino Viejo de Almodóvar (Old Road to Almodóvar), which was one of the most important burial areas in the city.
It was in Augustus’s times when the first Funerary Monument was built, consisting of anustrinum (where the cremation of the corpse was made) and an area of funerary placement separated from the former by a low wall, thus forming a complex that has interesting similarities to those of other cities in Bética, such as Baelo Claudia. We should probably date in this time the paving of the road with puddingstone, now a clear extension of the main street in the city with an orientation east-west, the Decumanus Maximus. This must be understood taking into account the urban planning of the area, together with the building of a bridge and the embellishment of the gates of the city.
In times of Emperor Tiberio, this process of building monuments got to its peak with the construction of two cylindrical funerary monuments with identical size but different function. The northern one, which has a better conservation state, was erected respecting the previous burial, which suggests a familiar relationship between the users of both complexes. It also maintains its individual character, whereas the southern one seems to have been conceived as a collective burial probably for the remains of the relatives of that buried in the first building.
As for its type, we can highlight its direct Italian tradition, although there are exact parallels in the funerary architecture in Hispania. Their shape resemble other monuments located in Carmona, Alcalá de Guadaira, Mérida and maybe Les Gunyoles (Tarragona). The spreading of this kind of cylindrical monument can be explained through the importance of the mausoleum of Emperor Augustus himself. Thus, the existence of these magnificent buildings is just another proof of the fact that Roman Córdoba was a clear reflection of the capital itself, Rome, in the middle of a process of ideological and iconographic transmission, which was unique in the rest of Hispania.
This type of building seems to be related to the ordo equester, one of the most important sectors of Roman society. We must also remember the privileged location of the funerary monuments, very close to the road, thus being part of the “image of the city”, which emphasizes the special importance they had in the society of Roman Córdoba.
The constructive techniques show the continuous use of traditional techniques in the Patrician architecture, such as the use of the opus quadratum or the “mine stone”, but at the same time, new trends in Roman architecture were imported, such as the opus caementicium and the massive use of marble.
Although it may be difficult to understand, the funerary monuments did not last long, as at the end of the 2nd century AD, the funerary area was literally invaded by domestic and commercial buildings that belonged to one of the neighbourhoods that had appeared outside the walls of the city while the road mentioned was removed and elevated.
If you are wondering what to visit in Córdoba, a good option would be Roman Córdoba, choosing one of our guided tours. This way you will know everything about the Funerary Monuments of Puerta Gallegos. Choosing to do high quality sightseeing is choosing ArtenCórdoba.
Text: Fran Peña.
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