9 Cities with Medieval Plans Seen from Above

9 Cities with Medieval Plans Seen from Above

Moscow, Russia. Image created by @benjaminrgrant, source imagery: @maxartechnologiesGruissan, France. Image created by @overview, source imagery: @maxartechnologies.Cologne, Germany. Image created by @dailyoverview, source imagery: @maxartechnologiesPrague, Czech Republic. Image created by @dailyoverview, source imagery @maxartechnologies+ 10

In his book Breve Historia del Urbanismo (Brief History of Urbanism), Fernando Chueca Goitia states that the medieval city appeared at the beginning of the 11th century and flourished only between the 12th and 13th centuries. According to the author, this growth was closely linked to the development of commerce that allowed permanent occupations, resulting in a city no longer composed mainly of travelers. In other words, the bourgeoisie was formed thanks to the most diverse activities - craftsmen, tradesmen, blacksmiths, longshoremen - which stimulated the development of the medieval city.

The rise of the medieval city is not only related to the economy but also its geographical surroundings. Still, according to Goitia, ancient cities needed other defense mechanisms besides the construction of walls. For this reason, they often developed in places that were difficult to approach, such as "hills, islands, and nearby rivers, primarily looking for confluence or sinuosity, to use the streams as obstacles against enemies." Therefore, taking advantage of the natural environment for their own defense determined an irregular urban plan that has become a symbol of the picturesque medieval city with its narrow and winding streets.

Most of the time, the cities were planned in an almost intuitive radioconcentric form, in which the main streets depart from the center - from important urban amenities - following to the gates, and are intersected by concentric smaller and secondary roads.

However, Goitia states that besides the predominantly radioconcentric layout, it is also possible to observe a great variety of plans that differ from this conception of the typical medieval town, which includes linear schemes, cross-shaped cities, radio centric cities, fishbone-like plans, acropolis cities, among others.

Anyhow, regardless of the urban plan, medieval cities were relatively small, allowing for specific forms of sociability that favored gathering and interaction in public spaces, mainly because of commerce. In this sense, historian Lewis Mumford in his book The City in History states that the city in the Middle Ages can be regarded, in certain respects, as an original creation since it represented a balance between different social roles such as those of a priest, a warrior, an artisan, a merchant, etc., all of them coexisting in a defined spatial context.

So, one can say that much of this sense of community emerges precisely from such "walled living," which is why, when one speaks of a medieval city, it is very important to consider the physical and psychological significance of the wall. This environment encouraged interaction and conviviality, but at the same time, it also caused a claustrophobic sensation that often brought to light the lack of natural resources such as drinking water or even the sudden spread of diseases and pests. It is an antagonism caused by the security and isolation simultaneously provided by the spatial nature and urban status of the medieval city.

Almost ten centuries have passed since the first medieval urban formations, and some cities still bear the scars of this very specific period until today. Many of them have already incorporated the urban layout in such a way that it becomes very hard to perceive the overlapping of times, but if one looks closely enough, it is still possible to make out the different layers. For this reason, we have selected nine examples of cities that have lived through the Middle Ages and that still contain nuances of this urban planning.

Florence, Italy

Florence, Italy. Image created by @dailyoverview, source imagery: @maxartechnologies
Florence, Italy. Image created by @dailyoverview, source imagery: @maxartechnologies

Madrid, Spain

Barrio de La Latina, Madrid. Image created by @dailyoverview, source imagery @maxartechnologies
Barrio de La Latina, Madrid. Image created by @dailyoverview, source imagery @maxartechnologies

Prague, Czech Republic

Prague, Czech Republic. Image created by @dailyoverview, source imagery @maxartechnologies
Prague, Czech Republic. Image created by @dailyoverview, source imagery @maxartechnologies

Cádiz, Spain

Cádiz, Spain. Image created by @dailyoverview, source imagery: @maxartechnologies
Cádiz, Spain. Image created by @dailyoverview, source imagery: @maxartechnologies

Cologne, Germany

Cologne, Germany. Image created by @dailyoverview, source imagery: @maxartechnologies
Cologne, Germany. Image created by @dailyoverview, source imagery: @maxartechnologies

Thessaloniki, Greece

Thessaloniki, Greece. Image created by @dailyoverview, source imagery: @maxartechnologies
Thessaloniki, Greece. Image created by @dailyoverview, source imagery: @maxartechnologies

Moscow, Russia

Moscow, Russia. Image created by @benjaminrgrant, source imagery: @maxartechnologies
Moscow, Russia. Image created by @benjaminrgrant, source imagery: @maxartechnologies

Paris, France

Paris, France. Image created by @overview, source imagery @nasa / @planetlabs
Paris, France. Image created by @overview, source imagery @nasa / @planetlabs

Gruissan, France

Gruissan, France. Image created by @overview, source imagery: @maxartechnologies.
Gruissan, France. Image created by @overview, source imagery: @maxartechnologies.

Reference list

  • GOITIA, F.C. Breve história do urbanismo. Lisboa, Editorial Presença, 1992
  • MUMFORD, L. A cidade na história: suas origens, transformações e perspectivas. 2.ed. São Paulo, Livraria Martins Fontes Editora, 1982.

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About this author
Cite: Ghisleni, Camilla. "9 Cities with Medieval Plans Seen from Above" [Traçados medievais em 9 cidades vistas de cima] 30 Nov 2020. ArchDaily. (Trans. Duduch, Tarsila) Accessed . <https://www.archdaily.com/952084/9-cities-with-medieval-plans-seen-from-above> ISSN 0719-8884
Barrio de La Latina, Madrid. Image created by @dailyoverview, source imagery @maxartechnologies

古典城市规划,9个中世纪城市鸟瞰

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