FX Excursions

FX Excursions offers the chance for once-in-a-lifetime experiences in destinations around the world.

Explore the Ancient History of Ibiza’s Fortified Old City

by Ron Bernthal

Nov 1, 2016
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Ibiza’s fortified hilltop Old City, called Dalt Vila (higher town) in Catalan, was named a World Heritage site by UNESCO in 1999 for its classic Renaissance military architecture of medieval walls, towers and other types of stone fortifications.

The Romans conquered the Balearic Islands in 123 B.C., calling the island Ebusus; however, it was not made part of the Roman Empire, retaining its independence as a confederation town. Visitors can still see evidence of the Roman occupation by the gates at the entrance to Dalt Vila, where there are two copies of the original Roman statues; and in the town of Santa Eulalia, where an old Roman bridge, now restored, crosses a dried-up river at the entrance to the town.

In succeeding centuries Ibiza was invaded and conquered by Vandals, Barbarians and the Byzantines (the underground Chapel at Santa Inés dates from this era). The Arabs came in the ninth century and stayed for almost 500 years, leaving behind the present island Ibicenco dialect as well as additional wall fortifications, the remains of which can still be seen today.

In 1235, Ibiza fell to the Catalans, who tore down the Arab mosque and built the present-day cathedral on its foundations. They renamed the villages on Ibiza after Christian saints, and constructed many churches, the oldest in Santa Eulalia, San Antonio, San Miguel and Sant Jordi.

In the 16th century, the walls that surround today’s Dalt Vila were reconstructed to protect the residents from marauding Berber pirates, and seven strong bastions were built which also provided fortification. Today, two of the bastions — Baluard de Sant Jaume and Baluard Sant Pere — display signage detailing their construction and history, along with the strategies deployed by local defenders over the generations to repel enemy attacks.

With its cobbled streets, high stone walls, drawbridges, huge wooden fort doors, numerous churches and historical museums, Ibiza’s entire Dalt Vila remains the island’s major attraction. In addition to the historical sites, explore the many eclectic restaurants and bars, outdoor cafés and stylish shops.

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