The walled Vila Vella

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The emblematic walled Vila Vella or Old Town of Tossa is the sole remaining fortified medieval town on the Catalan coast and was listed as an artistic-historic monument in 1931. Built in the early 13th century to protect the town from pirate attacks, the original enclosed area, with its battlements, has remained almost entirely intact.

The original perimeter walls and battlements have four large towers and three cylindrical towers with machicolations. The best-known towers are Joanàs Tower overlooking the bay; Clock Tower at the entrance to the parade ground, thus named because it was the only public clock in the town; and Codolar Tower (or Keep), located next to the former Governor’s House, overlooking Codolar beach.

A superb voussoired entrance gate gives access to the Vila Vella via the former parade ground.

The rectangular castle with a watchtower at the top of the Vila Vella was replaced by the present-day lighthouse.

The Vila Vella itself is a charming place with narrow cobbled streets. In the 15th century age of splendour, the town boasted eighty houses. Most of them used the perimeter walls as their back wall.

On an upper level of the Vila Vella there are the remains of the late-Gothic 15th-century church of Sant Vicenç.   It had a single nave and a 3-sided polygonal chevet with the sacristy; the west arm of the transept used to have a side chapel. Today, the only remaining covered parts are the apse and the sacristy. The pointed arch of the chevet is sustained by six ribs meeting at a keystone decorated with an image of St Vincent, patron saint of the parish.

If you look towards the West from any high position inside the Vila Vella, you will see a watch tower on top of a hill, known as the Moors’ Tower.  This sort of towers were constructed by King Philip II along the Spanish Mediterranean coast in the 16th century to protect the populace from incursions and raids by North African pirates. In order to cover a larger extension of land and be able to warn townspeople of imminent attack, these towers were linked with signals.  In Tossa, the Moors’s Tower was linked with the watch towers Agulla de Pola, located at the North-eastern side of the boundary, and the Vila Vella Castle tower, that used to be at the highest point of Tossa’s Cape, currently the Lighthouse.