South America Living

The Door Knockers Of Cartagena

Style, Status And Historical Significance

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As you walk through the labyrinth of cobblestone streets that define Cartagena’s walled city, you will begin to focus on some of the architectural elements that are unique to this city. Specifically, the doors.
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Aside from the vibrant colors, you will note that all the doors are really not one, but two doors. Each door has a large door — often with vents on top to allow air in. But importantly, within each of these large doors is a smaller door through which people pass. This is to prevent a hot blast of the tropical air entering the building when the door opens, by minimizing the size of the entryway. For sizable deliveries, the larger door is opened.
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In addition to the unique door styles, many if not most of these are adorned by door knockers or aldabas. One more beautiful than the next. While today these door knockers are strictly ornamental, they had meaning in colonial days and were used to symbolize a family’s social status. And families were eager to show their wealth and status using this motif.
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The size of the door knocker, or aldaba was an immediate indication of one’s social status and a reminder of one’s place in Cartagenian society. In addition, each aldaba has a symbolic meaning.
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The shapes correspond with a person’s profession: for example, a lion signifies a teacher; a fish or mermaid denotes the merchant class and someone who derived their living from the sea, while the lizard represents royalty.
20150506_114039It’s fun to walk around the city and see just how many different shapes and sizes of aldabas there are.
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So keep your eyes open while you walk around the streets of the walled city. You never know what creatures you may see adorning the doors.

Buen Viaje!

[Colombia 2015]




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