Construction of the Spanish walled city began under the orders of the Spanish imperial government in the late 16th century to protect the city from foreign invasions, replacing the old prehispanic settlement of Maynila along the shores of the Manila Bay, by the entrance to the Pasig River. . . . The outline of the defensive wall of Intramuros is irregular in shape, following the contours of Manila Bay and the curvature of the Pasig River. The Muralla walls covered an area of 64 hectares (160 acres) of land, surrounded by 8 feet (2.4 m) thick stones and high walls that rise to 22 feet (6.7 m). The walls stretched to an estimated 3-5 kilometers in length. An inner moat (foso) surrounds the perimeter of the wall and an outer moat (contrafoso) surrounds the walls that face the city. . . . Before the American Era, entrance to the city was through eight gates or Puertas namely (clockwise, from Fort Santiago) Puerta Almacenes, Puerta de la Aduana, Puerta de Santo Domingo, Puerta Isabel II, Puerta del Parian, Puerta Real, Puerta Sta. Lucia, and Puerta del Postigo.
The Spanish began building Intramuros in 1521 on 0.67 square kilometres of land strategically chosen between Manila Bay and the Pasig River. It was designed as a tight grid to keep its streets functional but contained. Its purpose? To be the Spaniard’s political and military base in Asia. Grand administrative establishments, as well as religious and educational institutions, thrived within Intramuros, where only the nation’s most powerful clans (mostly from Spanish descent) could settle. Horse-drawn carts (kalesa) rattled through the city’s numerous gates to bring residents to various establishments: Plaza Mayor (the main city square now called Plaza de Roma), the City Hall (Ayuntamiento), Plaza Santo Tomas (where the original University of Sto. Tomas was built), a printing press, churches and Spanish-style colonial homes where residents entertained. Due to constant attacks from foreign invaders, coupled with natural and man-made disasters, defensive features surrounded the city, including two moats, cannons and fortified walls, from bulwarks to ravelins. Hence, the name ‘Intramuros’: a city within the walls.
The Culture Trip
The last gate to be built in Intramuros was opened in 1861 as a solution to the heavy pedestrian traffic outside Parian Gate to the Puente de España (Bridge of Spain) and Binondo. In front of it is the Queen Isabel II statue honoring the then-reigning Spanish monarch. The gate became part of the route of the tranvía (streetcar) system in 19th century Manila. It was damaged during the Battle of Manila in 1945 and was restored in 1966.