To say we took a lot of photos in Cartagena is an understatement. The doors of Cartagena in particular continuously stopped us in our tracks, begging us to photograph them. We’re not sure if it’s the sheer size, the interesting design of smaller, inset doors, the ornate door knockers or the endless variety of colors and details. Cartagena doors seem to reach back in time. (Click on any image to see a larger version.)
The colonial city of Cartagena de Indias, on Colombia’s northern coast, was officially founded in 1533, and the Colonial period lasted for almost 200 years after that. The whole walled city was named a UNESCO World Heritage site in the mid 1980s. The historic neighborhoods of the walled city contain some gorgeous examples of colonial architecture. There are also some repubican and Italian-style buildings. What we were drawn to the most though was Cartagena doors.
Some Cartagena doors have small windows protected by a set of metal bars to see who is knocking; others have panels that open near the top in order to let in the breeze. That would have been an essential feature for homes in this steamy city in the days before air conditioning. Inner patios or courtyards are another heat-releasing design feature of colonial Spanish architecture. You can catch a glimpse of some of these open spaces behind Cartagena doors. These courtyards contain seating, maybe a hammock, and often trellises of plants or flowers, like the ever-present purple or white bougainvillea. Flowers also adorn the beautiful balconies, another common Cartagena building feature.
Almost all of the doors tower at least ten feet or more. The smaller, inset “man doors” allow people to go in and out, and tend to be shorter than the average person today. The only time we saw the larger, outer door open was on a building under reconstruction.
The color combinations of Cartagena doors vary wildly. Some are plain white, with frames chosen to set off the paint of the house or business. Hanging vines and flowers are additional decoration and add even more color. If the door is left “wood” color, it’s usually a dark, rich stain. Wrought iron hinges, door knockers and ornamental accents make each door unique. Much of the metalwork looks original, and handmade. We spent a lot of time studying the door knockers as well. Those will be covered in another post!