CARTAGENA | Walk through Cartagena’s historic old town, and it’s hard not to notice the large ornate door knockers, or aldaba as they’re known in Spanish, that grace many of the old wooden doors. They feature all sorts of unique and wonderful designs, and after a day of exploration I was curious to find out the story behind them.
Cartagena’s elaborate door knockers date back to colonial times. A popular saying in Spain at the time was “A tal casa tal aldaba”, or “To each house its door knocker”. It referred to the common practice of displaying one’s social status or profession on one’s front door by way of its knocker. Social hierarchy was important, and door knockers were a great way to show off one’s status.
The lizard represents royalty, or a connection to royalty, while a fish or sea creature meant the owner of the house was a sea merchant, or involved in some seafaring trade. A lion’s head represented members of the army, militia leaders, and the city’s guardians. The clergy, meanwhile, made their mark by installing door knockers in the shape of hands. The bigger and more elaborate the knocker, the higher one’s status.
Today the door knockers are merely decorative and functional, and building owners put up whatever they like the looks of. They still look fantastic though, and form a part of Cartagena’s rich history.