Cartagena’s Door Knockers

  • Parrots are seen in Cartagena's doors
  • A fish shaped aldaba in Cartagena Colombia
  • A mermaid seems to nap on one of Cartagena's door knockers
  • Cartagena's doors have not just kockers but purely aesthetic elements
  • A Cartagena door knocker with the face of a man
  • Face shaped door knockers are more rare in Cartagena
  • One of the newer door knockers in Cartagena Colombia
  • A hand is more than just a witty theme in Cartagena's aldabas. The meaning goes beyond that
  • A military inspired aldaba in Cartagena Colombia
  • A fish shaped door knocker in Cartagena
  • Door Knocker in Cartagena with a face
  • This door knocker has a less complicated lion design
  • Grotesque shaped like a lion
  • An antique fish shaped door knocker
  • A lion door knob that has flowers as decor
  • A man shaped door knocker in Cartagena
  • A masonic aldaba in CArtagena Colombia
  • Door knocker in Cartagena with double fish design
  • Caribbean door decor in Cartagena
  • An aldaba shaped like a golden lion
  • door knocker shaped like a mermaid
  • Lion adorned hardware on a door in Cartagena
  • A colorful large antique door with a reptilian motif as a door knocker
  • A colorful door in cartagena colombia
  • Antique door knocker
  • Iguanas are common themes in Cartagena's door knockers
  • A golden Lion Aldaba in cartagena Colombia
  • Military families used lions to denote their station
  • Not all knockers in Cartagena are ostentatious
  • Pineapples meant their owners liked to entertain
  • Military leader Simon Bolivar's house in Cartagena has a lion as its door knocker
  • Lions are a sign of military powers in Cartagena Colombia
  • An aldaba that looks like a jug or amphora
  • Lions meant a military family lived in the cartagena home
  • Door Knocker that has arabic influence in Cartagena's architecture
  • Marine themes on Cartagena's door knockers signify the merchant class
  • Royal families used lizards and iguanas in their aldaba designs
  • Door knocker shaped like a hand meant a religious family
  • What does an Iguana mean on a door in Cartagena
  • A gold lizard on an antique door in Cartagena
  • Lion Aldaba Cartagena
  • A lizard shaped aldaba in Cartagena Colombia
  • Amphibians and reptiles are common themes for Cartagena's door knockers
  • A lion aldaba in the Ciudad Amurallada
  • Aldaba in Cartagena Colombia
  • An owl door knocker in Cartagena Colombia
  • An indigenous Lion in Cartagena Colombia
  • An Iguana signifies Spanish royal blood
  • An asian style lion in Cartagena Colombia
  • An antique door knocker in Cartagena Colombia

Cartagena is freakin' lovely and has something for everyone...seriously. If you're into beaches, there are plenty (although the nicer ones are on islands to be reached by boat). If you're into food, Cartagena has tons - not just Colombian either. And if you're into history and architecture - Colombia has even more of that.

Cartagena's Door Knockers

Military leader Simon Bolivar's house in Cartagena has a lion as its door knocker

This is the door of the first home of Simon Bolivar in Cartagena. It is quite apropos that his aldaba is shaped like a Lion

This Caribbean jewel was founded in 1533, this means it is one of the oldest cities in the Americas. Much of its history remains; defensive walls, republican architecture, terracotta tiles, and a magical beauty that is not found elsewhere. The homes of Cartagena are decked out in pastels, and adorned with flowers and  beautiful door knockers (called aldabas).

Door Knocker that has arabic influence in Cartagena's architecture

Arabic influence is seen in Cartagena's door knockers. Such as in this non-figurative, highly decorative aldaba

Aldabas vary in size and shape and were shaped just as the Colonial architecture was. When Spaniards arrived in Cartagena, Spain was already a motley culture. The Spanish brought with them influences from France, Italy, Spain, and North Africa. This resulted in a Cartagenian architecture that is unified, yet distinct.

Lions meant a military family lived in the cartagena home

Lion door nkockers usually meant that this Cartagena family was involved with the armed forces

Cartagena's aldabas were directly tied to the inhabitants of the homes and served to communicate the family's status. The larger the aldaba, the wealthier you probably were. On top of this, the shape of the aldaba would give visitors a hint as to what the family wanted to be recognized for.  Here are the meanings of different shapes:

  • Lizards: Aldabas shaped like lizards harkened back to the family's Royal Spanish background.
  • Lion: No, you were not a Lannister, you were probably in the military (the cool looking lion with the dark brown wood is from Casa Drake - like Francis Drake the pirate).
  • Maritime Motifs: If you had a maritime motif (like a mermaid or seahorse), you were probably a merchant bringing in goods with the help of the sea.
  • Hands: The meaning of this one tends to be more elusive. Some say it represents the hand of the Virgen of Fatima - and that it meant that this was a particularly religious family.
An aldaba that looks like a jug or amphora

This door knocker looks like a water jug, maybe a wine merchant, maybe not.

When you go to Cartagena, grab a comfy pair of shoes (please don't wear sneakers and shorts - these make all tourists look bad), put on some sunscreen, and head out to the Ciudad Amurallada before 10 am. This way you can enjoy the city while everyone is still asleep. Walk the city and check out all of Cartagena's door knockers, then imagine what the aldabas mean and what the family history may have been.

UPDATE - Recently found out from someone who commented that this knocker is a Poporo, a jar used to store lime. It's made up of two sections. First the lid, which has a pin that is used to carry the lime while you chew on coca leaves, this was a sacred ritual for the people of the area. Now I've got a mission, to figure out the significance behind this one!



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Blanca Valbuena

I am the co-founder of FriendsEat and Socialdraft. I've got an unhealthy obsession with Burgundian Chardonnay, ASOIAF, and travel.

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12 COMMENTS ON THIS POST To “Cartagena’s Door Knockers”

  • Leu

    February 7, 2016 at 10:13 pm

    Great pieces … Are any two alike or are each different?

    • blancavalbuena

      February 8, 2016 at 3:22 am

      There are a few that are alike – something tells me that some of them are reproductions. The majority all have their own personality. I saw a few knockers for sale in some random stores. I’ve got a lot more pics – internet has been spotty today so I decided to publish without adding all the pics – but you should expect more coming soon 😀

  • Maria

    February 20, 2016 at 2:22 am

    Great post! I’ve been working in the historic center of Cartagena for a month now and everyday I am amazed by the beauty of the old houses and the mystery of their details! I learnt a lot thanks to you

    • blancavalbuena

      February 20, 2016 at 8:16 pm

      Thanks! I totally agree. Cartagena feels like you’re stepping back in time. Have you gone to Manga yet?

  • Rory Carrillo

    April 24, 2016 at 8:57 pm

    Great post! I noticed in both of your latest Colombia posts, you said Do not wear shorts and sneakers and look like a tourist! Lol I totally agree BUT What do u recommed wearing so that you are still comfortable and able to walk around all day but not look like a gringa?! PS this and the post about Museo el Castillo were super helpful, thanks!

    • blancavalbuena

      April 25, 2016 at 3:52 pm

      Hi Rory,

      I know, sounds crazy that in 90-100 degree weather I say no shorts…but it’s all about linen. You will see all the women in Cartagena wearing white linen dresses. You can get them as cheap as $10 USD and as expensive as $100. For the gentlemen, it’s linen pants and guayaberas. Guayaberas are traditional shirts (made of linen). They vary in degree of fanciness. Check out Malvi Castañeda, these are right in the middle when it comes to pricing, they are custom made and have amazing fit. Thank you so much for the kind words. For shoes, comfortable sandals or slip on shoes. Just not sneakers 😉 If you have any other questions or need other tips, just let me know 🙂

  • Bianca

    April 27, 2016 at 4:53 pm

    Just found this blog! I loved the door knockers in Cartagena!!

  • April

    June 21, 2016 at 5:47 pm

    That last one is a poporo.. Poporos were used to store lime for coca chewing… I wonder what this symbol meant as a door knob? 😉

    • Blanca Valbuena

      June 30, 2016 at 1:28 pm

      I didn’t know that. Thank you so much for this info April. I’ll have to ask around when I’m back in Colombia at the end of this year.

  • April

    June 21, 2016 at 5:55 pm

    Hubby and i went in 2012 and we absolutely loved the city… We stayed within the walls of la Ciudad Amurallada. There was so much life within those walls! The street eating was delicious and the architecture was a treat to the eyes. One of our favorite destination memories!

    • Blanca Valbuena

      June 30, 2016 at 1:26 pm

      I absolutely love the city. The Ciudad Amurallada has so much amazing architecture. It’s magical!

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