Royal Palace of Madrid in Madrid
The Palacio Real de Madrid (The Royal Palace of Madrid) is the official residence of the King of Spain in the city of Madrid, but it is only used for state ceremonies. King Juan Carlos and the Royal Family do not reside in the palace, choosing instead the more modest Palacio de la Zarzuela on the outskirts of Madrid. The palace is owned by the Spanish State and administered by the Patrimonio Nacional, a public agency of the Ministry of the Presidency. The palace is located on Calle de Bailén (Bailén Street), in the Western part of downtown Madrid, East of the Manzanares River, and is accessible from the Ópera metro station. The palace is partially open to public, except when it is being used for official business.
In Spanish it is sometimes incorrectly called "Palacio de Oriente" by confusion with the "Plaza de Oriente", the square which is on the East (Oriental) side of the palace.
The palace is on the site of a 9th-century fortress, called mayrit, constructed as an outpost by Muhammad I of Córdoba and inherited after 1036 by the independent Moorish Taifa of Toledo. After Madrid fell to Alfonso VI of Castile in 1085, the edifice was only rarely used by the kings of Castile. In 1329, King Alfonso XI of Castile convoked the cortes of Madrid for the first time. Philip II moved his court to Madrid in 1561.
The old Alcázar ("Castle") was built on the location in the 16th century. It burned down on December 24, 1734; King Philip V ordered a new palace built on the same location. Construction spanned the years 1738 to 1755 and followed a Berniniesque design by Filippo Juvarra and Giovanni Battista Tiepolo in cooperation with Ventura Rodríguez, Francesco Sabatini, and Martín Sarmiento. The new palace was occupied by Charles III in 1764.
The last monarch who lived continuously in the palace was Alfonso XIII, although Manuel Azaña, president of the Second Republic, also inhabited on it, making him the last head of state to do so. During that period the palace was known as "Palacio Nacional". There is still a room next to the Real Capilla, which is known by the name "Office of Azaña".
The palace has 135000 m2 of floorspace and contains 2800 rooms. It is the largest palace in Europe. The interior of the palace is notable for its wealth of art, in regards to the use of all kinds of fine materials in its construction and the decoration of its rooms with artwork of all kinds, including paintings by artists such as Caravaggio, Velázquez and Francisco de Goya and frescoes by Corrado Giaquinto, Giovanni Battista Tiepolo and Anton Raphael Mengs. Other collections of great historical and artistic importance that are preserved in the building are the Royal Armoury, Porcelain, Watches, Furniture and Silverware. Currently, the Patrimonio Nacional, an autonomous body under the Ministry of the Presidency, manages the care of public property in the service of the Crown, including the Royal Palace.
History of the building
The direct antecedent of the Royal Palace is the Royal Alcazar, a fortress built on the same site where the baroque building stands today. Its structure was the subject of several reforms (especially the facade), because King Henry III of Castile made it one of the most popular residences, and thus, the site gets the adjective "real", or "royal" in English. His son John II built the Capilla Real and several dependencies. However, during the War of the Castilian Succession (1476) the troops of Joanna la Beltraneja were besieged in the Alcázar, causing severe damage to the royal building.
Under the Habsburg Spain, enthroned in 1516, the Emperor Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor undertook a major restoration of the Alcázar, to Renaissance features unambiguous in order to transform the outdated medieval residence into a palace suitable for his court. Philip II continued the work and showed special emphasis on the decoration of the building, which hired craftsmen from Italy, France and the Netherlands. However, the most important contributions of this monarch were the Golden Tower and the Royal Armory, demolished in 1894. The Habsburgs (Philip III, Philip IV and Charles II) continued the project of Philip II, particularly related to the trace of the building and the facades.
Philip V of Bourbon came to the throne of Spain in 1700. The alcázar of the Habsburgs, austere in comparison to the French palace where the new king had grown again, went through several reforms led by Teodoro Ardemans and René Carlier. On the other hand, the main rooms have been redecorated to the French taste by the Queen Maria Luisa of Savoy and the Princess of Ursins.
Do not know many details of the inner side of the enclosure; but yes know lots of documentation about its plant and exterior, like a drawing made in 1534 by Cornelius Vermeyen. It was a rectangular building, medieval appearance and is structured around various dependencies like the Capilla Real de los Trastámara, the Patio del Rey to the west and the Patio de la Reina to the east. Its patios (courtyards) were open to the public for many years and these were allowed the installation of markets. It also highlights the picture gallery of the alcázar, with works by Tintoretto, Veronese, Ribera, Bosch, Sánchez Coello, Van Dyck, El Greco, Annibale Carracci, Leonardo da Vinci, Guido Reni, Raphael, Jacopo Bassano and Correggio, many which were lost in the disaster of 1734.
The baroque palace
Christmas Eve of 1734 the alcázar was destroyed by a fire originating in the rooms of the French painter Jean Ranc. It failed to be detected in time, due the warning bells being confused with the call to mass. For fear of looting, the doors of the building remained closed, hampering the inevitable evacuation of the precinct. Many paintings were lost,such as the Expulsion of the Moors, by Diego Velázquez. Others, such as Las Meninas, were rescued by being thrown through the windows. However, shortly before the fire, the king ordered that much of his collection was moved to the Buen Retiro Palace. This fire wiped out the old Alcázar, whose last walls were finally demolished in 1738.
Filippo Juvarra was responsible for directing the work on the new palace. The Italian devised a monumental project of enormous proportions, which was not realized because of the inopportune death of the artist. Giambattista Sacchetti also known as Juan Bautista Sacchetti or Giovanni Battista Sacchetti, disciple of Juvarra, was chosen to continue the work of his mentor. A raised square structure centered by a large square patio and solving the different angles with outgoing bodies.
In 1760 Charles III called on Sicilian Francesco Sabatini, an architect of classicist taste that permeated the works of the palace, who was commissioned to enlarge the building. The original idea was to frame the Plaza de la Armería with a series of galleries and arcades which would accommodate the different dependencies and the construction of two wings over the same square, of which only one was completed; the extension of the southeast tower known as «ala de San Gil». Moreover, he also planned to extend the north side by a large building that echoed the same style of the building and included three square courtyards in size somewhat smaller than the large central courtyard. The works of this expansion started quickly but were soon interrupted, leaving its foundations buried under a platform from which the royal stables were later built, these were demolished in the 20th century and replaced by the Sabatini Gardens. Thus, the palace began to be inhabited in 1764.
Ferdinand VII, who spent many years imprisoned in the Château de Valençay, began the most thorough renovation of the palace in the 19th century. The aim of this reform was to turn the old-fashioned Italian style building in a modern French style palace. However, his grandson Alfonso XII was poised to turn the palace into a Victorian style residence. The works were designed by the architect José Segundo de Lema and consisted in the empowerment of several rooms, replacing marble floors for parquet and the addition of period furniture.
Exterior of the palace
The main facade of the Palace was built on a base pad, on which rises a series of big Tuscan pillars. It is also adorned with a series of statues of saints and kings, relocated under the reign of Charles III to give to the gates of the recint a classicist touch.
At the time, Italian Sachetti decided fourteen vases and placed at the corners statues of the Aztec tlatoani Moctezuma II and the Inca Atahualpa, works by Juan Pascual de Mena and Domingo Martínez, respectively. Near the Tuscan columns are representations of Honorius, Theodosius I, Hadrian and Trajan. A medallion with classical figures topped the set.
On the southern front were placed the statues of Philip V, Maria Luisa of Savoy and Elisabeth Farnese, and that of Ferdinand VI and his wife Barbara of Portugal. Also found flanking both sculptural series an allusion to Zodiac of the Greeks.
Is remarkable the intervention of Juan Domingo Olivieri and his workshop, who labored more than half of the sculptures that adorned the palace at the time of Ferdinand VI. It was also the author of many heads of mask and other allegorical figures of Greek mythology, that not occupied a place as visible as other works.
Plaza de la Armería
The square as we see it now was laid out in 1892, according to a project by the architect Enrique María Repullés. However, the history of this square dates back to 1553, the year in which Philip II ordered a building to house the royal stables. Renovated in 1670 by José del Olmo, the building survived until 1884, when it had to be demolished after a fire.
The Almudena Cathedral faces the palace across the square. Its exterior is neo-classical to match its surroundings while its interior is neo-gothic. Construction was funded by King Alfonso XII to house the remains of his wife Mercedes of Orléans. The works of construction of the temple began in 1878 and concluded in 1992.
Narciso Pascual Colomer, the same architect who crafted the Plaza de Oriente, designed the layout of the plaza in 1879, but failed to materialize. The site now occupied by the Plaza de la Armería was used for many decades as anteplaza de armas. Sachetti tried to build a cathedral to finish the cornice of the Manzanares, and Sabatini proposed to unite this building with the royal palace, to form a single block. Both projects were ignored by Charles III.
Ángel Fernández de los Ríos in 1868 proposed the creation of a large wooded area that would travel all around the Plaza de Oriente, in order to give a better view of the Royal Palace. A decade later Segundo de Lema added a staircase to the original design of Fernández, which led to the idea of Francisco de Cubas to give more importance to the emerging church of Almudena.
Plaza de Oriente
It is a rectangular square of curved header, of monumental character, whose final layout responds to a design in 1844 by Pascual y Colomer. One of its main proponents was King Joseph Bonaparte, who ordered the demolition of the medieval houses located on its site.
Plaza de Oriente is rectangular, although his head located to east, forming a closed curve, headed by the Teatro Real. It can distinguish three main plots: the Central Gardens, the Cabo Noval Gardens and the Lepanto Gardens.
The Central Gardens are arranged around the central monument to Philip IV, in a grid, following the barroque model garden. They consist of seven flowerbeds, each packed with box hedges, forms of cypress, yew and magnolia of small size, and flower plantations, temporary. These are bounded on either side by rows of statues paths, popularly known as the Gothic kings, acting as line of division of the other two quadrants.
The square houses a sculpture collection of twenty Spanish kings corresponding to five Visigoth kings and fifteen kings of the early Christians kingdoms in the Reconquista. These statues, made of limestone, are distributed in two rows that cross the recint toward east-west, on both sides of the Central Gardens. Known popularly as the «Gothic kings», mark the dividing line between the main body of the plaza and the Cabo Noval Gardens at north, and the Lepanto Gardens at south. The group of statues is part of a series dedicated to all monarchs of Spain, ordered to make for the decoration of the Royal Palace of Madrid during the reign of Ferdinand VI. Were executed between 1750 and 1753.
Campo del Moro Gardens
These gardens are named after allegedly camped in this place the troops of the Muslim leader Ali ben Yusuf in 1109 during an attempted reconquest of Madrid. The first works to condition the area are due to Philip IV, whose reign it were built fountains and planted different kinds of vegetation, but the overall look of the place remained largely neglected. During the construction of the new palace were various landscaping projects based in the gardens of the Royal Palace of La Granja de San Ildefonso, but there was no doing anything due the lack of funds, not being until the reign of Isabel II in which started a landscaping more seriously. At this time it design a big park of Romanticist style and were installed fountains brought from the Royal Palace of Aranjuez. With the fall of Isabel II the gardens suffer a period of abandonment and neglect in which it lose a part of the design and not until the regency of Maria Christina of Austria when it began a series of rehabilitation works, giving the current design, which follows the layout of the English gardens of 19th century.
From time to time throughout his reign, for example to hold his saint day of Saint John, King Juan Carlos has held receptions and gala dinners in the gardens during the summer months.
Located on the north side, between the Royal Palace, the calle de Bailén and the cuesta de San Vicente. Of French design, are monumental gardens created in the 1930's. Receive the name Sabatini because in this place were the stables built by the architect for service of the Palace. These gardens are adorned with a pond around which place some of the statues of Spanish kings who were originally intended to crown the Royal Palace. Geometrically sited between its rides, there are several fountains.
The Republican government ordered the seizure of different properties of the Spanish Royal Family, including this one, giving it to the City Council of Madrid to build a public park. The project was awarded to a Zaragozan architect, Fernando García Mercadal, after he won the same held competition.
Interior of the palace
The Royal Library was founded during the regency of Maria Christina of the Two Sicilies, using many of the funds that had accumulated for centuries the royal family. Most shelves were purchased by Charles IV and Alfonso XII. Also on display a selection of the best medals from the Royal Collection.
Among the printed books highlights the Book of hours of Isabella I of Castile, a codex of the time of Alfonso XI of Castile, a Bible of Doña María de Molina and the Fiestas reales, dedicated to Ferdinand VI by Farinelli. Also important are the maps kept in the library, which analyze the extent of the kingdoms under the Spanish Empire.
The bindings also play an important role, because through them it observe the evolution of bind style according to the time: rococo in gold with iron lace, neoclassical in polychrome and romantic with gothic and renaissance motifs.
The Archives of the Royal Palace contains about twenty thousand dossiers ranging from the Disastrous decade (1823-1833) until the proclamation of the Second Spanish Republic in 1931. In addition, it retains some scores of musicians of the Royal Chapel, privileges of different kings, the founding order of the Royal Monastery of San Lorenzo de El Escorial, the testament of Philip II and correspondence of most of the kings of the House of Bourbon.
During the reign of Philip II the Royal Pharmacy became an appendage of the royal family and ordered the supply of medicines, a role that continues today. The bottles were made in factories of La Granja de San Ildefonso and the Buen Retiro, there are also other items of 17th century made in Talavera de la Reina pottery.
Considered together with the imperial of Vienna, one of the best in the world, consists of pieces ranging from the 15th century onwards. These highlight the pieces of tournament made for Charles V and Philip II by leading armorers of Milan and Augsburg. Among the most remarkable pieces stands the armory and full tools that Emperor Charles V used in the Battle of Mühlberg, and which was portrayed by Titian in the famous equestrian portrait of the Museo del Prado. Unfortunately, part of the armory was lost during the Peninsular War and during the Spanish Civil War. Still, the armory retains some of the most important pieces of this art in Europe and worldwide, including several signed by Filippo Negroli, one of the most famous architects of the guild.
The vast palace is richly decorated by artists such as Velázquez, Tiepolo, Mengs, Gasparini, Juan de Flandes, Caravaggio, and Goya. Several royal collections of great historical importance are kept at the palace, including the Royal Armoury and weapons dating back to the 13th century, and the world's only complete Stradivarius string quintet, as well as collections of tapestry, porcelain, furniture, and other objects of great historical importance.
Below the palace, to the west, are the gardens of the Campo del Moro that were given this name due to the fact that here in the year 1109, Muslim leader Ali ibn Yusuf, encamped with his men in the attempt to recapture Madrid and its Alcázar (fortress) from the Christians. The east façade of the palace gives onto the Plaza de Oriente and the Teatro Real opera house. To the south is a vast square, the Plaza de la Armas, surrounded by narrow wings of the palace, and to the south of that is located the Catedral de la Almudena. To the north are the Jardines de Sabatini (Sabatini Gardens), named after one of the architects of the palace.
On the Plaza de Armas facade, two life-size statues on both sides of the main entrance honor the two native Emperors from the Americas, Moctezuma, Emperor of the Aztecs, and Atahualpa, Emperor of the Incas.
The wedding banquet of Prince Felipe and Letizia Ortiz took place on 22 May 2004 at the central courtyard of the Palace.
The palace is open to the public and it is closed when used by the king for state functions like state banquets for visiting heads of state, official government receptions and the presentation of new ambassadors to the king.
- Palacio del Buen Retiro, another royal palace in Madrid, now mostly disappeared.
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