On our last post about the history of Madrid, we left on the reconstruction of the Plaza. After the War of the Spanish Succession, the Bourbons took reign of what is present-day Madrid. Under the rule of Philip V, the Royal Palace went under major reconstruction after a fire had nearly destroyed the building. While his initial plans weren’t translated into the final design of the building, the Royal Palace now consists of more than 500 rooms. During his reign, he also was responsible for the construction of the Royal Spanish Academy, the National Library and the Royal Academy of History. The Royal Palace is home now to the collections of armor used by conquistadores Hernán Cortés and Francisco Pizarro and, in the throne room, features a ceiling painted by Giovanni Battista Templo. King Alfonso XIII was the last known king to have lived in the Royal Palace when he abdicated from the throne in the year 1931. Now, the royal family stays in the Zarzuela Palace in northwest Madrid.
Charles III was the most well-known builder of the Bourbon empire, as he had focused on the development of the city in terms of construction and adding to the beautiful Spanish skyline. His construction took place during the enlightenment period and was said to have used a cosmopolitan style, a popular style of architecture in Europe at the time. Charles’s work was in collaboration with three known architects by the names of Francisco Sabatini, Ventura Rodríguez, and Juan de Villanueva. Charles had expanded the city in an eastward direction until the present-day Plaza de la Independencia. This is where you can see the Puerta de Alcalá, a landmark of Madrid which was constructed in the year 1778. Lastly, Charles III had constructed the Botanic Garden — a place where individuals can come and pluck herbs of their liking still to this day — and began the natural history and science museum but had died before its completion. The museum was finally completed in the year 1819.
The Prado, a famous art museum that can be accredited to Ferdinand VII, was constructed due to the scattering of famous art pieces after being released from prison under Napoleon in the year 1814. During this time, the city’s construction expanded northward under the order of Mayor Joaquín Vizcaíno. Joaquín Vizcaíno can also be accredited for putting street names for building markers, street lighting and garbage disposal. The Paseo del Prado was extended by a new boulevard which was named the Paseo de los Recoletos. Vizcaíno is the reason for the now hustle and bustle of this area in modern day Madrid. Some of the buildings that converted this once rural land include: the National Library, the National Archaeological Museum, the Queen Sofia Arts Centre, and the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum. Marqués de Salamanca, the original owner of a now-converted mansion into a bank, was also accredited for the push to expand northwards. Salamanca is now regarded as one of the most upscale barrios of Madrid. Lastly, in the year 1860, the first comprehensive plan — named the Plan Castro — to expand and modernize the city was established in order to meet the economic and commercial needs of the city at the time.
While this may be the end of our coverage of the history of the capital Madrid, we hope you enjoyed getting to know this city a bit further in depth than many currently know. Stay tuned to our Pinterest pages (both Be Madrid and our sister company Student Guru) to stay up to date with all of the cultural tips and information you may need for your stay in Spain! ¡Hasta la próxima chicos!
By: Meghan Iadeluca, American University ’22