Whenever he could, Philip V avoided the
Fortress by the dislike that the building produced in him, preferring the Palace
or the palaces of the aristocracy.
During the War of Spanish Succession, he
remained in the Villa for only a short time, uncomfortable, dirty and in one of
its lower moments. Disregarding the residences of the nobility and the convents
and churches, little interest, the urban center was anything but exemplary.
The streets of Madrid were steep, full of
holes, smelly, filled with unemployed armed people, servants without house to
which to serve, hungry loafers, markets badly supplied, food staple shortages...
An observer wrote: "The
Madrilenians have learned the style of the moles. Most of their houses are not
much more than dirt, like molehills a single floor. In those constructed, the
mule that carried bricks has as much part in the glory as the architect".
With the end of the war, the panorama does
not vary outwardly. Mesoneros Romanos (1803 - 1882) gathers a commentary during
the reign of Ferdinand IV that states... "Madrid is
the dirtiest Court of Europe". An anonymous storyteller said that...
"King Charles III knew that he approached Madrid by
the environmental pestilence".
The capital, in the middle of the 18th
century, is very similar to the one of Philip IV. The fence or mud wall raised
by this monarch in 1625 remains erect, restricting the urban growth and
promoting speculation. It is at this time, they begin to build apartment houses
stacking the neighborhoods and changing Madrilenian humor and mood, until then
very jumpy to any noise.
The parceling and price of the building lots
reach incredible levels. The land price per foot around Plaza Mayor is 88 Reales
(Silver coins), 12 in the Puerta del Sol, 4 in Alcala Street, 5 in Atocha
Street, 4 in San Bernardo and 1.5 in the outskirts of Alcala, Atocha, Segovia or
When vigorously following the
"privilege of lodging", the large houses
were obliged to provide accommodations to civil servants or soldiers in the
upper floors, although the service could be replaced by a monetary amount.
The "houses to
wickedness" proliferated as much that they constituted two-thirds
part of the city, counting whereupon the remaining third included convents,
monasteries, churches, hospitals, and noble mansions.
Urbanization remained unknown. Uneven
streets, shapeless and deformed city blocks, dirty and peeled facades, very
small squares, without paving stones nor sewer system and much less drains.
Trash and garbage were thrown from the
windows, breaching the laws or decrees. The avenues were muckheaps only cleaned
when it rained and the water drained the debris.
The public lighting system was a laugh,
because of the amount of concentrated candles lit seemed proper only for an
image or street Christ, and only a few points of light of the palaces. No one
put luminaries in the windows to save wax.
The nocturnal corteges used big candles that
were extinguished buckets at the entrance of the houses, to avoid the blackening
of the inner walls and danger of fire. The public fountains, few, had almost no
The markets are sheds of drawers and logs
around the Plaza Mayor, La Cebada, Antón Martín and the San Luis
network, in addition to street stalls scattered throughout the city, that sell
of everything, except the food staples - bread, meat or fish -, sold in
government stores, that imply considerable travel and the payment of excise
Personal insecurity is astonishing. To go
out at night means to do it armed and in company. The aristocracy, carried hand
chairs, had escorts opening the way to repel the thieves and the penniless, who
lurked in the shadows.
The military governor of Madrid, count of
Maceda, who introduced dignity founded by king Philip V, complained of the
nocturnal darkness that favored robbery, murder, as well as lewdness as there
was in the Court. Adding, at sunset, there is no way to distinguish it from a
vulgar village, unlike other European cities, abounding in lights.
There was no shortage of rational, because
as he well stated, "it is a shame that by our
negligence, the sovereign inhabits the dirtiest town of this country".
Nevertheless, Madrid is no different from London or Rome in thieves, beggars,
and street stench.
Even doctors defend the garbage accumulation
saying that... "The air of Madrid is so "pure",
it is necessary to filter it with trash".
The outer accesses were another ordeal.
Mesonero Romanos describes them as "work of truly
heroic spirits" by its danger and bad planning. The hills that lead
to Palace, then in construction, those of the Vega, Vistillas or the bridge of
Toledo, are only accessible by spirited people in good physical form.
The exit by Atocha was not any better, by
bad condition of the paving and the Paseo del Prado was a polluted stream, full
of excrements and garbage. The neighborhoods of the hospitals were a catalogue
of rotting carrion and the route to the church of Atocha was almost impassable,
on foot or horse, by the rubble.
The stone paved streets were as bad as those
that were not paved - about 50% - by the custom to place the stones pointed end
up, to eliminate wear and tear. They were neither dressed nor linked, and it was
enough to travel, least everyone does, many people fell and vehicles overturned.
To the abundance of carts, carriages, mules,
hand carried chairs and burdened people add herds of swine of the convent of San
Antonio Abad, that freely fed in the streets on the Court, thanks to a royal
privilege ratified several times by the High Court and the Justices Tribunal, in
spite of the rejection of the neighbors.
The dogs were a plague. Uncontrolled packs
that chased the pigs that scared the beasts of burden causing accidents and
raising the protest of the ecclesiastical hierarchy, because they procreated in
public with the consequent offense to morality.
In the days of King Ferdinand VI, people
were required to pile up the garbage at the street doors instead of throwing it
to the street. But no more was obtained than to merge the stinking and unhealthy
centers in certain areas, awaiting that once a week, be removed by the farmers
who came to sell their merchandise in Madrid. Other things, little changes until
The noise of children playing dreas and
throwing stones, the farm animals - goats, hens or turkeys - mixing freely, the
neighbors blocking passage when forming summers social gatherings in the middle
of the street and igniting the brazier or roasting chestnuts in winter, the
fights for a bowl of soup at the door of asylums and hospitals, and mainly, the
galloping misery, that didn't matter to anyone, but was the main comment of the
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JLL & JRP
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