Probably, the most important action of the
pickaxes happens in Oriente Square, where it disappeared the Royal Library, the
famous "Ball Game" and a large quantity of streets and small squares.
The actions carried out would expect to do
with Madrid a more healthy and inhabitable city, so that the motley of houses,
the narrowness of streets, the lack of opening spaces and the non-existing
squares made it unhealthy and insalubrious, all of this in the own words of the
king José Bonaparte.
Influential areas, initially interpreted the
demolished buildings and the behaviour of French in the urban matters, as an
attack against the religion and also an excessive interference.
Nevertheless, a few years after, it was
recognised that the bigger part of the demolitions were very necessary, in spite
of they were not understood neither appreciated in that moment.
The intervention in Plaza de Oriente,
permitted an ambitious project of the architect Silvestre Pérez, who
pretended to create two important axis that, from this square, went one of them
towards the church of San Francisco el Grande and the other one towards Puerta
del Sol, where it would be installed a big theatre, into the site yet occupied
by the church of Buen Suceso.
The short period of time that Bonaparte's
reign lasted hindered that this project was carried out. Oriente Square and its
surroundings remained as immense mire, until in Isabel II's reign was finished
the city development.
When the French monarch complained of the
madrilian air and its unhealthy, he did not say only for the hamlet so crowded
that it formed the city. Also it came to his mind the cemeteries, that were all
in the inland or near the churches, in spite of the ordinances given by monarch
Carlos III, that obliged or at least advise of its moving to the outskirts of
Madrid surrenders before the French troops on
December 2nd , 1808.
Napoleón Bonaparte, from Chamartín,
crosses by Puerta del Sol
on his way to the Royal Palace.
Madrid had a population in this time of
175,000 inhabitants, with some periods of intense mortality due to some of
plagues or contagious illnesses, which arrived punctually to the city.
With the royal decree of 1809, it started
the moving of the cemeteries to the outskirts of the city. In the same year, the
architect Juan Villanueva projected one in the north of the city, near to the
present Conde del Valle Súchil Square, very close to the urban wall.
Another cemetery was situated next to San
Lorenzo's Sacramental church, at the other side of the Manzanares river, and the
third one, opened up in 1811, is actually the cemetery of San Isidro, near the
José Bonaparte and his staff carried
out another reformations of minor quantity. They ordered to remove a lot of
crosses distributed around the streets and squares, situated each one for
several reasons, but it allowed to see the power of the church in the city.
Some uncovered sewers were covered and this
improved the risk to health and bad smells, apart from other things.
In spite of the war, they continued the
parties and celebrations. Between them, it acquired a relevant the bullfighting,
to those that the monarch was very enthusiastic, taking part even in amateur
The reality of the urban city, at the exit
of French troops, was enough devastating. The demolished churches and convents
could not become to squares or new buildings. Also, the walls showed its ruins
in important places.
The Retiro park was plenty of ditches and
cutting trees, so there had been installed the French army during the war,
occupying the existing buildings to attend the warlike necessities.
Civil people like these were played the leading role
in the unequal confrontation
with the French troops in charge of the
major-general Murat. The short wapons,
pikes, knives and shotguns could
not make anything against the French guns and rifles.
represented is an artillery official such as the ones who rose up in arms in
So that, the Astronomic Observatory situated
in the little hill of San Blas, inside the park, had been used as military
storehouse, and what is today the Prado Museum had been chivalry barracks, as to
mention the most important of them.
If it was not enough with the damage caused
by the war and by the French army, the English troops who had helped us, before
leaving the city, destroyed some factories, such as the porcelain factory in El
The official explanation was to avoid that
it should be in the hands of French people again and the unofficial one was to
avoid the competence that these factories could make to the English factories.
The posterior years to the Independence War
were a difficult years for the madrilenians. The human losses, united to the
hunger and the deplorable condition of the city darkened the Madrid's outlook.
During the presence of French army, the
Village of Madrid suffered the lash of the hunger. The unit of wheat cost 540
real and 12 real the baked bread of two pounds. Madrilenians less flattering
stems of cabbages and small plants.
From September 1811 until July 1812, more
than 20,000 persons died in Madrid, for blame of the hunger.
On 17th May 1813, José Bonaparte left
definitively Madrid. The Spanish forces in charge of the "Empecinado"
occupy the Villa and on 5th January 1814, arrives to the capital the regency of
the kingdom and the government.
It is probably that this situation should
make more desirable the arriving of the new monarch Fernando VII. The
Constituent Courts, gathered in Madrid, that in 25th April 1814 request from the
king Fernando VII, who is in Valencia, that he returns to Madrid, thing that he
made a few days after, on 11th May 1814.
Copyright © 2002 by JLL
All rights reserved.