The Royal Palace
Nobody could never suspect that, of the simple watchtower and later Arab fortress arose so impressive palace. The Arab fortress when passing at Christian hands was enlarged and reformed according to the necessities of the successive House of Austria's kings, that transformed it into its palace.
So, little by little and with the accumulation of art works, the fortress became a small museum and a treasure: paintings by Velázquez, Rubens, Caravaggio, etc., tapestries and all type of value objects.
With the arrival of the Borbones, the fortress fell in misfortune to the new dynasty saw it as a symbol of the Austrias power, so they didn't like it at all. In 1734, already reigning Philip V, a fire took place during the Christmas Day. The fire began, at two in the morning, in the rooms that the painter Jean Rac was decorating and it was prolonged during the whole day.
Although numerous art works were saved, the paintings were pulled up of the stretchers and the sculptures resisted the fire. It got lost a great part of the accumulated wealth, among them, numerous documents and drawings belonging to old constructions. The kings, didn't suffer any damage, since they were housed in the Good Retiro palace.
The king Philip V went, faced with the difficulty of carrying out a reconstruction, to the most reputed architect in the moment, Filippo Juvara, who arrived in Madrid in April 1735. The pride that made him to be known elect and feeling with free hands to design the height work of his career, made that Juvara designed a palace that was more than a kilometer long.
The project, in fact for its grandness, began to be critized since its cost was impossible to be afforded. In January 1736, the architect Juvara died without the drawings were even finished, for what it was required the presence of his best student's, Italian Giovanni Battista Sachetti. This, more modest or because he was informed about the economic impossibility of carrying out his teacher's project, designed a smaller palace, although respecting the concepts of the previous one.
Sachetti used the basements part of the old fortress and respected its parade-ground. On April 1738 its works began, the date when the first stone was placed, blessed by the archbishop Alvaro of Mendoza, and a lead urn was buried with several currencies of gold, silver and bronze together with a lead sheet written in Latin, relating the fire.
The works were prolonged up to 1764. During this whole time, the palace was an impressive work where artists from France, Italy and Germany worked together with craftsmen and stonemasons from Madrid.
When Ferdinand VI ascends the throne, the ground floor is only finished. Thanks to a good time for the economy of the country, it accelerate the works, partly for the king's pressure that asked that a part of the first floor wing was adapted to lodge in the palace.
The painter Corrado Giaquinto was in charge of the interior paintings and a series of sculptors directed by Domenico Oliveri and Felipe of Castro take charge of the Spanish kings's statues, that will adorn the superior cornice. Then, the queen Isabel of Farnesio, frightened by a dream where the statues fell down from the height without breaking, she influenced so that the statues were not placed in the cornice.
When Charles III arrived from Naples to sit down in the throne of Spain, the project was still far from being concluded. The king, making merits to be won the cultured appearance, named architect for the project to Francesco Sabbatini, that he had arrived together with the king from Italy. The first measure went to dismiss the previous artists and to substitute them for other also Italian.
So, the painter Giaquinto that had painted the frescos of the palace left his position to Antonio Rafael Mengs and Gianbattista Tiépolo. The interior decoration, something careless until the moment, took new determinations under the direction of Felipe Gozola. Starting from that moment, objects and pieces from Italy began to arrive and they were taken in charge of the native artists.
In 1764, Charles III settled definitively down in the palace although there are still enough things to finish, among them the famous "Gasparini Rooms", after the king made come to the artist next to his family from Italy. But a twist of fate caused the king not to finished the rooms, since he died when they hadn't been finished yet.
In 1803, the king Charles IV gave the palace works as finished. Subsequently the French occupation came and with it, long confrontation periods and political crisis, until the restoration of the Spanish monarchy took place with Alphonse XII. This king, carried out the last restoration when uniting three rooms to create Elegance's Dining Room.
Today, the palace is used for protocol acts of the Spanish monarchy, credentials surrenders on the part of the ambassadors, elegance foods for important guests, receptions, ... and so on.
Copyright © 1999 by JLL & JRP
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