That is to say, Madrid in
the 16th century, didn't have made an image, as Toledo or Seville, it seemed as
a virgin place that it could be modelated according to the interests and
objectives of the Spanish monarchy, and that was made, still with all the
limitations of the time of the Austrias along.
Madrid was located among the
main peninsular roads that crossed this area, those that came working from times
of Rome and communicated Aragón with Extremadura, Levante with Castile,
and Andalusia with the north.
ARISTOCRACY PALACE FROM 17th
Frequently ruinoises and often lifted up on areas of existent
they had already a little decoration in their facades except the
almost always made in stucco and rarely in stone.
Recently, it was incorporate
to a system of houses and real places, from Valsaín to Aranjuez. The
origin of most of these real places was from the emperor Charles I to Philip's
Consequently, as a clear
conclusion, the transfer of the Court to the Village of the Manzanares was
neither capricious neither improvised, but possibly part of Philip's II clearly
In May of 1561, the
Madrilenian Town Council received the sovereign's Royal Identification, dictated
in Toledo, being supposed the imminent transfer of the Court. This should
already be in Madrid in the month of June, when the Royal Council took place.
The first and more urgent
concern of the Madrilenian Municipality was the one of supplying properly the
population with flour and meat, as not only the resident ones, but also the
future inhabitants who would move along with the Court. So that, the demand
would increase a lot, requesting license the Town Council to buy meat, being
numerous economic difficulties to obtain the required quantities.
The Pardo Palace volumetry
and main facade,
according to Luis de Vega's project made under king
Charles I responsability,
that wanted to reform the old castle lifted up by
king Henry III.
The Town council, supported
by the Crown, began to elaborate ambitious and necessary projects that pursued
the total modification of the city.
Alignment and enlargement of
streets, new facilities of municipal supplies, reorganization of the Arrabal
Square and demolition of wall pieces and gates, construction of a Royal
Hospital, appropriate temples to the new capital condition, like a Cathedral or
collegiate church in its defect, hospices, orphanages and other necessary
A plan was elaborated,
headed by the architect John Baptist Toledo, who had been brought from Italy by
If the plan had carried out
in a short time without a doubt, it would have been an homogeneous and coherent
urbanistic transformation, but it was carried out very slowly, and with all kind
of urban, social and economic difficulties, with that the cost of such
reformations were very decreased and finally impoverished.
One of the responsibles of
this failure was the Crown that, after having spurred such reformations
gradually ignored them, passing the whole responsabilities of the projects to
the City Council. But the events were shot.
The Town Council was soon
seen overflowed and unable before a city that grew in surface and population,
not in an enormous way, but chaotic and nonsense. It lacked a legislation and
enough human and economic means to put order and concert in an overflowed true
Two possibilities of the so
called "Houses to the malice", because they only show
floor to the street while, in the opposed side, they had two floors
out of harboring court personnel.
Until well entered the 18th century, those
houses will exist .
The most decisive agent in
this virulent transformation of Madrid is the demographic one. In the first
moments of the arrival of the Court, there is already enough population's
percentage to unbalance the scale between village and neighbors: it is the
floating court population that assists the king's services and of the Court.
Before reformations are
conceived to adapt the Village to its new condition a royal problem arises, the
one of housing that court population.
The Village different from
Toledo, lacked enough taverns and inns, reason why Philip II was forced to
promulgate a proclamation for which all the houses of Madrid which had more than
one floor should give one of them to a family of the Court.
It is the famous "Room
Bonus" that so many bubbles raised in the neighbourhood, already giving
place to traps and stratagems to deceive the obligation - impossible distributions inside the houses, bribes, bought
excuses, etc - opening this way the sad chapter of the Madrilenian
picaresque in the whole time of the Austrias.
But, it would not be this
necessity of court lodging the only social problem to be faced in the Village,
transformed in a sudden into head of the empire.
Although the aristocratic
nobility and certain social groups doubt of the definitive character of the
court presence in Madrid, being reserved big expenses or being remiss to certain
payments, as the matter of fact, those important contingents of town plain kept
arriving in Madrid.
Any street of Madrid in the
middle of 17th century,
with some of the most characteristic types in its
From left to right side, a cripple that equal can be a
beggar than a villain as the occasion,
a clergyman and a traveling
saleswoman, a religious procession at the back,
two gentlemen and a couple
of ladies covered with cloaks.
Bibs, servants, peasants,
soldiers and mutilated people from war arrived in the new Court in search of
work, placements or pensions. Madrid would have between 10.000 and 20.000
inhabitants in the moment of the arrival of the Court, in 1561. Soon, the number
of neighbours, taken a census or not, would be shot.
Toward 1575, the inhabitants
would be around 35.000 to 45.000 people and at the end of century, deceased
Philip II, the figure was already located close or around the 100.000 souls.
This spectacular population
increase, produced some social, economic and urban alterations in the city,
which could be classified as tremendous, and with a negative impact in the city,
because this growth was neither rational and staggered, or accompanied by the
great political and urban reformations demanded by the new situation.
Another negative consequence
in the new condition which Madrid was living through, was the cleaning and the
aspect of its streets that soon degenerated into an enlarged rhythm. In Madrid
there was already numerous rubbish in the periphery in 1561, and was increased
with the years.
The dirt and the garbages
were, appropriating from the interior of the Village that when lacking sewer
system, mainly in the new neighbourhoods that arose unceasingly, invaded by the
fecal waters of the new and grown population.
The smell, the dirt, the
urban violations, the lack of a civic conscience and the inefficiency or
desperation of some scarce or inapt municipal services converted Madrid, before
1600, in the dirtiest capital in Europe.
The pictures shows:
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by JLL & JRP
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