In the Sun Gate, already in
time of the Austria's the busiest and converged place in the Court, died Arenal
and Guadalajara Streets - today Mayor Street -
that formed remarkable part of the medieval plot, but from here left Montera
Street or Red de San Luis toward the north, Alcalá Street and Carrera de
San Jerónimo toward the east, and Carretas and Esparteros-Imperial
Streets toward the south.
Not far from the Sun Gate,
the popular and mercantile Mayor Square was located, lifted on the old and
disordered Arrabal Square, from medieval origin. Beside this public space and
market, already in the 15th century, two gates of the medieval wall had been
located, Guadalajara and Closed Gates.
These gates and the late
medieval suburbs which were formed in its outskirts, are the origin of the
consolidation of the important streets of this area, Atocha that took to the
southeast and Toledo toward the south, without forgetting Embajadores that being
born more down of the Closed Gate, and very narrow, was one of the most populous
roads and transited of the city in this time.
The uncontrolled growth also impeded the possible
planning of squares and public spaces, on the part of the City Council.
The spontaneous village that was built between 1561
and 1625, didn't leave space or squares, since the salespersons of building
sites and builders worried to capitalize the maximum land.
That was the reason because
of which the Madrid of the Austria's lacked squares of certain relief.
Certain small squares,
narrow and irregular, arose in the encounter or crossroad of four or five
streets, as San Juan's Square, Antón Martín, Gumiel, San Joaquín
or Lavapiés, not being numerous or overwhelming.
The city of the 17th century
inherited certain spaces opened up in the medieval helmet that more than squares
were pieces of empty ground, as Santo Domingo, Caños del Peral, Palacio
or Cebada Squares, this last one with so big dimensions that was already used in
the 14th and 15th centuries as a market of grain, and later, as a fair of
trinkets and old things, origin of the popular and pure Rastro, that only in the
19th century, and very late, would pass to its current location of the Ribera de
The Sun Gate was also an
urban space, not planned, neither contemplated by any official instance. It
appeared in a spontaneous way, along the 15th century, as an encounter of
regional roads to Hortaleza, Fuencarral, Toledo, Vallecas and Alcalá.
That crossroad was given from the first moment,
certain surface that was by no means bigger than Madrid, because beside certain
squares, as Mayor or Cebada, or even compared with Santo Domingo or Caños
del Peral Square, was small and narrow.
But even this way, its
privileged centrality transformed it into the neuralgist point of the capital.
If the Mayor Square was the
mercantile center, the Sun Gate was, as today, the authentic social, economic
heart and the traffic center, where the Madrid of the Austria's palpitated.
In its suburbs big buildings
were built, as San Felipe el Real's Convent, the Victoria and the Hospital of
the Good Event, but the City Council didn't carry out any reformation that it
tidied up and it dignified urbanistically the square that was a spontaneous
space, as in fact the whole city.
The only programmed, planned
and carried out space by means of a pondered, intelligent and magnificent
process urbanistic-architectural was Mayor Square.
Built on the old and
disordered Arrabal Square, its author, the great architect Juan Gómez de
la Mora. The King and the Town Council and the Royal Places's teacher, designed
an effective and relieved rectangle, in the urban boundaries between the
medieval Madrid and the modern one of the Austria's, at equivalent distance
among the north, the south and the east.
Its slight deviation from
the east to the west, is due to the municipal desire that it prepared in
parallel to the central and noted Guadalajara street -
today Mayor Street - that also, at the beginning of the 17th century
was the most direct road and it drove to the Hieronymyte Monastery, convent
frequented by the king.
Very soon after, with Philip
IV, the street added to the importance of being "royal axis" between
the Fortress and the splendid "royal place" of the Palace of the Good
Previously to its
construction, carried out between 1611 and 1620, with a fire that destroyed
(between both dates), it was already the mercantile center of the village, but
starting from its modern and efficient urban organization by Gómez de la
Mora, the Mayor Square worked as the mercantile, commercial machinery,
trade-union and even financial of the Madrid of the Austria's.
Being the only worthy,
relieved and central square, became the stage par excellence for public
festivities, bullfights, horses and knights games, Inquisition's edicts,
executions, canonizations and diverse celebrations, favored by organisms as the
Crown, the Town Council and many others.
Its character as a square
with arcades, in all its perimeter, endowed it a capacity of total
circumvallation that increased its social, urban and cultural high values. Seen
it in a city map, it is noticed it presents certain regular form of square,
something rounded, for incoming and salient outlying.
Besides the system aspect or
radial network of big streets, it is also noticed that, from year 1629, moment
that started the construction of the Good Retirement Palace, Madrid was flanked
by the old Fortress and the Good Retirement Palaces, very representatives,
located to the west and the east of the city.
Communicating both royal
palaces, four streets, Alcalá, Carrera de San Jerónimo, Arenal and
Mayor Streets, all them crossed in Sun Gate, by way of cross or equis.
Finally, it could be
affirmed that beyond the mentioned Fortress and Good Retirement, to their backs,
two extensions open up, to west and east, of green character or gardening, with
To the west, the one formed
by Campo del Moro (Moor Field) and Casa de Campo (House Field), and to the east
the immense gardens of the Good Retirement, both privates, only for enjoyment of
Between them, the city
considered as "miracles court" was dirty, powdery, disordered and full
with problems, inhabited by rich and powerful classes or by miserable and low
classes, being breeding ground for rogues and intriguing people. An entire
The pictures shows:
MAYOR SQUARE - The Arrabal Square, future Mayor Square, arises in the
Middle Ages, when Madrid begins to extend to the east. That is to say, outside
of Guadalajara Gate, current San Miguel market. The origin of this square is a
serie of houses, of one or two floors with an esplanade used for market,
inhabited by Jewish merchants.
With the Court settlement, the city
should extend even more, for what this Arrabal Square becomes, somehow, in the
center of Madrid and the point where take place the main events. To solve the
problem, Philip II orders to the architect Juan de Herrera to draw up some
designs for the construction of a closed square, that were scenario and window
of the Village and Court. These designs never ended up carrying out bacause they
were lost, in 1734, with the fire of the Fortress .
The first building
lifted up was Casa de la Panadería (Bakery House), whose construction, in
1590, was in charge of Diego Sillero. A few years later, in 1608, Francisco de
Mora takes charge to close the square, but would be his nephew Juan Gómez
de Mora who finished the definitive project, with the layout that today can be
seen: a rectangle of 120 x 94 meters that became the stage par excellence for
When being the square, next to a great low ground,
it was necessary to build some stairways, current Arco de Cuchilleros (Cutler
Arch), to facilitate the access and to save the ravine. For it, in Cava de San
Miguel street you can appreciate, besides the solidity of the granite walls, the
attractive curve that form the walls, with the purpose of being unloaded, won in
Three tremendous fires happened in 1631, 1672 and 1790, as well
as the later repair work, have modified the aspect of Mayor Square enormously.
Nevertheless, it is still a true reflection of Madrid's life with its tastes and
feelings, during the 17th century.
CHURCH AND SAN ISIDRO CHAPEL - At first, there was
a church called San Andrés, built in the lot that a mosque occupied .
This temple was very frequented by San Isidro, who lived in the neighboring
house, and in the same one he was buried. After his death and in honor to him a
chapel was built, that finished stealing all the protagonism to the old church.
original building was built Mudejar style. Later, in the second half of the 17th
century it had to be totally reconstructed by architect Pedro de la Torre.
During the Spanish Civil War (1936 - 1939) it was set on fire. In fact, there is
not anything today of its primitive construction. Nevertheless, it is necessary
to take a look to the main front and the bell tower, Mudejar style.
Isidro's chapel was built between 1657 and 1669, on the same house where the
saint had lived. The construction, in Baroque style, was directed by José
de Villarreal and the whole interior decoration was lost during the Spanish
Civil War, as much as the valuable paintings that there was. Nevertheless, the
reconstruction allow us to have a good idea of what each other understood as
THE GOOD RETIRO
PALACE - The Royal Palace, called Good Retiro, was
ordered to carry out by Duke of Olivares to distract king Philip IV from the
business of government. He did so, by enlarging San Jerónimo el Real's
old monastery garden, to which the monarchs had retired since the monastery
The project was made by Gómez de la Mora and Giovano
Battista Crescendi and the palace was built by architect Alonso de Carbonell,
who reduced the grandness of the project, by saving time and money.
The group of buildings that conformed the palace still conserved the "Kingdoms
Salon" current Army Museum and the old "Dance Salon", used as an
annexe of the Prado Museum, generally well-known as "El Casón"
(The Big House).
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by JLL & JRP
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