From very early times in the Christian
period, Madrid had a Cluniac monastery of Benedictine monks, the Monastery of
The Benedictines chose a zone of low hills
situated to the northeast of the "almudena",
on the northern edge of the Arenal stream, which bends to the left as one leaves
by the gateway of the Almudena, on the road to Alcalá de Henares or
These lands, where the monastery was
located, were low and fertile. Perhaps Alfonso VII was thinking they would be
suitable for a rapid development of a town, when in 1124 and 1126 he decreed a
series of conditions relating to the Monastery.
Sketch of a tent of the late Medieval period.
compartments in which with great difficulty the artisan can fit in,
little more furnishings than a shelf-board and a counter.
The one depicted
here is of a dealer in cloth with his workshop in the rear.
The King gave to this
Monastery and its community, control of various territories, including the
villages of Balnegral, Villanueva del Páramo and Jarama, but he left
their prior under the orders of the prior of Abad or of the prior of Sahagún.
He arranged also that surroundings of the Monastery should be populated with
people who would be subject to the prior.
These hard conditions to
which the denizens of the hamlet of San Martín were to be subjected,
resulted in only a slow growth of the community, and furthermore, that its
inhabitants at some unknown moment but perhaps in the first third of the 13th
century, should seek integration into the City.
The Hebrew community of Madrid must have
been a small, humble group, having gone through their fortunes in agriculture
and skilled trades, coming out in the course of the 14th century as
money-changers and renting landlords. Jewish physicians became famous, some of
them producing such surprising cures, that later on they would be accused of
witchcraft or dealings with the devil.
In spite of there being no colective memory
in Madrid of any clear, certain tradition of a local Jewish ghetto, possibly for
its slight importance or outreach, it still is possible to locate it in a small
group of enclosures existing between the Puerta de la Vega, and the
Fortress-castle (the Alcázar), in a zone that was a starting point of
city growth, and within the "almudena".
Costumed persons and musicians toward beginnings of
the 15th century.
Popular fiestas on saints' days were great breathing
for a population ground down by wars and diseases.
But in the 14th and 15th
centuries, with urban development always driving on to the east, the Jewish
ghetto had clung to a marginal and barely tenable place, with houses and streets
practically on the edge of the bluffs that separated the Fortress (Alcázar)
from the Campo del Moro.
However, and since the
synagogue at Madrid was not outstanding, Jewish people are on record in the most
diverse and distant points of the City as well as in the outskirts.
The very considerable number
of charitable and religious foundations shows clearly that the era of the
Catholic Kings (Fernando and Isabel) was a time of renewal in the social and
city life of Madrid.
Such that in those years, there were founded
or in operation in 1484, the Hospital of San Lázaro, near the primitive
Puente de Segovia (Bridge of Segovia), mentioned earlier; the Hospital de
Peregrinos (Pilgrims' Hospital), next to the Puerta del Sol; the Hospital de
Caballeros (Knights' Hospital), fronting on the parish church of San Ginés;
and the Hospital de la Paz (Hospital of Peace), which some classic authors want
us to believe was founded by Isabel de Valois, wife of King Felipe II, but which
possibly was in existence from the end of the 15th century.
Butchers cutting up a beef.
were non-existent, and this caused
a great many infectious diseases.
Some religious foundations
were created in this period. Already in times of Enrique IV, with the protection
he dispensed for Madrid, convents were established, like that of Santa Clara,
next to the parish church of Santiago, and that of the Jerónimos, on the
road of El Pardo.
However, the Jerónimos,
in view of the insalubrity of the place, sought pemission from Ferdinand and
Isabel to install themselves on the heights of the Prado de Atocha, or on the
ravine called Arroyo del Abroñigal, today known as Paseo del Prado, but
which for a long time was called Prado de los Jerónimos, by reason of
the vicinity of the Monastery.
The church, much modified in its exterior
but not so much in its interior, served as scene for weddings, birthdays and to
read proclamations from kings, princes and nobles. Today, the Monastery, almost
a ruin, serves, as resting-place for monarchs.
Two foundations are very meaningful and are
much respected by the people of Madrid. They were the convents of the
Hieronymite and Franciscan nuns.
Wandering salesman or peddler, displaying his wares,
this case tools of clay and ceramic, to two supposed clients.
Both dedicated to the
Immaculate Conception, they were founded in the year 1499 by Francisco Ramírez,
a military man known as "the Artilleryman," for his participation in
the War of Granada. His wife was a celebrated lady of Madrid, doña
Beatriz Galindo, known as "La Latina," (the Latin Lady), for her great
knowledge of Latin Language.
The first-named convent, started somewhat
late, raised its construction over part of the houses of the Ramírez
family, in the outer suburb of Santa Cruz. In that church were those two
magnificent Renaissance sepulchers of the founders, which today are in the
The second convent, joined to a hospital for
the poor and needy, was located in the suburb of San Millán, next to the
road to Toledo, and was known, until its destruction in 1900, as the Hospital de
Until beginnings of the 20th
century, when the Hospital was razed, and the façade dismantled, the
age-old, archaic effect of this structure gave an intensely medieval flavor to
this zone of the street called Toledo.
Copyright © 2002 by JLL
All rights reserved