Before you start reading, here is a piece of Baroque music to enjoy while reading and feel as if you were in the Royal Palace.
This piece is called " The Autumn" from the Four Seasons of Vivaldi.
ECONOMY IN THE 17TH AND 18TH CENTURY IN SPAIN
The Spanish economy suffered a continuous economic crisis, aggravated by wars, epidemics and bad harvests. This period also saw the appearance of new industrial forms and the rise of new commercial powers: France, England and Holland. These countries competed with Spain and Portugal to control the great commercial routes. The arrival of gold and silver from America caused a sharp rise in prices in the 16th century. The society continued with their class structure, while the economic crisis and wars caused conflicts in the middle of 17th century, and the social differences became deeper.
ABOUT THE ROYAL PALACE
We can say that the origin of the Royal Palace (Palacio Real) or the East Palace (Palacio de Oriente) is in the 4th century. The first construction that we can talk about is the citadel. It was constructed by the emir Mohamed I, when the Iberian Peninsula was dominated and controlled by Muslims. The reason for the construction of this citadel was to defend Toledo from the progress of the Christian troops. It acts as a defensive fortress usd by the kings of Castile after the reconquest of Mayrit by the King Alfonso VI. A few years later, in the XVI century,the Real Alcázar was constructed, but it was destroyed by a huge fire on Christmas Eve in 1734. Finally, years later, on the same place where the Real Alcázar was completely destroyed, the first king of the dynasty of the Bourbons, Felipe V, started the construction of what we all know today as the Royal Palace
ORIGINAL AND CURRENT FUNCTION
The original function of the royal Palace of Madrid was as a fortress to defend Toledo from the Christian troops. The royal palace is not the official house of the Kings of Spain, and nowadays is used for receptions, ceremonies and official acts. The royal family of Spain lives in The Zarzuela Palace outside of Madrid.
The initial architect of the royal palace was Filippo Juvarra. He died in 1736 (while the palace was under construction), so another architect called Gianbattista Sacchetti took care of the design process. He created a baroque design. Finally, in 1760, Francesco Sabatini was summoned to extend the palace. These additional elements followed the new neoclassical style.
Considering that the old palace burned down and that the Spanish Monarchy was becoming wealthier, abundant noble materials were used for the construction. The facades are made mostly out of local white and gray stone. Noble materials were widely used in the interior. Spanish marble and golden stucco were used on the walls and stairs, while mahogany was extensively used on doors and windows. There were also many important works of art, particularly frescoes by leading artists of the moment such as Giaquinto, Tiepolo and Mengs and his Spanish followers Bayeu and Maella as well as paintings by artists such as Caravaggio, Velázquez and Francisco de Goya. Other collections of great historical and artistic importance preserved in the building include the Royal Armoury, Porcelain, Watches, Furniture, Silverware and the world's only complete Stradivarius string quintet.” The decoration of the Royal Palace of Madrid has been changing over time according to the different artistic styles of the moment. The Palace occupies 13 hectares, has 870 windows, 240 balconies, 44 staircases and 3418 rooms and it's considered one of the finest and largest palaces in Europe.
The construction of the Royal Palace started in 1738 and took 16 years to finish. They started with the facade extending construction until 1755, so that Felipe V, who died on July 9, 1746, never lived to see the new and grandiose building, his residence. Carlos III was the first Spanish monarch to establish his residence in the Palacio de Oriente in 1764.
Carlos I and his son Philip II converted the fortress into permanent residence of the monarchs. But in 1734 a fire destroyed the building and Philip V ordered the construction of the current palace.
Following the untimely death of Filippo Juvara, the architect originally commissioned to design the palace, it was his pupil Juan Bautista Sachetti who eventually drew up final plans. Seventeen years passed between the laying of the first stone in 1738 and final completion of the work commissioned by Philip V.
He was an Italian architect who worked mainly in Spain. He trained in Rome with his father-in-law Luigi Vanvitelli, with whom he collaborated in the construction of the palace of Caserta, in Naples.
In the first years of professional activity, he combined architecture with stage design, in which he introduced the new concept of scene-painting. In 1714, Victor Amadeo II of Savoy was named first architect and moved to Turin, where he found the most success in his career.
Juan Bautista Sachetti
He was an Italian architect who created important works in Spain in the court of Felipe V. For example, he worked on the Granja de San Ildefonso as well as in the construction of the Royal Palace as master builder.
José Segundo de Lema
He was one of the most important representatives of the medievalist style of Spanish architecture at the end of the 19th century.
Medievalism was rooted in the romantic movement of the late eighteenth century that opposed the dogmatic rationalism of classicism.
ART GALLERY OF THE ROYAL PALACE
The gallery of paintings of the Royal Palace consists of a room of musical instruments, two rooms of flemish paintings, one of Italian paintings, one of Spanish paintings(17th century), another one from the centuries 18th-19th, and also one dedicated to paintings from the 19th century and beginnings of the 20th.
Among the paintings recovered, there are famous paintings included like the “Políptico de Isabel la Católica”(Juan Flandes), and “White Horse”(Velázquez). Inside the Flemish Painting Room, we can find the portrait of Felipe II, the portrait of Isabel la Católica (Juan Flandes), and also from Juan Flandes, the complete series of the fifteen tablets of the Políptico that belonged to the Catholic queen.
In the Italian Painting Room, we can find Caravaggio’s masterpiece “Salomé con la cabeza del Bautista”, which stood in the chapel of the Alcázar. In the last room of the Gallery, we can find paintings by Federico Madrazo (portraitist of the Court) and the portrait of the Prince of Asturias by Joaquín Sorolla.
We can also find a really special collection of sculptures distributed in the facades of the palace, mainly situated in the balustrade. They were made in the days of Ferdinand VI at the proposal of Father Martín Sarmiento. They wanted to make the facades of the palace more beautiful, as well as the gardens that surrounded them, putting 112 statues of all the kings of Spain. To complete this task, 24 sculptors were hired by Doménico Olivieri and Felipe de Castro.
There is a legend that says that Isabel had the same dream during several nights, in which she saw the statues falling down. That’s why the king ordered the statues to not be placed, because Isabel thought that her children would be dethroned from their reigns. The statues were kept in a basement, and they decided to distribute them to different points of the city and even the country. Many are currently in the Plaza de Oriente.
ARCHITECTURAL AND DECORATIVE ELEMENTS
The main staircase of the palace was built by Sabatini. It was made of marble and has several decorative elements. There are two sculptures of lions. Four large stone jars are located on the sides of the stairs, representing the elements of water, earth, wind, and fire.
The entrance is in the grandiose Plaza de Armas Square. From here, you can appreciate the elegance and majesty of the building's main facade. Take your time to admire its ornamental details, with the balconies of its most important rooms such as the Throne Room and the Gala Banqueting Hall. Meanwhile, on the balustrade of the upper part between the statues of the different Spanish monarchs, there are figures of the ancient Inca and Aztec emperors, as a tribute to the South American continent.
STATE OF CONSERVATION AND RESTORATIONS CARRIED OUT
The Royal Palace of Madrid is in a very good state of conservation, but during the Spanish Civil War serious damage occurred to its façades and it was necessary to reconstruct these from 1944 to 1964, which involved fixing many damaged components, especially in the West façade. In some areas, it is still possible to see the impact of the shells, which affected the stone ashlars. During this work, the damaged stone was replaced by granite from the area of Zarzalejo and by Colmenar Stone. In 1975, substantial work was carried out cleaning the façades and providing specific treatment for protecting the stone.
The most recent work was done between 2002-2004 with the cleaning and replacing of the most damaged limestone pieces with Colmenar Stone, especially in the area of the cornices and imposts, where the conservation of the building was most directly affected, which led to it recovering its original colour.
Do you know the materials that were used in the construction of this building? How they extracted and selected them? To know all this information and much more, keep reading.
The facades of the Royal Palace were built using granite. We can also talk about the white limestone of Colmenar de la Oreja, which was used for the bases, columns and plasters, cornices, parapets and balustrades among other decorative elements.
These two kind of materials and their disposition in the building are two aspects that are very characteristic of the construction during this time. These features also appear in the classical monuments of Madrid that belong to the same time period.
Over the years, the palace has undergone several extensions, in which granite and colmenar limestone were used.
Between 1944 and 1964, the West facade was reconstructed due to the damage the Palace suffered during the Spanish Civil War. They also used granite in this reconstruction.
ABOUT THE ROCKS
Granite is an igneous plutonic rock composed mainly of mica, feldespar and quartz, and accompanied by other accesory minerals. This rock is formed from the slow crystallization of molten rock under the Earth's crust. Granite is a coarse grain rock, which means that its mineral grains are large enough to be visible with the naked eye. This gives the rock a typical granular aspect. This type of rock was chosen because of its ruggedness and wide distribution in the northwest part of Madrid. It has been used as a construction stone since antiquity. This makes granite a dense stone, which is part of what gives it its strength.
Limestone is a sedimentary rock, composed primarily of calcium carbonate, the same as calcite. The limestone is formed in lakes and oceans, where some organisms are capable of forming calcium carbonate. After these animals die , they normally shell a type of skeletal debris that is accumulated as a sediment, and lithified into limestone. Their biological origin is often revealed in the rock by the presence of fossils, but also some of them can be formed in marine fresh water
ORIGIN OF THE ROCKS CHOOSEN
FEATURES OF GRANITE
Granite is a natural stone, quarried from large igneous stone deposits found around the world. It begins as molten magma that flows into other rock structures and cools slowly. It is comprised of many different minerals that give each slab a unique and attractive appearance, and is resistant to scratches and damage from heat, such as pans or hot hair tools. It is also stain resistant and easy to clean when sealed correctly.
FEATURES OF LIMESTONE
Limestone is a collective term for a group of sedimentary rocks that consist of at least 50 percent calcite, a mineral formed of calcium carbonate. If some of the calcium becomes replaced by magnesium, the resulting calcium magnesium carbonate rock is called dolomitic limestone. Limestone has a variety of origins and may be precipitated in water or secreted by marine organisms such as coral; it also may contain the shells of dead marine organisms.
WHY DID THEY USED THIS ROCKS?
Since the old palace (the Alcázar) was burned, when the new royal palace was built, the monarch commissioned the architect Felipe Juvarra and instructed that all the construction should be done in stone (white from the Madrid Town of Colmenar and gray baroque from Sierra de Guadarrama) and brick so that no fire could cause a repeat of this tragedy. Limestone was used less than granite, and was replaced by apiary stone because it was too damaged.
ALTERATIONS THAT THE ROCKS HAVE SUFFERED
Some varieties are especially resistant to atmospheric aggressions, as in the case of granite, but inevitably over the years, pollution and stains will reflect on their surface. Granite will sometimes show the effects of acid rain, and many historic buildings and statues in the cities are beginning to deteriorate because of it. Some of the destruction is also caused by Portland cement, which is used for the repair of granite buildings and monuments. Acid rain deteriorates the cement and the seams become adjacent areas for pooling. Adjacent granite is also affected.
The limestone on the ground reacts with the rain as well by neutralizing the acid and dissolving. While the limestone dissolves, the rocks wear out, which creates rounded edges. The process of dissolution will change the appearance of the landscape, since the rocks wear out little by little over time. The limestone particles in the soil dissolve in the rainwater. Acid rain rounds the edges of the statues and faces of the flat surfaces of the rock. Another common reaction is the production of gypsum on the surface of the limestone that comes into contact with sulfuric acid and the chemicals contained in the air pollution damages the limestone.
QUARRIES THAT WERE USED
The Colmenar Viejo and Sierra de Guadarrama quarries are the ones that have traditionally provided the stone used to build the royal Palace of Madrid.
Monuments such as as the monastery of El Escorial, the Royal Palace, Puerta de Alcalá, the National Library, the Almudena Cathedral, the Bank of Spain, the Puerta del Sol square and the Reina Sofia Museum are built with the granite from the Sierra de Guadarrama quarry.
3D MODEL OF THE ROYAL PALACE
Now you'll be able to have a virtual tour of the Royal Palce, you just need to enter using the link below!
360º PHOTO OF THE ROYAL PALACE
Click on the Google icon to see the 360º picture