Plaza Mayor


Here is a song you can listen to while you read this document about Plaza Mayor. This song was performed by the group called Children of Bodon and its title is Summer, composed by Vivaldi.

The Plaza Mayor is one of the most important places in Madrid. It was built in 1620 and it has been used for many propurses. For example firstly the Plaza Mayor was used as a bullring, then as a place were the Saint Inquisition used to execute people, there was also the place were people used to celebrate the carnavals. Here is a picture of the Plaza Mayor as a bullring:

Nowadays Plaza Mayor is a turistic place where many special and important celebrations take place for example Christmas or the festival of San Isidro. During Christmas, there are many people that sell many products such as crèche’s figures and it is also decorated with beautifil lights and a big tree with mini bulbs that turn on at  night.


And here is a video where we talk more about this square. You can view this video using the app Aurasma

Plaza Mayor suffered four fires:

The first fire took place the 6, July 1631 at night time. It started because there were some sparks on the horn of the butcher´s shop and they spread all over Plaza Mayor. The fire lasted for 3 days, and this square was deteriorated so Juan Gómez de Mora reconstructed it.

The second fire began at night on 2nd, August  1672, and the reason why this fire happened was because there was a candle that highlighted a painting of the Virgen Del Rosario. The only building that survived was the Casa De La Panadería.

The third fire was on 16th, August 1790, and was the most serious fire, which we think was caused by the new materials that mostly were made of wood.


Plaza Mayor is characterized by its Baroque architectural style. It has 273 balconies and two steeples. It has had different types of decorations depending on the different feasts or events such as Christmas, San Isidro… Also, Plaza Mayor has some paintings on its façade and the statue of Philip III in the center. All of these features make Plaza Mayor a very beautiful place. Plaza Mayor was designed as a closed square. It has a rectangular layout with the dimensions of 129 meters by 94 meters.

In addition, its history is a reflection of the transition from baroque to neoclassic, and from Spain of the Austrias to that of the Bourbons.

His majestic square was commissioned by Philip III in 1619 and it was completed in the following year. Juan de Herrera was its architect and he established its general structure. He created a new architectural style called “herreriano” and he designed many buildings such as the Monastery of San Lorenzo del Escorial, the Cathedral of Valladolid and the Royal Palace of Aranjuez. This type of architecture is very typical of Madrid. Later on, Juan Gómez de Mora created its rectangular form. His works are characterized by the sobriety, that was established with the Herrerian style, and following the domestic and utilitarian designs of Herrera, more than the ecclesiastical models developed by this artist. Unfortunately Plaza Mayor was partially destroyed by four fires, but Juan de Villanova restored in 1853. The square has been known as Plaza Mayor since the 15th century as it has been called with many names.

Plaza Mayor has been used as a bullfighting ring, a jousting ring, and as a center for “religious activities” where the Spanish Inquisition executed many people.


The Plaza Mayor is made of various materials:

They used granite for the columns. They decided to use this material because it is very hard and resistant. The granite is an igneous plutonic rock, and it is formed when molten magma solidifies slowly inside the Earth’s crust. Granite is extracted in large pieces so many people miners has to extract the material.

A group of researchers from the Universidad Complutense de Madrid have discovered that the columns of the Plaza Mayor present a deterioration produced by  “granite decompression.”


They also used limestone for the pavement of the square and they used this material because it is very resistant. The limestone is a sedimentary rock, and it´s made up by sediments that have been deposited, compacted and cemented. It is composed primarily of calcium carbonate (CaCO3) in the form of the mineral calcite. Some limestones can form by direct precipitation of calcium carbonate from marine or fresh water. Limestones formed this way are chemical sedimentary rocks. They are thought to be less abundant than biological limestones.

They used slate for the roofs and they used this element because it is impermeable. It is a metamorphic foliated  rock and it is formed when the clay grains inside the Earth’s crust are arranged in parallel layers or bands. Normally it’s dark blue opaque and flat sheets
The slate is a dense, fine-grained rock, formed from clay sedimentary rocks and, sometimes, from igneous rocks. Basalt usually have a porophyric texture

Basalt: Is located in the floor of the square, is an igneous volcanic rock because it has been formed when molten lava cools down slowly. It’s abundant in the bottom of the oceans.


Plaza Mayor was used as the location for many executions during the Spanish Inquisition. The journalist Isabel Gea Ortigas, who specializes in Madrid issues, points out that those who were beheaded using an ax or knife were facing Casa de la Panadería, while the vile club had to face the butcher shop.

Plaza Mayor has 237 balconies, 76  lofts, and 114 arches.

During the 15th century, it was known as Plaza del Arrabal, as it was located outside the wall that surrounded Madrid at the time. During this period the square was used as a market.

Plaza Mayor has not always had the same name. During the First Republic in 1873, it was named as Plaza de la República, Plaza de la Republica Federal, and finally Plaza de la Republica Democratica Federal. In 1876, it was known as Plaza de la Constitución, until 1940 when it was called Plaza Mayor, its current name.

The Plaza Mayor had fences when we went there because Madrid was celebrating the feasts of its patron saint: Saint Isidro.


You can read this while you are listening to Vivaldi, spring:

The statue occupies the center of the Plaza Mayor. This statue represents the King riding a horse. At the front of the pedestal is a marble tombstone with the linked shields of the Royal Arms and the Villa. In the back you can read the following inscription with bronze letters: Queen Elizabeth II, at the request of the Ayuntamiento de Madrid, ordered the statue of King Philip II, son of this Villa, to be placed on this site. In 1606 and in 1619 did build this Plaza mayor. Year 1848. On the right side of the pedestal there is a limestone relief with the arms of the Turks, and on the left side another with those of Holland.

The sculpture arrived to Madrid in 1616 and was provisionally installed next to the Alcazar on its gardens, and a year later it was translated in front of the Palacete de la Casa de Campo, in Los Jardines Del Reservado. This location remained until 1846, when the writer Mesonero Romanos, being councilman of the City council of Madrid, proposed to the Real House his transfer to the Greater Place, since this one was finished under the mandate of king pious. From then on there are bas-reliefs, shields and gravestone from the pedestal.



With the proclamation of the first Republic in 1873 the statue was transported  to the municipal stores because  of possible acts of vandalism and was restored to its place with the accession to the throne of Alfonso XII in 1875. But with the advent of the second Republic suffered an attack: someone introduced through the horse’s mouth a small explosive device that burst the animal’s head.
Among the remnants of the horse head, numerous bird bones were found. It was discovered that many birds, for more than 300 years, had entered the  sculpture and then were not able to leave so they died inside. When restoring the sculpture, the horse’s mouth was closed.

The statue of Felipe III has remained since then in the central point of the Plaza Mayor, except for the fourteen months he was in the Parque del Retiro not to undergo construction of the underground parking of the square between 1970 and 1971.

Also during the early stages of the Franco dictatorship of Spain, many monuments were destroyed and damaged, the statue of Philip III  was pulled from its stone mount

Here are 2 images of this statue:

Here we have a video were we talk more about this statue:



Thanks for reading

Written by:

Marcos Moreno, Yu Ling Pérez de Camino, Lucía Fontenla, Nerea González y Alejandro Hernanz