Monumental Madrid


Madrid, like any capital city, has a full assortment of famous museums, historical sites and the like, and like most, a thriving food scene. But not every city seems as dedicated to monumentalism in its facades and public spaces.

It's not that there are not impressive buildings and striking monuments in other cities, but I was struck, as I reviewed my pictures of Madrid, by how high a percentage of ordinary buildings seems to be "putting up a good front," especially in the city core. 


Even fairly simple residential buildings can project a bit...


The narrow streets between Gran Via and the huge Plaza Mayor have mostly smaller buildings, but they too show impressive stonework and trims.


And Plaza Mayor itself was clearly built to impress, not only with its massive buildings but also its huge open court.


And, there are the actual 'monuments' of various kinds. This one, just outside Plaza Mayor, commemmorates the rebels who rose against French rule during Napoleonic occupation of the Iberian Peninsula. It's the rising depicted in a series of famed paintings by Goya, commissioned afterwards by the king, and then stored away for years because they depict common people, not nobles, as the rebels.


Monumental gates and arches add to the effect; here are some very pleasant ones at entrances to the Retiro park, and a puzzle I haven't solved.


The puzzle is that this monumental arch, the Puerta de Alcala, sits in the center of the Plaza de la Independencia, and I have yet to find why the plaza has that name. Independence from whom? When? The site was originally one of the five royal gates in the city walls.

The arch was built under Carlos III in 1778, replacing an earlier brick arch. It's said to be Europe's first post-Roman triumphal arch, older than the Brandenburg Gate or Arc de Triomphe. But independence from whom? When?


Some recent public monuments are free from the restraints of classical forms. The Jenga-like pile above commemorates Columbus, his crews, his ships and, importantly, his financial backers, including Ferdinand and Isabella.

The second monument, near the Atocha rail station, commemorates labor and left-wing lawyers assassinated nearby by pro-fascist gunmen in 1977, shortly after the end of the Franco dictatorship.


Two more examples of monumental but post-classical design. Top, the building of the Instituto de Credito Oficial, a government-owned financial institution with Art Deco features. Below, two facades of the Bank of Spain building, built decades apart, show changing style preferences.


Pure wedding cake: The 19th-century headquarters of the Ministry of Communications. Below, a bank building that trades classical proportions for a very impressive column height.


A spire or two punctuates the air here and there...The lower pair is the church of St Bartolomeo.



Since it's the capital, there's the Royal Palace, with over 3,000 rooms. If you think that's impressive, consider that it was meant to be 9,000 rooms before the budget went out. Below, a tower with a fanciful twist, possibly a fish.


And here's a fuller view of a luxury apartment building near Gran Via, with pleasant-looking rooftop greenery, which was our One-Clue Mystery this week, solved by George G.


And there are even interior spaces that could be called monumental, both in size and intent to make a big impression. Below, the entrance lobby that has been added to the Prado Museum. You could easily mistake it for a railroad station. In Madrid, the real railroad station, Atocha, also encloses monumental space.



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The best part of every trip is realizing that it has upset your expectations

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I've never been to Madrid, a drive-through in 1966 doesn't count.  When the world seems a good place to wander again I plan to go.  Thanks for the preview.

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