1902 Encyclopedia > Madrid, Spain

Madrid, Spain

MADRID, capital of the above province and of Spain, is situated in 40° 24' 35" N. lat. and 3° 41' 51" W. long., on the left bank of the Manzanares, a subtributary of the Tagus, at a maximum elevation of 2372 feet above the sea-level. The population (397,816 in 1877) was over 400,000 in 1881. The town is nearly in the centre of the kingdom, almost equidistant from the Mediterranean, the Atlantic, and the Bay of Biscay. The site consists of some sandy hills of little elevation, in the midst of an extensive plain, bounded to the view on the north only by the Sierra Guadarrama. The basin in which it stands is of Tertiary formation, consisting of gypsum, marl, and limestone.

Owing to its elevated and exposed situation, the climate of Madrid has some marked peculiarities. In winter the mean temperature is 43° Fahr., and as many as sixteen degrees of frost have been observed; the mean in summer is 76° Fahr., but a temperature of 107° has been registered ; and the daily oscillation sometimes amounts to as much as 57°. The readings in sun and shade at the same moment are also widely different. The tendency to inflammatory disorders in the population is, as might be expected from these circumstances, very pronounced; but against it must be set the advantages of a dry atmosphere and a cloudless sky, and in point of fact the city is not exceptionally unhealthy; its salubrity has been much enhanced by the recent introduction of a plentiful supply of pure water from the Lozoya (32 miles distant).

The form of Madrid proper is almost that of a square with the corners rounded off; from east to west it measures rather less than from north to south. It was formerly surrounded by a poor wall, partly of brick, partly of earth, some 20 feet in height, and pierced by five principal gates (puertas) and eleven " portillos." Of these gateways only three, the Puerta de Alcalá on the east, the Puerta de Toledo on the south, and the Portillo de San Vicente on the west, now actually exist; the first and the third were erected in the time of Charles III., and the second in honour of the restoration of Ferdinand VII.; all have some architectural pretensions. The Manzanares (or rather its bed, for the stream is at most seasons of the year quite insignificant) is spanned by six bridges, the Puente de Toledo and that of Segovia being the chief. The Puerta del Sol (formerly the east gate and tower of the city, having on its front a representation of the sun—whence the name) is now the central plaza, and the favourite lounge and place of most traffic in the city; the animated scene it presents has been described with more or less fulness in almost every book of Spanish travel. On its south side stands the Palacio de la Gobernación, or Home Office, a heavy square building, by a French architect, J. Marquet, and dating from 1768. From the Puerta del Sol diverge, immediately or mediately, almost all the principal streets of Madrid—eastward by north, the Calle de Alcalá, terminating in the Prado; eastward, the Carrera de San Gerónimo, terminating by the Plaza de las Cortes also in the Prado; southward, the Calle de Carretas ; westward, the Calle Mayor, which leads to the council chamber and to the palace, and the Calle del Arenal, ter-minating in the Plaza de Isabel II. and the opera-house ; north-westward, the Calles de Preciados and Del Carmen; and northward, the Calle de la Montera, which afterwards divides into the Calle de Fuencarral to the left and the Calle de Hortaleza to the right. Of these the Calle de Alcalá is the finest; it is bordered on both sides with acacias, and contains some elegant buildings, including the museum of natural history, formerly the general custom-house, dating from 1769, and the offices of the Board of Trade (Ministerio de Hacienda) on the north side, and on the south the palace of the duke of Sesto (the site of which is about to be occupied by the new buildings of the Banco de España or Bank of Spain) ; its irregularity in point of width and level, however, detracts much from its appearance. The Plaza de las Cortes is so called from the Congreso de los Diputados, or House of Commons, on its north side, a building in the Corinthian style, but of little merit; the square contains a bronze statue of Cervantes, by Sola, erected in 1835. The Calle de Carretas ranks with the Carrera de San Gerónimo and Calle de la Montera for the excellence of its shops. From the Calle Mayor is entered the Plaza Mayor, a rectangle of about 430 feet by 330, formerly the scene of tournaments, bull fights, autos-de-fe, and similar exhibitions, which used to be viewed by the royal family from the balcony of one of the houses called the Panadería (belonging to the guild of bakers). The square, which was built under Philip III. in 1619, is surrounded by an arcade; the houses are uniform in height and decoration. In the centre stands a bronze equestrian statue of Philip III., designed by Pantoja, cast by Juan de Bologna, and finished by Pedro Tacca. From the south-east angle of the Plaza Mayor the Calle de Atocha, one of the principal thoroughfares of Madrid, leads to the outskirts of the city; at the south-west angle of the same square the Calle de Toledo begins, the chief mart for the various woollen and silken fabrics from which the picturesque costumes peculiar to the peninsula are made. In the Plaza de Isabel II., at the western extremity of the Calle del Arenal, stands the royal opera-house, the principal front of which faces the Plaza del Oriente and the royal palace. In the centre of the plaza is a fine bronze equestrian statue of Philip IT. ; it was designed by Velazquez and cast by Tacca, while Galileo is said to have suggested the means by which the balance is preserved. The gift of the grand-duke of Tuscany iu 1640, it stood in the Buen Retiro gardens until 1844.

As compared with other capitals, Madrid has very few buildings of much interest architecturally or otherwise. There is no cathedral. The Basilica de Nuestra Señora de
Atocha, on the Paseo de Atocha, a continuation of the Calle de Atocha, originally founded in 1523, after being destroyed by the French was rebuilt by Ferdinand VII.; it contains one of those miraculous images attributed to St Luke with which Spain abounds, and is specially associated in history with the name of Queen Isabella II. The collegiate church of San Isidro el Real, in the Calle de Toledo, dates from 1651 ; it has no architectural merit, but contains one or two valuable pictures and other works of art. The modern Gothic church of San Gerónimo el Real occupies a conspicuous site eastward of the town ; it is not at present used as a place of worship. Of secular buildings unquestionably the most important is the royal palace (Palacio Real) on the west side of the town, on a rising ground overhanging the Manzanares. It occupies the site of the ancient Moorish alcazar, where a hunting seat was built by Henry IV.; this was enlarged and improved by Charles V. when he first made Madrid his residence in 1532, was further developed by Philip IL, but of lately was destroyed by fire in 1734. The present edifice was begun under Philip V. in 1737 by Sacchetti of Turin, and was finished in 1764. It is in the Tuscan style, and is 470 feet square and 100 feet in height, the material being white Colmenar granite, resembling marble.

To north of the palace are the royal stables and coach-houses, remarkable for their extent; to the south is the armoury (Museo de la Real Armería), containing what is probably the best collection of the kind anywhere to be met with. After the Palacio Real may be mentioned the royal picture gallery (Real Museo de Pinturas), adjoining the Salon del Prado ; it was built about 1785 for Charles III. by Juan de Villanueva, as a museum of natural history and academy of sciences. It contains the collections of Charles V, Philip II., and Philip IV, and the pictures number upwards of two thousand. The specimens of Titian, Raphael, Veronese, Tintoretto, Velazquez, Vandyck, Rubens, and Teniers are numerous and remarkable, giving it a claim to be regarded as the finest picture gallery in the world. The palaces of the grandees are generally noteworthy only for their size. There are some seventeen theatres of all classes. The bull-ring (Plaza de Toros), to the east of the town, accommodates 12,000 spectators; the present building dates from 1874. Of the promenades and open places of public resort the most fashionable and most frequented is the Prado (Paseo del Prado, Salon del Prado) on the east side of the town, with its northward continuation the Paseo de Recoletos. To the south of the town is the Paseo de las Delicias, and on the west, below the royal palace, and skirting the Manzanares, is the Paseo de la Virgen del Puerto, used chiefly by the poorer classes. East-ward from the Prado are the Buen Retiro gardens, with the usual ponds and pavilions, and a poor menagerie. The gardens were formerly the grounds surrounding a royal hunting-seat, on the site of which a palace was built for Philip IV. in 1633; it was destroyed during the French occupation.

Modern educational movements have not left Madrid unaffected, and considerable improvements in this respect have taken place within recent years. There are upwards of 100 official primary schools (attended by 4810 boys and 3958 girls), and a large number of private ones ; among the other educational instrumentalities the numerous schools connected with various Protestant missions claim special mention. There are two normal schools. The university of Alcalá, founded by Cardinal Ximenes in 1508, was transferred in 1836 to Madrid, and has since that time undergone much reform and extension. In 1882 the teaching staff numbered 88, and the students 7000. Of these 2400 belonged to the faculty of law, 2500 to that of medicine, 400 to that of science, 1400 to that of pharmacy, and 250 to that of philosophy and literature. The faculty of theology was suppressed in 1868, and has not been re-established. Madrid also has schools of agriculture, architecture, civil and mining engineering, the fine arts, veterinary science, and music. The school of military engineering is at Guadalajara. Among the educational insti-tutions may be reckoned the botanical garden, originated in 1781, the national library, with those of the palace, the university, and San Isidro, and the museum of natural science, exceedingly rich in the mineralogical department. The principal learned society is the Royal Spanish Academy, founded in 1713 for the cultivation and improvement of the Spanish tongue. The Academy of History possesses a good library, rich in MSS. and incunabula, as well as a fine collection of coins and medals. There are likewise academies of the fine arts, the exact sciences, moral and political science, medicine and surgery, and jurisprudence and legislation, all possessing libraries. There are also anthropological, economical, and geographical societies, and a scientific and literary athenaeum. The charitable institutions include upwards of eighteen hospitals, the largest of which contains 1200 beds; there are three foundling hospitals and six for orphans. The military hospital is large and well conducted. There are very good schools for the blind and for deaf mutes, and a number of asylums of various kinds.

The manufactures of Madrid are inconsiderable; every article of food and clothing, almost without exception, is imported. The most important industries are the manufactures of tobacco and cigars, gold and silver wares, tapestry and carpets, porcelain, hats, mirrors, and beer Little wine is grown near the capital, and not much fruit; but the markets are well supplied, and regularly, from all quarters of the kingdom. Madrid is still the principal,, one might almost say the only, focus of the now largely developed railway system of the peninsula. The suburbs of the town are rapidly extending, especially towards the north and south. The immediate environs are uninterest-ing. About 6 miles to the north-west lies the fine hunting seat El Pardo, restored by Charles III.

Spanish archaeologists have frequently claimed for Madrid a very high antiquity, but the earliest authentic historical mention of the town (Majrit, Majoritum) occurs in an Arab chronicle, and does not take us farther back than to the first half of the 10th century. The place was finally taken from the Moors by Alphonso VI. (1083), and was made a hunting-seat by Henry IV., but first rose into importance when Charles V., benefiting by its keen air, made it his occasional residence. Philip II. created it his capital and "only court" (finica corte) in 1560. To this day it only ranks, however, as "villa," not as " ciudad." Fruitless attempts were made by Philip III. and Charles III. respectively to transfer the seat of government to Valladolid and to Seville.

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