Plaza Major

Posted by on Jan 17, 2018 in Foreign Travel | No Comments

Enclosed on four sides, this pano hints at the size of this spacious plaza. At one time considered a slum area, the neighborhood was razed in the late 1500s and by 1619 it stood mostly as you see it now.

Plaza Major is famous beyond its architecture, art and detail. When built it served the King as his administrative center. During the Spanish Inquisition it is where “heretics” were tried, tortured and killed. The Plaza once hosted bullfights, royal weddings and political rallies. Celebrations for the patron saint of Madrid, San Isidro Labrador (St. Isidore the Farmer) are still held here. The buildings have suffered through three fires. 

The murals decorate part of the north face of the Plaza. They are a relatively recent addition as you might guess. The figures are modern depictions of the goddess Cybele. For some reason Madrid features other memorials to this somewhat obscure goddess.

It is said that the statue of King Phillip III, dating from 1616, is the most expensive public art on display in the City. The facade behind it (with the murals) is known as Casa de la Panaderia. Back before this Plaza came to be it was a bakery. Prices were fixed (by the monarchy) so that the poorest could still buy bread or “pan”.

Where there are tourist, there are traps. I didn’t ask how much it cost to be posed. Below, the “Free Tour” is only free if you don’t generously tip your guide. We were cautioned about pickpockets but fortunately never had a problem. I returned again in the evening and found the plaza alive with restaurants, entertainers and packed with people.

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