THE GRAN VÍA
|The Gran Vía (Spanish for Great Way) was built in three sections between
1910 to early 1940's. Until the 1960's it was Madrid's principle street and
For out trip through this area we will begin in the lower right hand corner of the map. We will move along the Gran Vía and return back north of our starting point.
The beginning point of our journey is where the Gran Vía intersects at the Calle de Alcalá. This is section was the first of the three sections of the Gran Vía to be built. Heading west we pass the Oratorio del Caballero de Gracia (#1). Built from 1790 - 1795, it is considered to be Madrid's finest neoclassical church. The Gran Vía was re-routed so that the church could be preserved.
Across the corner is the Edificio Telefónica (#2). This is the headquarters of Telefónica, Spain's telecommunications company. When the headquarters were built in 1924, it was a 265 ft, Madrid's tallest building. On top of the building is a huge red clock which is very visible at night. Between here and our next destination the Plaza de Callao is the second section of the Gran Vía.
Between the Edificio Telefónica and our next destination the Plaza de Callao we pass on the right Calle de la Ballesta. Ballesta means "crossbow". This street received it name because in the 18th a German marksman would practice on this street using chained wolves and wild boars.
Containing west we enter the Plaza de Callao (#3). The Plaza de Callao was named after the 1866 Battle of Callao (Peru). Callao is and was a very important port in the Pacific. This naval battle was fought by Spain against a combined alliance of Peru, Chile, Bolivia, and Ecuador. The battle featured Ironclad ships on both sides. In addition although not participating there were American and British ships observing the battle. This battle was fought at long range and after withdrawing his ships the Spanish Captain, Mendez Núñez uttered the immortal words "Better honor without ships, then ships without honor." It was considered a draw on both sides, but Peru still celebrates the day May 2nd. Now in the Plaza de Callao you can view huge hand painted movie signs. This is also a very good place to buying Spanish books and records. Madrid's largest record store, Madrid Rock, is located here.
We temporarily leave the Gran Vía and head north to the Calle Tudescos. Then to the Calle Corredera Baja de San Pablo. At the intersection of Calle del Pez is the San Antonio de los Portuguese (#4). This church is considered to be perhaps Madrid's most beautiful working church. It was built by Philip III as a hospital for sick Portuguese. Philip IV's wife, Mariana of Austria decided to make it a hospital for Germans (she herself being of German descent). Philip V in 1702 decided that he would make is a general hospital for the poor regardless of nationality.
Just across the street is the Teatro Lara (#5). In this small 19th century theatre modern day dramas are performed as are small concerts.
We go around the corner to the Calle del Pez and head down Calle de San Roque to the Gran Vía. Along the way we pass the Calle de la Luna (Moon Street) and Calle Estrella (Star Street). Back on the Gran Vía we continue northwest to our next destination the Plaza de España. This section is the 3rd and last section of the Gran Vía.
The Plaza de España (#6) is huge. It separates the Gran Vía from the Calle de la Princesa. It is dominated by two skyscrapers both built during the reign of Franco, but in different styles.
The Edificio España was built in begun in 1948 and is 23 stories high. It was built to demonstrate Spain's self-sufficiency because at the time they were "isolated" from the rest of the world. The second building, the Torre de Madrid was built in 1957. At the time it was the world's largest concrete structure. It modeled on U.S. skyscrapers. Less decorative then the Edificio España it was built to demonstrate Spain's economic take-off as its isolation ended.
The plaza was the location of the Leganitos Meadow. This was mentioned in Don Quixote, and was a place where for centuries people from Madrid would come on hot summer nights to cool off. Here is the famous statue of Cervantes overlooking his two famous characters, Don Quixote and Sancho Panza.
We could if we wish at this point leave the Gran Vía and head west along the Cuesta de San Vicente. If we decide to head north along the Calle de Ferraz we would first encounter the Museo Cerralbo (#7). The Museo Cerralbo contains 50,000 items collected by the 17th Marqués de Cerrablo in the 19th century. These items, which include works by El Greco and Titian are housed in a mansion that the Marqués had built. The Calle de Ferraz might be named after Jose Ferraz y Cornell (1796 - 1854) a soldier and briefly Minister of the Treasury.
As we continue north we can enter the Parque de la Montaña and view the Temple de Debod. This was a 4th century (b.c.) temple built by the Pharaoh Zakheramon. It was given to Spain by the Egyptian government as a thank you for helping them build the Aswan dam. The temple was originally built on land that was flooded by the dam.
Leaving the Calle de Ferraz we enter the Paseo del Pintor Rosales and visit the Parque del Oeste (West Park) (#8). The Paseo del Pintor Rosales is considered to be one of Madrid's finest avenues for walking. Here we may take a short teleférico (cable car) ride to the Casa de Campo.
The Casa de Campo is a 4000 acre park that contains an artificial lake where you can swim and rent rowboats. The southern part of the park contains a zoo and an amusement park.
If instead of proceeding north along the Calle de Ferraz we had instead continued west along the Cuesta de San Vicente and north along the Paseo de la Florida we would pass by the Estación de Principe Pio. This is an old railway station that part of has been transformed to hold musicals.
One of Goya's greatest paintings "The Shooting of the Third of May, 1808" is from an incident that took place near here at the Mountain of the Principe Pio. (See also below)
Continuing north we reach the Ermita de San Antonio de la Florida (#9). Ermita means "hermitage" or "shrine". There are actually two hermitages built here (the second in 1929). In that way they could continue to use a church without damaging the original. The original Ermita de San Antonio de la Florida was built in 1795 by the Duchess of Alba. She had the great Spanish painter Goya paint frescoes in the interior. Goya himself is buried within the Ermita.
On the 13th of June the festival of San Antonio de la Florida is held. On this day according to dressmakers' tradition, a single girl must place 13 pins in the baptismal font, and if one of the pins sticks to her finger, she will marry during the year.
Returning from our side trip we continue north along the Calle de La Princesa. The Calle de La Princesa is known more for its stores than historical locations. However if we head east onto Calle Mártines de Alcalá we can visit the Palacio de Liria (#11). Construction was begun on the palace in 1762 and it was inspired in part by the Palacio Real. It is the official home of the Duchess of Alba. It was almost completely destroyed during the Spanish Civil War, but was rebuilt. Inside are paintings by Ruben, Veláquez , Zurbarán and Titian. It does not cost anything to tour the palace, however only small groups of 2 - 3 people are admitted at a time, and only by appointment. If you wish to visit the palace you must write to Don Miguel, Calle de la Princesa 20, 28008 Madrid.
Behind the Palacia de Liria is the Antiguo Cuartel del Conde Doque. It was built in 1720 as a barracks for the palace guards. Today the parade grounds are used for open-air concerts and the inside houses the municipal library and exhibition spaces.
Continuing back to the Calle de la Princesa and then north we can visit the Multicentro El Laurel de Princesa (#10). Here are over 60 boutiques with creations by some of Spain's best designers.
If we were to continue on the Calle de Princesa for a short walk we could visit the Museo de America. This is a unique museum containing cultural objects from the various peoples of the Americas. The collection originally was started by Charles VII of Naples, who becoming Charles III of Spain in 1752 brought his collection with him. He then greatly expanded the collection of items.
We instead turn east onto Calle de Alberto Aquilera. Alberto Aquilera (1840 - 1913) was a politician born in Madrid. He became Minister of the Interior and was also a lawyer. The Calle de Alberto Aquilera, the Calle Carranza and the Calle de Sagasta were the rough boundaries of a wall that defined the northern boundaries of 17th century Madrid. These streets are popularly known as the avenidas. Calle de Sagasta may have been named after Mateo Sagasta Práxedes (1827 - 1903). He started life as an engineer but became a politician rising to be President of the Cabinet. Calle Carranza may have been named after Bartolme de Carranza de Miranda (1503 - 1576). He was a former Archbishop of Toledo. While at one point he was sent by the King Philip II to England to further Catholicism he was later accused by the same King of heresy. But after a very long trial he was found not guilty.
From the Calle de San Bernardo east is the area known as Malasaña. If we turn off of Calle Carranza onto Calle San Andres we will enter the Plaza Dos de Mayo (May 2nd) (#12). Here on May 2nd 1808, locals stormed the Palace of Monteleón in search of weapons to use against the French who were occupying the city. The French in retaliation began gathering up anyone in the area. One of the individuals was Manuela Malasaña (a street named for her is just north of her). She was an 17 year old orphan who worked as a seamstress. When the French searched her the found a pair of scissors. The French said that this was a weapon (the carrying of any weapons was forbidden) and she along with a number of other people of Madrid were executed immediately. The executions took place on May 3rd. Six years later Goya painted "The Third of May, 1808". The Plaza contains a statues of Pedro Velarde and Luis Daoíz y Torres. Pedro Velarde y Santiyán (1779-1808) and Luis Daoíz were Captains of the Artillery. Against orders they came to the aid of the citizens. Unfortunately both individuals died in the fighting. The Calle Daoíz is to the west of the plaza, the Calle Velarde is to the east of the plaza.
We continue south to and turn east (left) onto the Calle San Vicente Ferrer continuing until we come to the Museo Municipal (#13). The doorway to this museum depicts San Fernando, patron saint of orphans. This is appropriate because the museum was originally built as a 17th century orphanage over pits used to store snow hauled from the mountains. The collection of the museum contains old maps, prints, architectural drawings and photographs dating to 1850. Of particular interest is a model to scale of the city in 1833.
Going east along the Calle Beneficencia we come to the Museo Romántico (#14). Though the museum occupies a town house built in the 1770's its collection is dedicated to 19th century arts and furniture. The museum attempts to recreate the exact look of a 19th century house with authentic pieces.
Close by is the Sociedad General de Autores (#17). This was originally a private mansion built in 1902. It is a flamboyant Gaudi-style building. Now it is home to the Spanish writers and artists' copyright association.
Continuing south down the Calle de Hortaleza we pass the San Antón church (#16). Here on January 7th of each year, the people of Madrid bring their pets to be blessed.
Continuing down the Calle de Hortaleza we go west (right) on to the Calle de Augusto Figueroa and visit our second to last destination the Mercado de Fuencarral (#15). This is a market place containing stalls where you can purchase the best of local and foreign fashion, jewelry and shoes.
Continuing south along the Calle de Fuencarral we head east (left) onto the Calle de las Infantas to the Casa de las Siete Chimineas (House of Seven Chimneys). Built in 1585, it is now home to the Ministry of Culture. However it is famous for as the place where the future Charles I (of England) (born 1600, reigned 1625 - 1649) stayed in 1624 on his visit to meet the Spanish Infanta María who he did not end up marrying.
Some of the streets:
North of Calle de Alberto Aquilera:
North of Calle de Sagasta: