“ Porque Madrid, en realidad, no es nada especial. No tiene un gran río, ni a penas rascacielos, ni canales, ni lagos, ni gloriosas ruinas, ni mar. A Madrid le faltan muchas cosas pero tiene la gente por las calles, el rincón inesperado, la variedad, el contraste, la animación constante y sus costumbres. Vale la pena levantarse temprano- por una sola vez- para vivir un día de vida de Madrid. ”

“Because, Madrid, in reality, is nothing special. It does not have a great river, and hardly any skyscrapers, no channels, no lakes, neither glorious ruins, nor sea. Madrid lacks a lot of things. But it has people in the streets, the unexpected corner, the variety, the contrast, the constant animation, and its customs. It is worth getting up early – for at least once – to live one day of the life of Madrid.”
Miguel Mihura

Madrid is almost at the center of the Iberian Peninsula. It is the capital of Spain and its elevation of about 2,120 feet makes it one of the highest capitals in Europe. In the words of a local proverb “From Madrid to heaven, and heaven a little window from which to see it”


The earliest archeological evidence of human inhabitation of Madrid dates to 500,000 years ago. There remains cultural evidence of Celtic, Roman, and Visigoth settlements. The name of Madrid, however, and the city’s establishment as the city it is today originates in 865 when Muslim rulers built a fortress as a defensive fortification against Christian attacks from northern Espana.

Magerit, ‘land rich in water’. This is how the Arabs called this area on the central plain of the Iberian Peninsula, close to Sierra de Guadarrama…The first historical record of Madrid dates back to the year 865, when Emir Muhammad I commissioned the construction of a fortress in the village of Mayrit, on the banks of the river Manzanares. ‘Mayrit’ means ‘plenty of waterways’, which is why the city’s first recorded coat of arms read, ‘I was built on water / My walls are made of fire / This is my flag and my coat of arms’. Madrid belonged to the Islamic world until 1083, when Alfonso VI of Castile took over the city.”

For the next 500 years, Madrid was a small, relatively poor town. It’s location in the center of the Iberian peninsula, however, was of great importance. In 1561, Felipe II (1527–1598), moved the Spanish court from Toledo to Madrid precisely because it had a power vacuum despite its strategic importance.

“Felipe established his capital in Madrid in 1561 and gave the court a permanent home for the first time. Madrid – a relatively small and unimportant town at the time, though it had a royal fortress – was centrally located and had great potential to be developed into a proper setting for a world empire. The older centers of the Castilian monarchy – for example Burgos, Valladolid, Toledo, and Seville – had old and cramped central districts that would not easily lend themselves to restructuring. Each of them, moreover, had a long and proud municipal history and served as the base of power for various aristocratic clans. By choosing Madrid as his capital, Felipe could establish its identity as the royal court and avoid some of the factional strife that might have challenged his authority in more prestigious cities. Secure on his throne at the apex of a global monarchy, Felipe of Spain was the most powerful sovereign in Europe.” Phillips, Jr, William D.; Rahn Phillips, Carla. A Concise History of Spain (Cambridge Concise Histories) (p. 190). Cambridge University Press. Kindle Edition.

“From around 20,000 in 1561, the population rose to approximately 55,000 by 1584, and approached 90,000 by 1600. Others attracted to the capital from the surrounding provinces did much to shape Madrid’s future character and outlook. The town acted as a magnet, drawing in thousands of people from different ends of the social spectrum. It inevitably became a mecca for drifters, gamblers and prostitutes and was home to a great many of the very poor, who relied upon the charity of the city’s numerous religious institutions. Travellers from northern Europe and Italy began to write about Madrid, usually in uncomplimentary terms, highlighting its ‘filthy’ streets, lack of drains and ‘unbearable stench’. Hindered by the lack of a navigable river, the town produced almost nothing economically. Chronic unemployment made crime a way of life, and those traders that did develop were virtually all oriented towards the Court and the aristocracy.” Graham Shields

“Affectionately nicknamed El Rey Alcalde (the ‘King Mayor’), Carlos III left an indelible mark on Madrid. Fascinated by the Enlightenment ideas of progress, he sought to improve from the top and became the very model of an enlightened despot as he strove to make Madrid a noble, modern capital. He challenged the privileges of the religious orders and in 1767 expelled the
Jesuits from Spain. In Madrid great improvements were made to the city’s infrastructure. In 1761 the dumping of waste in the streets was prohibited and the building of sewers and street lighting began. Houses were numbered and street cleaning and refuse collection were introduced. New public buildings were erected (including the Post Office in the Puerta del Sol and the Puerta de Alcal), and the beautiful Paseo del Prado was completed in 1782. Part of the gardens of the Palace of the Buen Retiro was opened to the public after the King moved from there to the recently completed Royal Palace in 1767. Reform and an improved economy created a feeling of wellbeing in late 18th century Madrid, and although popular reaction at the time to the King’s improvements was ambiguous, it is undeniably apparent that the quality of life in the city improved immeasurably under Carlos III.” Graham Shields

Madrid was under the French troops during the Napoleonic Wars until on May 2, 1808, the Spaniards started the Guerra de la Independencia

List of Historic Humans of España relevant to España: Ida y Vuelta



Madrid: Palacio Real The Palacio Real of Madrid is the largest palace in Europe, with over 3,000 rooms. The predominant Italian and French influence is explained by Felipe V’s upbringing in France and Carlos III’s formative years in Napoli.


Madrid: Parque el Retiro Walking Lecture


Madrid: Plaza del Sol Walking Lecture


Madrid: Prado and Reina Sofia


Ham, Anthony; Quintero, Josephine. Lonely Planet Madrid (Travel Guide). Lonely Planet Global Limited, 2021.

Phillips, Jr, William D.; Rahn Phillips, Carla. A Concise History of Spain (Cambridge Concise Histories). Cambridge University Press, 2017.

Shields, Graham. Madrid (World Bibliographical Series). ABC-CLIO, 1996.

Steves, Rick. Rick Steves Spain (Travel Guide). Avalon Travel, 2016.

John William Bailly 08 June 2022


Bailly Madrid Lecture Notes

Matrice Historians speculate that Romans established a small settlement on the Manzanares River in second century BCE. This settlement was called Matrice.

Magerit “In 865, Muhammad I, son of Abd-ar-Rahman II, ordered the construction of a small palace and a citadel in Magerit, an Arabic translation of the pre-Muslim name given to the site, Matrice, which means ‘source of water’, since the site was near a stream that flowed along present-day Calle de Segovia.” (

In 1083, Christians take Madrid from the Moors.

In 1561, Felipe II moves the court from Toledo to Madrid.


Family-owned bar/restaurant. Notice that the tortilla is moist and warm/room temperature. Specialty is Bocadillo of Carne Asada. Ask Alberto when a good time for you to come is, as it does get very busy with locals. Granadilla embodies the essence of what we’ll aim to do over the next month-live Espana by cultural immersion. We’ll avoid bubbles of luxury and rather immerse ourselves into the essence of Espana.

Atocha Train Station and Greenhouse

Madrid’s first railway station was inaugurated on 9 February 1851 under the name Estación de Mediodía.  The station was rebuilt in 1892 by architect was Alberto de Palacio Elissagne, who collaborated with Gustave Eiffel, and engineer Henry Saint James,. The station adopted the name Atocha after the Real Basilica de Nuestra Señora de Atocha. Between 1984-1992, architect Rafael Moneo remodeled the old part of the station into a botanical garden of over 400 species, spread over 4000 square meters.

Atocha Station Memorial

This cylindrical monument and underground space is a memorial to the 191 victims of 11 March 2004 attacks. The tower is constituted of 15,000 pieces of glass that connect the indoor space to the street above.

“The Atocha Train Station Memorial is a 36 foot tall cylinder that rises directly out of the ground, in the form of a tower that is illuminated at night by lamps shining from the base of the construction. Floating balloon-like inside the cylindrical structure is a colorless film that is inflated by air – inscribed with thousands of messages of condolence that were made in the days and months after the attacks.”

Booksellers on Cuesta de Moyano
These booksellers have existed for hundreds of years. In 1919, they were moved in and around this location. Although the booths were updated in 1984, the traditional facades were maintained.

Lucifer Sculpture

This is perhaps the first and only sculpture representing Lucifer. It is the 1878 work of Ricardo Bellver. The placement of it in Retiro was by Duke Fernan Nunez, despite public controversy. The sculpture sits 666 meters above sea level. The serpent has seven heads, representing perfect evil. The sculpture also has bullet holes from the civil war.

Palacio de Cristal

The Palacio de Cristal, in the shape of a Greek cross, is made almost entirely of glass set in an iron framework on a brick base, which is decorated with ceramics. Its domed roofs makes the structure over 22 metres high. The glass palace was created in 1887 to house exotic flora and fauna as part of an exhibition on the Philippines, which was then still a Spanish colony. The exhibition spilled out into the park itself, and included a reconstruction of a native Philippino village. The palace is used today for contemporary art exhibitions organised through the Reina Sofia Museum.

Sheep markers

These markers date back to a law from 1273, at the time of King Alfonso X. As livestock owners needed to move their herds south for the winter, the Honrado Consejo de la Mesta (Honorable Council of Livestock Owners) was founded. These established set paths maintained for livestock. As these became obsolete, they vanished. They were restablished in 1995, and primarily utilized by hikers and bikers. At eht end of autumn each year, the Fiesta de la Trashumancia (Flock-moving Fiesta), more than 2000 sheep are ceremoniously walked through these markers.

Puerta de Alcala

Carlos III wanted to build a monumental entry into Madrid. The architect Sabatini proposed two designs, of which Carlos III could not decide which to use. Therefore both sides are different. Notice the bullet holes

Puerta Del Sol

First electric light in 1875, first streetcar in 1897, first metro in in 1919.

Old Post Office. Built at time of Carlos III. Legend has it that the devil appeared to workers, because Carlos III selected a French architect instead of a Spanish one.

In Franco’s time, the buliding was used as police headquarters.

Today it houses the government of Madrid.

Clock story. Trains. For years, the clocks had kept the incorrect time. Then three were built…all keeping different times. “If the new clock in the Puerta Del Sol continued to work as it has thus far, it will not displease anyone, since the hours it shows on its three dials are completely different, so that everyone can choose the time that best suits him.” Finally Losada made a proper clock in 1866.

Bear and the Madrono Tree

In 1202, Madrid soldiers fighting against Moors, hailed a flag with a bear. Most likely a she-bear. The seven stars represent the little dipper (Ursa Minor). The bear is “depicted with its hind legs solidly on the ground, symbolizing the church’s dominion over the fields, and it’s forward paws poised on a tree, in representation of the State’s claim of lumber and hunting.”

Carlos III

Historian Stanley Payne wrote that Carlos III “was probably the most successful European ruler of his generation. He had provided firm, consistent, intelligent leadership. He had chosen capable ministers….[his] personal life had won the respect of the people.”


“Long before Madrid became the capital of Spain, Emir Mohamed I chose Magerit (the city’s Arabic name) as the site for a fortress to protect Toledo from the advancing Christians. The building was eventually used by the Kings of Castile until finally becoming what would be known as the Antiguo Alcázar (Old Fortress) in the 14th century. Carlos I and his son Felipe II turned the building into a permanent residence for the Spanish royal family. However, in 1734 a fire burnt the Palace of Los Austrias to the ground, and Felipe V ordered the construction of the palace that stands today.” (

Madrid becomes the capital of Espana in 1561. This location was the center of civic and religious government for Florida until 1821.

Felipe V was monarch from 1700-1746. He was the grandson of Louis XIV. He was born in Versailles and was the first French Bourbon King of Spain, which still rules to this day. He intended to build a type of Versailles in Madrid.

Carlos III was the son of Felipe V. He ruled Spain from 1759 to 1788. Before becoming King of Spain, Carlos III lived in Italy for 19 years.

The French and Italian influence on Spanish culture and specifically the Palacio Real is readily apparent. The architects and artists are all Italian. The plans were based on Bernini’s design for Versailles by Filippo Juvarra and Giovanni Battista Sacchetti in cooperation with Ventura Rodríguez, Francesco Sabatini, and Martín Sarmiento. King Carlos III first occupied the new palace in 1764.

Sculptures of the Kings of Spain, including Aztec ruler Moctezuma II and the Inca emperor Atahualpa.


Architect, Kings, and Galileo’s Horse

Kings of Espana

The plan was to place these sculpture of the kings of Spain on top of the building, similar to the saints above the colonnades of the Basilica di San Pietro. Carlos III’s mother, Isabel de Farnesio, however, objected to their placement because of a superstitious dream of her being crushed to death due to them falling.


“The monarch, furious at the reply, was not inclined to run the risk of having some other king posses a residence which would rival or even eclipse his own. Thus he immediately had the proud architect led off to a dungeon. There his henchmen ripped out the architect’s eyes, thus preventing him from ever again building another palace, and cut out his tongue so that he could not share his knowledge with others, and finally severed both his arms from his body so that he could never again make any sketches.” (Hidden Madrid)

Galileo Horse

“Tacca’s last public commission was the colossal equestrian bronze of Philip IV, after a design by Velázquez. It is also said to have been based on the iconography of a lost painting by Rubens it was begun in 1634 and shipped to Madrid in 1640, the year of his death.”

Diego Velasquez (1599-1660)

Pietro Tacca (1577–1640)

Galileo Galilei (1564-1642)

Juan Martínez Montañés (1568–1649)


Toros, tapas, siestas, & Garcia Llorca

“The word siesta comes from the Latin sexta,” explains Juan José Ortega, vice president of the Spanish Society of Sleep and a somnologist – an expert in sleep medicine.  “The Romans stopped to eat and rest at the sixth hour of the day. If we bear in mind that they divided periods of light into 12 hours, then the sixth hour corresponds in Spain to the period between 1pm (in winter) and 3pm (in summer).”

Federico García Lorca

Sonnet of the Sweet Complaint

Never let me lose the marvel

of your statue-like eyes, or the accent

the solitary rose of your breath

places on my cheek at night.

I am afraid of being, on this shore,

a branchless trunk, and what I most regret

is having no flower, pulp, or clay

for the worm of my despair.

If you are my hidden treasure,

if you are my cross, my dampened pain,

if I am a dog, and you alone my master,

never let me lose what I have gained,

and adorn the branches of your river

with leaves of my estranged Autumn.

John William Bailly 12 June 2019

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