Madrid Plaza Mayor’s 400th anniversary

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Madrid Plaza Mayor’s 400th anniversary

Madrid’s main square has changed names several times over these 400 years. EFE/Paolo Aguilar. (EFE)
Madrid’s main square has changed names several times over these 400 years. EFE/Paolo Aguilar. (EFE)

Plaza del Arrabal, Plaza de la Constitución, Plaza Real, Plaza de la República… Madrid’s main square – Plaza Mayor – has changed names several times over these 400 years. What has remained the same is its role as a nerve centre of city life. Its balconies – as many as 237 – have witnessed everything from popular festivals to theatrical performances to bullfights to beatifications to coronations to one or two autos-da-fe.

Madrid’s Plaza Mayor is an arcaded square – one of the oldest in Spain and the epitome of a traditional architectural style produced in our country and exported to the Americas. The cornerstone was laid on 2 December 1617 on the order of King Philip II, who had commissioned a food market to be developed on the site. With the centuries, the square changed its purpose and its outlook. In 1790, the square caught fire. Juan de Villanueva rebuilt it, making it an enclosed area and adding the entrance archways.

The cobblestones in Plaza Mayor have seen everything from trams to trees. In the early twentieth century, the square looked leafier – an appearance that will be restored in the form of flowerpots on the occasion of its 400th anniversary.

Celebrating the 400th anniversary of the square, the City of Madrid has organised a series of cultural events highlighting the role of Plaza Mayor as a major hub of city life.

The events will be held throughout 2017 and will continue in 2018. From 15 to 17 September, there will be a Poetic Joust, organised by literary circles and featuring renowned writers. On 23 September, the Spanish National Dance Company (CND) will stage Don Quijote Suite and Minus 16. On 7 October, there will be a Baroque Festival recreating the spirit of Habsburg Madrid. There are only three of the many events being planned.