Palacio Real De Madrid-A A +A
By Luci Lizares
Saturday, July 26, 2014
IF YOU want to see how kings and queens lived during the time when they ruled the world, the palaces are the best places to go.
For Madrid, it is the Palacio Real—the Royal Palace of Madrid. The Palacio Real is the official residence of the Spanish Royal Family in the city of Madrid, however, it is no longer occupied by royalty, but is still used for state occasions and ceremonies. The palace is now owned by the State.
The Palace burned down in 1734 and restoration work on the palace began in 1738. Reconstruction spanned 17 years until Charles III occupied the new palace in 1764.
During that period the palace was known as "Palacio Nacional." The huge palace covers 135,000 square meters (that’s 13.5 hectares. Can you believe that?) and contains more than 2,000 rooms. It is the largest palace in Europe by floor area and it took over 100 years to decorate all the rooms.
As we climbed the stairs of the palace bordered by marble lions, we opened ourselves to a courtship of pomp and grandeur. From floor to ceiling, the interior of the palace exudes wealth in art and there was no budget in the use of fine materials from construction to the decoration of its rooms. Only superlative praises can be accorded to carpets and tapestries, chandeliers and furnishings.
In the Gasparini Room, art treasures and antiques, gilt and bronze, damask, mosaics, stucco, Tiepolo ceilings, chandeliers, and paintings overflow. The Gasparini Room is covered with real gold and silver embroidery. Would you believe that it was made to be the Dressing and Reception room for Charles III of Spain? How extravagantly lavish!
Then it was to the Throne Room which radiates pure royalty. The walls are covered with embroidered crimson velvet made in Naples, while the ceiling’s fresco defines the monarchy with the glories of Olympus. Another fresco indicates the various kingdoms of Spain and the regions of the world once under Spanish colonial rule.
The decorations have been preserved since the reign of Charles III. The huge mirrors are from the Royal Glass Factory of La Granja. While the rock crystal chandeliers were bought in Venice. The bronze lions were brought in by Velasquez from Rome.
One thing about touring royal palaces is that you also are overwhelmed by a great array of artistic collections. Here we see classical Spanish art by artists such as Caravaggio, Velasquez, and Goya.
One of the interesting rooms at the Palacio Real features a collection of antique instruments by Antonio Stradivari which include two violins, two cellos, and a viola. Four of the five instruments were commissioned at the same time, and this collection is dubbed “The Spanish Quartet”. Today, it is valued at more than 100 million euros! The violins of Antonio Stradivari built in the 17th century are yet to be matched by anyone and is one of the most expensive musical instruments in the world.
Then into one of the smallest rooms of the Palace we enter. It may be small but truly stunning. This is the Porcelain room. Charles III had the Royal Porcelain Factory create all the porcelain that completely covers this room.
What would a palace be without banquets? So we enter the banquet hall. It was created for the wedding of Alfonso XII in 1879 so it had to be impressive. The tapestries and ceiling frescoes are by Anton Mengs and Antonio Velázquez. The Chinese vases “of a thousand flowers” in the window recesses are fabulous. It was enlarged for the wedding of Prince Felipe to Leticia Ortiz in 2004 and can seat 140 guests. Prince Felipe is now the reigning monarch of Spain with the abdication of his father, King Juan Carlos.
Located at the West Wing of the Palace is the Armeria Real or the Armoury Room. I did not realize that what I saw before me would captivate me. Considered one of the most significant collections of its kind with pieces dating back to the 13th century comprising weapons and armor worn by the Kings of Spain and members of the Royal Family.
The collection highlights the tournament pieces made for Charles V and Philip II by leading armorers of Milan and Ausburg. Among the most remarkable works are full armor and weapons that Emperor Charles V used in the Battle of Muhlberg. The showcase featured some of the most important pieces of this art in Europe.
The Royal Armory has been open to the public for more than 400 years. There are more than 2,000 pieces, mostly made for jousts and tournaments rather than the battlefield. That experience truly brought me back to centuries when we just dreamt of Camelot and all the knights who wooed their ladies with tournaments and jousts. I could just imagine the weight of those armors. It was amazing!
You need half a day to tour the whole of Palacio Royal. It is a journey in time. You see the powerful reign of Spain at the height of its glory. History unfolds before you as well as the arts and sciences that evolve over time and a lifestyle that is now akin to reading a fairy tale book. But that was the reality at the time.
Published in the Sun.Star Bacolod newspaper on July 26, 2014.