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Buenavista Palace

History

In the middle ages of the XVIth century the terrain where now the Buenavista Palace is

Buenavista Palace
View upon Buenavista Palace (red building with grey roof) from the Town Hall

located was an olive grove. In order to make the access easier to this area of the capital from the Puerta del Sol, the calle Alcala was built.

Some relevant characters had started building convents in the surroundings. In general they were not very important buildings as they were in the outskirts of the city. There were big farms and gardens.

The first building on this site belonged to cardinal Quiroga, archbishop of Toledo and Great Inquisitor of the Reign. Being in Naples he offered the palace to Felipe II who used it as countryside residence. As the works in the royal Alcazar were taking more time than expected, he used this palace quite frequently. But as Madrid started growing, this area became less isolated and the king preferred then Aranjuez or El Escorial.

King Felipe III sold the houses that were on the site to Don Diego de Silva and Mendoza in 1609.

In 1697 the first Puerta de Alcala was built of brick, it was between the current townhall

Buenavista Palace
Park

and the Linares Palace. Until the middle of the XVIIIth centrury between the Cibeles and the Neptune fountains there was nothing but a slope with a stream flowing in it.

 

In 1744 the Silva and Mendoza family lost their properies and they went into the hands of the jesuits. After some years they sold it to the marquis of la Ensenada . He did not enjoy the new possessions either as he lost his position ten years later.

After the death of king Felipe V, his widow,Isabel de Farnesio, lived in the palace until her own death in 1766.

The Puerta de Alcala as we know it today was built during the reign of Carlos III , at the end of the XVIIIth century. They filled the slope with soil and in 1781 they installed the Cibeles fountain. This was the beginning of a new era for this zone.

Buenavista Palace
Statue dedicated to Bravery by Jose Alcoverro

From 1769 on the duke of Alba, Fernando de Silva y Alvarez de Toledo, started buying all the properties in these surroundings joining them. His granddaughter, the famous Maria Teresa Cayetana de Silva, demolished most of the old buildings and started with the construction of a building that would show off her wealth and class. But she died before it was finished.

In 1795, when the palace was allmost finished, a fire caused serious damage to it. The year after this another fire made the duchess loose interest in the building. After her death the palace of Buenavista was inherited by several people not belonging to the family, most of them from modest background. It seems that the duchess prefered to let them the building, as she had some problems with the members of her own family. As the palace was expensive to maintain, the heirs decided to sell it.

In 1807 the Town Hall bought the palace in order to preesent it to Godoy, but he fell into disgrace before living in the palace, although he had already started remodelling it.

During the French invasion, the General Staff under the lead of General Murat occupied the palace while the troopes were in the Retiro Park and the Casa de Campo. King Jose I thought of using the palace as museum of art.

During the reign of Fernando VII it was dedicated to Military Inspections.

In 1816 the palace was seat of the Military Museum. The palace was in quite bad

Buenavista Palace
Staircase

conditions, with the roof leaking, the interior without decoration, the garden full of debris… Once the Museum was installed the building was enlarged with other buildings in order to house barracks and other necessary departments.

The Royal Military Museum was in the palace of Buenavista until 1827 when it was divided into two sections, one would become the Royal Museum of Artillery and the other the Royal Museum of the Corps of Engineers.

But the most important change that would take place in the palace of Buenavista happened in 1841. It would become the official home of Spain´s regent, general Espartero. The Military Museum was moved to the Buen Retiro Palace where it was until 2009 when it was moved again, this time to the Alcazar in Toledo.

Since 1847 the palace of Buenavista became Ministery of War, although it was not finished yet. Later on it became the Ministry of the Army and is now the Headquarter of the Army.

 

The Garden

Buenavista Palace
Portrait of Isabel II by Madrazo

The garden has an important collection of plants, among them the Biloba tree, over thousand years old.

Before getting to the stairs that take us to the main entrance of the palace, there is a statue dedicated to Bravery by Jose Alcoverro. It wants to emphazise the courage of the Celtiberian soldier. In his right hand the soldier has the gladius hispanica, sword later also used by the Romans.

There are also some statues dedicated to Minerva and Mars made of the bronze of the cannons captured from the enemy during the first African War.

The lanterns are from the late XIXth century when the first artificial lighting was installed.

The Building

The palace has several yards. The first one from the XVIIIth century belonged to the palace in times of the duchess of Alba.

Parade Ground

The Parade Ground is in the part of palace built in the XIXth century. There are several sculptures made by Antonio Colmeiro dated in 1980 and that remember important historical characters like Don Pelayo, Pizarro or El Cid.

Stair of Honor

The balustrade is made of grey marble. The lamps are from 1882. The columns are made of granite. On the walls we can see names of important battles.

Buenavista Palace
Tapestry by Goya

There is also a sculpture of Gonzalo Fernandez de Cordoba , El Gran Capitan, considered the creator of the Spanish army which dominated Europe from the XVIth century until the middle of the XVIIth century.

Aide de Camp Hall

The vaults are from the XIXth century. The lamps were made in La Granja.

In this hall is one of the 90 clocks of the palace.

There are several valuable portraits like the one of Felipe II painted by van Loo. There is also one of Isabel II with her daughter, princess Isabel by Federico Madrazo.

Teniers Hall

This room got its name from the tapestries hanging on its walls. They were made in the XVIIIth centruy based on works by Teniers and most of them made by van Loo , like those showing country holidays in the Netherlands. There is also a tapestry based on the first cartoon by Goya, The Wild Boar Hunting, which Goya painted while working as painter of the court for the Royal Tapestry Factory in 1775.

Most of them were made in the Royal Tapestry Factory of Santa Barbara.

Buenavista Palace
Teniers Hall

Goya Hall

On the walls we can see tapestries with typical Spanish images.

In this room we find the biggest tapestry made by Goya. It is about 6,50m long, Summertime or Threshing. The tapestries are made in silk and wool threads.

In the center is a table used since the middle of the XIXth century by the different ministers iof War. Around the table the last meeting of king Alfonso XII's cabinet was held as well as the first one of Azaña, while being minister of War of the II Republic.

 

Audience Hall

This was originally the office of the minister.

Buenavista Palace
Audience Hall

On one side is a restored table of the times of king Felipe V.

The walls are covered with silk threads. Above the door some mythological images.

In this room is the sofa where general Prim received first aid after the assasination attempt he suffered and from which wounds he would eventually die. General Prim was Prime Minister and had supported the nomination of Amadeo of Saboya as new king of the country. In fact Amadeo of Saboya was already travelling to Spain, but when he arrived Prim had died. It was never discovered who organized the attack, but many believe that the duke of Montpensier and general Serrano were behind the plot.

Battle Hall

This room got its name from the paintings of famous battles hanging on the walls. It is also known as the Shell Hall because of the shells decoration the corners.

Buenavista Palace
Hall of Lost Steps

In the center is a table of the XVIIIth century.

Hall of Lost Steps

It gives way to several rooms. In the corners are Sevres vases. There is a portrait of Luis I by Jean Ranc.

Main Dining Room

The floor is made of marble in different shades.

In this room is the oldes tapestry of the palace showing scenes from Don Quixote made following cartoons by Procaccini and Sany .

Quixote Hall

The vault is made in Pompejan style. It is typical romantic room. On the walls tapestries

Buenavista Palace
Quixote Hall

showing scenes from Don Quixote also made Procaccini and Sany .

The chimney in Louis XV style is made of white marble. It is believed that general Prim died inthis room. Afterwards his mortal remains were taken to Virgen de Atocha Church.

Prim Hall

This is the old music hall. The clocks were made in England in the XVIIIth century. On the wall is a portrait of queen Isabel II when she was 16 years old, probably painted by Madrazo.

There is also a portrait of general Prim by Esteban and a painting showing the battle of Tetuan by Sans y Cabot.

Dance or Embassadors Hall

Buenavista Palace
Alfonso XII by Mariano Benlliure

On the vault we can see characters related to the Army like El Gran Capitan, Balboa or Magallanes.

On the walls portraits of Fernando VII by Goya and Vicente Lopez.

There are two figures made by Mariano Benlliure of king Alfonso XII and Alfonso XIII. In this room general Joffe, heroe of the battle of Verdun, decorated king Alfonso XIII because Spain had not entered World War I and because of its collaboration with the Red Cross and help in order to exchange prisioners of wear.

Every last Friday of the month there is the ceremony of the changing of the guard in front of the palace at 12:00.

Undoubtfully the palace of Buenavista is a very special place, with a history full of relevant events that have changed Spain´s evolution.

Photographies: Rafael Castañeda Fotografía

Sources: Palace of Buenavista

 

 

@Copyright 2008, 2009 Mª Dolores Diehl Busch. All rights reserved.
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