Vuelta a Espana – Madrid

So, hello again, to part 3 of our tour through Spain. Klick on the links to read part 1.

Madrid is the capital and largest city of Spain.  It is the third-most populous municipality in the European Unionafter Greater London and Berlin, and its metropolitan area is the third-most populous in the European Union after Paris and London.

Plaza Mayor

The city is located on the river Manzanares in the centre of both the country and the Community of Madrid (which comprises the city of Madrid, its conurbation and extended suburbs and villages); this community is bordered by the autonomous communities of Castile and León and Castile-La Mancha. As the capital city of Spain, seat of government, and residence of the Spanish monarch, Madrid is also the political centre of Spain. While Madrid possesses a modern infrastructure, it has preserved the look and feel of many of its historic neighbourhoods and streets.

San Miguel Street

Although the site of modern-day Madrid has been occupied since pre-historic times, in the Roman era this territory belonged to the diocese of Complutum (present-day Alcalá de Henares). There are archeological remains of a small village during the visigoth epoch, whose name might have been adopted later by Arabs. The origins of the modern city come from the 9th century, when Muhammad I ordered the construction of a small palace in the same place that is today occupied by the Palacio Real. Around this palace a small citadel, al-Mudaina, was built. Near that palace was the Manzanares, which the Arabs called al-Majrīṭ (Arabic: “source of water”). From this came the naming of the site as Majerit, which later evolved into the modern-day spelling of Madrid.

Kilometer 0

The citadel was conquered in 1085 by Christian king Alfonso VI of Castile in his advance towards Toledo. He reconsecrated the mosque as the church of the Virgin of Almudena (almudin, the garrison’s granary). In 1329, the Cortes Generales first assembled in the city to advise Alfonso XI of Castile. Sephardi Jews and Moors continued to live in the city until they were expelled at the end of the 15th century. After troubles and a large fire, Henry III of Castile (1379–1406) rebuilt the city and established himself safely fortified outside its walls in El Pardo. The grand entry of Ferdinand and Isabella to Madrid heralded the end of strife betweenCastile and Aragon, and an end to the Golden Age of Jews in Spain.

Plaza de Espana

The Crown of Castile, with its capital at Toledo, and the Crown of Aragon, with its capital at Barcelona, were welded into modern Spain by the Catholic Monarchs (Queen Isabella of Castile and KingFerdinand II of Aragon). Though their grandson Charles I of Spain (also known as Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor) favoured Seville, it was Charles’ son, Philip II (1527–1598) who moved the court to Madrid in 1561. Although he made no official declaration, the seat of the court was the de facto capital. Seville continued to control commerce with Spain’s colonies, but Madrid controlled Seville. Aside from a brief period, 1601–1606, when Felipe III installed his court in Valladolid, Madrid’s fortunes have closely mirrored those of Spain.

Paseo del Prado

In the late 1800s, Isabel II could not suppress the political tension that would lead to yet another revolt, the First Spanish Republic. This was later followed by the return of the monarchy to Madrid, then the creation of the Second Spanish Republic, preceding the Spanish Civil War.

Madrid was one of the most heavily affected cities of Spain by the Civil War (1936–1939). The city was a stronghold of the Republicans from July 1936. Its western suburbs were the scene of an all-out battle in November 1936 and it was during the Civil War that Madrid became the first European city to be bombed by airplanes (Japan was the first to bomb civilians in world history, at Shanghai in 1932) specificallytargeting civilians in the history of warfare. (See Siege of Madrid (1936-39)). During the dictatorship of Francisco Franco, especially during the 1960s, the south of Madrid became very industrialized, and there were massive migrations from rural areas of Spain into the city. Madrid’s south-eastern periphery became an extensive working class settlement, which was the base for an active cultural and political reform.

Atocha Train Station

After the death of Franco, emerging democratic parties (including those of left-wing and republican ideology) accepted King Juan Carlos I as both Franco’s successor and as the heir of the historic dynasty – in order to secure stability and democracy. This led Spain to its current position as a constitutional monarchy, with Madrid as capital. Benefiting from increasing prosperity in the 1980s and 1990s, the capital city of Spain has consolidated its position as an important economic, cultural, industrial, educational, and technological centre on theEuropean continent.

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