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Thursday, November 14, 2013 (read 442 times)

Madrid - History of the Capital of Spain

by Matthew

Madrid History

Madrid, the capital of Spain, has existed since the period of Muslim rule over the Iberian Peninsula, and long before it was made the seat of government. Located right in the heart of Spain, it has been witness to countless changes and developments throughout its long history.

Founded as a fortress town by the Moors in 854, its original name was Mayrit, derived from the Arabic word for ‘water channel’, majira. Since at this time it was not a capital city, nor even an important city for that matter, it remained relatively in the shadows of other, more prominent, towns in the south of the Peninsula, notably Cordoba. In fact, the city would have no importance at all if it weren’t for its strategic advantages of being in the center of the country. It achieved a small breakthrough when the royal court sat in Madrid for the first time in 1309, this time under Christian rule.

It was in 1561 that Madrid really came into its own; when it was dedicated the imperial capital (remember at this time the southern part of Spain was ruled by the Muslims, so ‘Spain’ didn’t exist as we know it today). However, it remained somewhat of an empty town, consisting primarily of mud-houses occasionally separated by a royal building of some sort, not developing the characteristics of a capital city until the 1600s during the Golden Age.

Under King Charles III (who reigned from 1759 to 1788), one of Spain’s most popular monarchs, Madrid thrived. Charles instigated a period of reform; he completed construction on the Palacio Realand set about large building projects designed to emulate the power and success of the city, most famously the Prado Museum. This was an important epoch in Madrid history. At the beginning of the next century, the French leader, Napoleon, invaded Spain. The Madrileños attempted to rebel against this new regime, although this uprising was ill-fated.

During the twentieth century Madrid became the target of several sieges by Francisco Franco, an army general whose successful coup in 1936 allowed him to lead the country as a fascist dictatorship until 1975. Between 1936 and 1939, the city was regularly shelled from the Casa de Campo as Franco consolidated his power, since Madrid was a traditional Republican stronghold. Under Franco’s regime, the city became isolated and withdrawn from the rest of Spain and the world.

It was only when Franco died in 1975 that Madrid began developing the characteristics for which it’s most known today. Under the guidance of the mayor, Enrique Tierno Galván, a socialist poet, the city underwent significant transformation in what’s known as the movida madrileña: green spaces were regenerated and public parks were constructed, opening the way for a modern city based on creativity and liberality, which now forms such a prominent part of Madrid culture.


Keywords: madrid spain,capital of spain,spain history,spanish history,madrid history,madrid culture

Posted In: Spain


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