EAE Business School organized a cultural tour for students to discover the most emblematic landmarks of the Madrid of the Romantic period, which coincided with the reign of Isabel II. Taking on the task of illustrating this tour was Caroline Montero de Espinosa, a graduate in Fine Arts and official guide at the Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza, who took a group of around twenty students to show them and explain these sites.
The meeting point for the tour was the National Library, located on Plaza de Colón in the Spanish capital. This majestic building was designed by Francisco Jareño Alarcón and Antonio Ruiz Salces, and Queen Isabel II laid the first stone in 1866. However, it would not be inaugurated until three decades later, on 16th March 1896. “This delay was due to the weak Spanish economy after the Napoleonic Wars”, explained Caroline.
The building’s façade with depictions including Spain together with a lion; homages to genius (right) and study (left); peace and many more. “In addition, on the staircases, there are sculptures of some of the key figures of Spanish Culture, such as Alfonso X the Wise, Miguel de Cervantes, Lope de Vega”, added Caroline pointing out the different figures.
We continued the tour in the direction of Plaza de la Villa de París, where the Supreme Court is located. “Bárbara de Braganza, the wife of Fernando VI, was given the duty of inaugurating this building, which in its day was known as the Palacio y Convento de las Salesas Reales”, explained the guide. Created to educate and train young aristocrats, it suffered a fire in 1915 in which only the façade remained standing. It was King Alfonso XIII who commissioned the reconstruction.
“It is one of the most popular churches for getting married and it is the site of the burial of Fernando VI, the only Spanish King apart from Felipe V, who was not laid to rest in El Escorial”, explained Caroline, referring to the Iglesia de las Salesas Reales, which has a blend of rococo and neo-classical styles on its façade. This was one of the landmarks that most grabbed the attention of the EAE students. “It is a beautiful church and its frescos are amazing”, remarked one of the attendees.
Our route took us down Barquillo, Gran Vía and many more of the city’s most quintessential streets to the Teatro de la Zarzuela. Inaugurated in 1856, it was built to stage zarzuelas, the new artistic genre of operetta created in Spain, the biggest stars of which included Francisco Asenjo Barbieri, Joaquín Gaztambide and Rafael Hernando. Many of the students asked about the price of tickets and signed up for upcoming performances. “I would love to see a zarzuela. It must be interesting”, said some of the students as we left the theatre.
The next stop on our tour was just a few paces away at the Congreso de los Diputados, the lower house of the Spanish Parliament. Built in 1850, its façade contains representations of allegories of courage, justice and so on. However, without a doubt, the most significant feature of this building is the two lions that preside over the entrance. “Their name are Daoiz and Velarde, to commemorate two Spanish soldiers who lost their lives in the War of Independence”, explained the EAE students that had taken part in the tour. Another of the moments that elicited the greatest interest is when Caroline explained that one of the statues was castrated. “Why would that be? A lack of materials, a mistake?” This was just one of the unanswered questions that the participants took home with them.
The final destination of our tour of Madrid of the Romantic Period was the Iglesia de los Jerónimos, a church located just a few metres from the Museo del Pardo. “It is one of the capital’s most famous temples. It was Francisco, Duke of Cádiz, the husband of Isabel II, who commissioned its restoration, adding the towers and extra columns, taking his inspiration from the Hospital San Juan de la Cruz in Toledo”, we were told as we admired the beauty of the building’s finishing touches.
We reached the end of the tour a little tired, as much due to the weather as the duration, but wanting to take another trip around the city to discover more of its wonders, hidden or otherwise. “We’ll sign up for the next tour for sure. We love strolling around the streets of Madrid”, added a number of students.