The Plaza Mayor, a grand arcaded square
in the center of Madrid is very popular with tourists
and locals alike. The
symmetrical rectangular square features a uniform architecture,
very similar to the contemporary Place
During the middle ages the site was
just a market place outside the city walls. In the 1560s,
King Philip II asked Juan de Herrera, architect of the
Escorial, to turn the market place into a real square.
It would take until 1617, during the reign of King Philips
III, before the construction
of the new Plaza Mayor started. Under the direction
of Herrera's successor,
King Philips III
Juan Gómez de la Mora,
the plaza was completed in just two years.
The result was a large square, measuring
120m long and 90m wide (394ft x 295ft). It was surrounded
by wooden buildings, at one point up to six stories
high. Fires destroyed all the buildings around the Plaza
Mayor three times in history: in 1631, 1672 and 1790.
Each time they were rebuilt, the last reconstruction
after a design by Juan de Villanueva is what we see
its creation, the Plaza Mayor has been the center of
festivities, bull fights, royal coronations and executions.
These would be attended by as many as 50,000 spectators.
It is still used today for public celebrations.
At the center of the square is a bronze
statue of King Philips III, constructed
in 1616 by the Italian sculptors Giovanni de Bologna
and his apprentice Pietro Tacca. In 1848 it was moved
from the Casa de
Casa de la Panaderia
Campo to the Plaza Mayor. Around the same time, the
plaza was redesigned with gardens, but those were removed
The most prominent building on the Plaza Mayor is the
Casa de la Panaderia, the seat of the
powerful baker's guilt. It was completed as early as
1590, before the square was even laid out. Its current
design with symmetric towers dates from after the last
fire in 1790. The colorful allegoric murals were only
added recently, in 1992.