Madrid is History. The most ancient recorded name of the city, Magerit, comes from the name of a 9th century arab fortress. Nevertheless, it is now commonly believed that the origin of the city comes from the 2nd century AC, as the Roman Empire established a settlement on the banks of the Manzanares River. The Courts of Castile first met in Madrid in 1309. Madrid is the capital of Spain since 1561.
In these more than 450 years of age as the capital of Spain, the buildings in the center of Madrid have seen all kinds of political changes, wars, fires and historical events. In more than four centuries, the streets of Madrid have had all kind of visitors and the buildings have been home to all kind of locals.
A lot of buildings in the very center of Madrid have a lot to tell and VillaJardines is one of them. The history of the building melts with the history of Madrid, which is part of the Spanish history. A brief review is as follows.
17th Century. The Marchioness of La Floresta, Baroness of Saint George and Countess of Quintana de la Plaza.
The seventeenth century were times of conflict in Spain. The birth of new religious confessions, the constant threat from the Ottoman Empire and the confrontation with the major European powers because of interests in the Netherlands, in Portugal, in Italy and in Latin America, forced the Spanish sovereign to an unbridled race of wars against everyone outside the Iberian Peninsula. Moreover, the economic drain which represented such clashes plunged Spaniards into a constant impoverishment, as they had to finance the expansive royal politics with unnafordable taxes.
Perhaps for this reason, the Spanish cities and, in particular Madrid, were not subject to the king’s attention and city works promoted in his time were only a few. No one worried as the capital of the kingdom could change again, as it had already happened with Toledo and Valladolid.
In 1513 Madrid had around three thousand inhabitants, but after being named capital of the kingdom in 1561, by the early seventeenth century its population had increased to more than forty thousand people. In 1616 the construction of the Plaza Mayor began and two years later, Felipe III acquired and expanded with gardens and fountains the green lands currently comprising the Retiro park. In 1625, Madrid already had over one hundred thousand inhabitants, reaching 142,000 in 1659.
The Marquisate of La Floresta de Trifontane is a Spanish noble title created in Sicily, on November 11, 1619 by King Philip III in favor of Antonio de Quintana-Dueñas, Lord of La Floresta in Sicily (Italy), Regent of the Italian Council and Proconsul of His Majesty.
According to Madrid’s 1749 planopraphy map, the building dates back to 1629 and first belonged to Mariana Melchora de Marullo (born in Italy as Melchiora Marulli), Baroness of Saint George and Countess of Quintana de la Plaza. She was married to Antonio de Quintana-Dueñas, Marchis of La Floresta, who died in 1626, and who was an influential advisor of the King of Spain Phillip III.
During the 17th century, Spain’s golden age, Madrid began to take on the aspect of a capital and was home to 175,000 people, making it the fifth-largest city in Europe.
The beginning of the 17th Century saw the rise of various “proconsuls” under Philip III’s reign, who were influential Spanish representatives overseas, who exercised independent judgment and even independent policies in the absence of a strong royal leadership.
Madrid began to grow rapidly. The royal court attracted many of Spain’s leading artist and writers, like Lope de Vega, a key figure in the Spanish Golden Century Baroque literature and Cervantes, whose Don Quixote is considered as the first modern European novel in western literature. His influence on the Spanish language has been so great that it is called “the language of Cervantes”. In 1605 Don Quixote was printed. The Plaza Mayor was built in 1619.
The Marchis of La Floresta was born in Alava, north of Spain. Ever since the arrival of the Quintana-Dueñas family to the building there have been numerous prominent people with Basque ascendants until the beginning of the 20th Century. There is no evidence when Mariana Melchora de Quintana-Dueñas died, but it was before 1646, when a sort of foundation under her name was created to manage the rents from her inheritance. This sort of foundation was a legal structure in the seventeenth century to preserve the wealth of families.
18th Century: Simon Bolivar, Esteban de Palacios and Juan de Lecanda.
A young Simon Bolivar, father of six nations in Latin America, arrived to Madrid on June 10th 1799, and initially stayed at the Royal Palace of Aranjuez, with his uncle and tutor Esteban de Palacios, father of the 1812′s Spanish Constitution.
On August 1, 1799 Simon Bolivar allegedly moved to the building for several months, along with his uncles Esteban and Pedro de Palacios. Pedro had arrived in July 1799 from Caracas to settle in Madrid.
Evidences show that his uncles did not approve his high expenditures in the royal court of Madrid. Upon reaching Madrid he asked the King’s Chamber Tailor to make him a luxurious lieutenant’s uniform, several very fine cloth frock coats, a large tail-coat and a rich cape. That seems a lot to begin with, taking into account that it is the 18th century and he was 15. Simon Bolivar was a wealthy cocoa exporter from the lands he had inherited from his parents in Venezuela, he had some friendship with the Queen of Spain Maria Luisa de Parma and he played sport games with the Crown Prince, the future Fernando VII. Years later, Simon Bolivar freed the Spanish colonies when Fernando was King of Spain.
In Madrid, despite continuing his education, the social environment of the city appealed to him. He frequented lecture halls, he enjoyed dancing and conversation, and watched amazed the kingdom’s court from the gardens of the Royal Palace of Aranjuez. This place was evoked in his delusional deathbed dreams.
It was in Madrid where Simon Bolivar met his wife to-be, Maria Teresa Rodriguez del Toro at the residence of the illustrated Marchis of Ustariz. He was forced to leave Jardines St because of national political disputes that affected him directly, so he moved to the residence of his new tutor, the Marchis de Urtariz.
In the same year, in 1799, Goya published the first of his great series of etchings, Los Caprichos, which satirizes the social defects and superstitions of the time. He withdrew the prints from circulation due to the Inquisition. At the same time he accomplished his masterpiece in the field of fresco, the decoration of San Antonio de la Florida, an innovative work with original chromaticism that changed from the conventional schemes. That year of 1799 Goya reached the zenith of his career when he was appointed as First Court Painter, culminating the painting “The Family of Charles IV“.
Simon Bolivar’s maternal uncle, Esteban de Palacios, had arrived in Spain in 1792 to obtain the title of Marchis of San Luis he had inherited from his grandfather, Lieutenant General Juan de Bolívar. In Madrid, he joined the Garde du Corps (the King’s personal army) and the Public Treasury. He was a very good friend of Manuel Mallo, favorite of the Queen Maria Luisa de Parma when they moved to Jardines St. Nevertheless, in 1800 Esteban de Palacios was disgraced by the Queen and imprisoned with no charges. Simon Bolivar, still being a minor, was forced to move to the residence of his new tutor, the Marchis of Ustariz, one of the most illustrated people of Madrid at the time.
Though there is evidence that the three moved to the Street of the Gardens in Madrid, there is no written evidence of the exact number of the street where they lived, except that it was a “palatial household in the middle of the Street of the Gardens”. Coincidentally the only building “in the middle of the Street” belonged to one of his distant relatives, Juan de Lecanda. In the 18th century gentry from overseas lodged in family members mansions, which provided some social projection as well as protection. Gentry members were not that many and relatives in general treated themselves as cousins, even if they were distant relatives, as indicated for this case by a prestigious Galician university professor.
The three members of the family had plenty of space for themselves, as in fact Juan de Lecanda had moved to Bilbao in March 1799 and did not return until September 1800.
In the late eighteenth century, and under the reign of King Charles IV, the Basque Juan de Lecanda was responsible for the collection of royal and municipal taxes and senior official of the township’s Secretariat. He dealt with the revenues from imports and exports of an empire. He was a very relevant figure at the time, since he was the financial manager of all municipal assets and royal taxes in a supranational monarchy. At some point he made a political intervention. His role was much appreciated by the Spanish Crown, since the amounts taxed to citizens increased along his mandate.
He worked just a few meters away from his residence, in the Royal Customs headquarters, in Alcala St (500 meters away). The building was designed by Sabatini, who devised a truly impressive Italian palace without neglecting the functional nature that required the royal institution.
Juan de Lecanda died in 1810.
19th Century: The Marquesses del Busto.
Juan de Lecanda was the grandfather of Teresa de Gabiña, who inherited the building in 1855. In 1865 she married Andres del Busto, who was already a very well know doctor and 19 years younger than her. She was to become the Marchioness del Busto. Before the wedding, they decided to do a major renovation to the building, redecorating it according to the Marquis’ practical needs for medical research and the romantic taste of the time.
Andres del Busto was one of the most prominent doctors and scientific researchers in Spain in the mid 1800’s. He was the Chamber Doctor of Queen Isabella II of Spain, and later on, of King Alfonso XII of Spain. He was awarded with the Order of Isabella the Catholic when he saved the life of an infant crown prince Alfonso, future King of Spain, from a mortal illness.
Born in Madrid in 1832, he became Doctor of Medicine in 1857 by the Central University of Madrid in Surgical Pathology, Hygiene and General Pathology. In 1875 he became Professor of Clinical Medicine and Professor of Obstetrics in 1876.
He joined the Royal Academy of Medicine as a Scholar in 1877, and his speech created a roaring scandal among the first feminists, like a young Countess of Pardo-Bazan, one of the most remarkable Spanish intellectuals of the nineteenth century. She remarked in an article that according to del Busto’s conservative opinion, every woman was condemned to be just a submissive laying-egg hen, pointing out that nuns betray their duty not bringing a couple of “little suckers” to the world. Her article is considered by some as one of the starts of feminism in Spain.
In any case, Spain in the 19th Century lived a time of dramatic social, economic and political changes. In only 16 years there were a constitutional monarchy, a federal republic and a unitary republic. In the 19th century, with the Spanish empire sinking, the royal family changed from the Borbons, to one Bonaparte, back to the Borbons, then to one Savoya and then back to the Borbons, with two republics in between, two civil wars and three revolts (independence of old colonies in Latin America and Asia, the republican revolt of El Ferrol, and the Carlists in Catalonia and the Basque country). Each change generally came from a war or from a socially dramatic change, typical of the end of all declining regimes.
In this atmosphere, also dominated by an intense romanticism, the Marchis del Busto served brilliantly in Madrid, attending a large and distinguished clientele. Nevertheless, he never neglected the poor and, once a week, the ballrooms in the first floor of VillaJardines were opened for women who required medical attention and could not pay for it.
His great scientific and professional prestige throughout his life is to be emphasized. He was Director of Public Instruction and Senator of the Kingdom, as well as Director of the newspaper “The Medical Spain” and founder of “The Medical Iberia“. He had numerous awards and distinctions. He was also a prolific writer on his specialty, writing more than 20 books on medicine. He belonged to the Order of Malta and was distinguished with the Order of Charles III, which rewards people for their actions in benefit to Spain and the Crown. Since its creation, it has been the most distinguished civil award that can be granted in Spain, despite its categorization as a military order.
He was considered as a reference among his obstetrician colleagues, and in 1878 he commissioned two of its inmates, Professors Botella and Azua to rehearse chloroform in natural childbirth, in order to relieve women’s pain. Professor Botella is the great-grandfather of the current Mayor of Madrid, Ana Botella.
Considered an extravagant philanthropist, he hosted lively scientific debates that generated an exciting social life in the building. The always crowded building at the time was known as “Palacio del Busto”, “Villa Busto” or “Villa Jardines”.
The building also hosted in the fourth floor one of the best pharmaceutical laboratories in Madrid, one of his personal prides. At the time, he was the owner of very sophisticated medical equipment, mainly bought in his trips to Paris as Queen Isabella’s chamber doctor. Some medical research was done by his colleagues in the fourth floor of the building, generating some minor incidents, like a small fire reported in 1895. In 1892 the Marquis del Busto implemented the first modern operating room in Spain. In the opening ceremony, Dr. Andres del Busto, clinical director of the hospital, gave a speech in which he chronicled the construction of a “place where the modern operative surgery can be done under all the rules of surgical asepsis while it allows students and disciples to witness directly the performance of the surgeon and the details of the surgery”.
Both the Marchis as the Marchioness del Busto were known illustrated lovers and patrons of performing arts. They created a teatrino (chamber theater) in one of the ballrooms in the first floor of the building and used it to entertain friends and family with chamber music concerts and chamber theater plays.
The teatrino was also used both for the amusement of their infant relatives, as well as for their learning. On special occasions, like anniversaries of children, it was turned into a Marionette Theater. This toy theatre was also used as a means of learning French and science for the Marchis’ nephews, who learnt it in this smooth way.
The Marchioness del Busto was very fond of the ancient tradition of Puppetry and devoted large sums of money to preserve it from oblivion. In the 1850s she unsuccessfully tried to promote the idea that children’s education could be facilitated through performing arts. She was one of the first women to obtain a pharmaceutical degree in Spain at the Central University and devoted her time to develop charity projects in poor neighborhoods in the south of Madrid.
The streets of Madrid were still very narrow and social life outdoors was difficult. Therefore, the Paseo del Prado was conceived as a large meeting room. Its route was elliptical and resembled a racetrack. Ladies strolled in horse driven cars or simply walked elegantly dressed.
The Marchioness del Busto’s husband was the first doctor in Spain to have his own horse-drawn carriage and she was known as the “Marchioness driver”, as she enjoyed driving her husband’s horse carriage in the lovely Paseo del Prado, obtaining public laughter at the image of a woman driving. She was considered as very cultivated and elegant in the upper social circles of Madrid, though the general public simply regarded her as an odd lady married to an extravagant younger man.
The Marchis del Busto died childless in 1899. His wife, Teresa de Gabiña, died in 1901.
20th Century: The Holy Burial Congregation and the Spanish Civil War.
At the beginning of the 20th century, Spain was still in massive shock from the loss of Cuba and the Philippines in 1898. This time it really meant the end of the Spanish Empire, which had started with the first trip to America in 1492, five hundred years ago.
In 1901, a childless Marchioness del Busto dies and donates the building to the Illustrious Congregation of the Holy Burial and Blessed Sacrament, an insurance corporation created in 1867 by the Catholic Church. They were financially very powerful at the time, as they covered all burial costs of the insured person, who was sure to have an appropriate Catholic funeral. At the time, not many organized structures offered the same service, so the Catholic Church pretty much had the monopoly as almost sole supplier. The Congregation quickly became very popular.
The Congregation used the building as its headquarters for administrative, social and religious purposes. The spacious ballrooms offered the perfect space for rather discreet social gatherings and the chapel was used for religious celebrations.
Most information regarding the building has disappeared over time in different events. The most recent loss of information came in the Spanish Civil War, first with the fire of the Parish of Saint Louis Bishop in 1935, a year before war started, and second when the building was assaulted and savagely vandalized by anticlerical militants in the beginning of 1937, at the beginning of the Spanish Civil War. Some of its parts were burned, all the crosses were destroyed and the cellars were used as a “cheka” for a short while.
A cheka was an installation during the Spanish Civil War that militiamen from the left-wing parties and trade unions used for detaining, interrogating, prosecuting summary proceedings and eventually executing suspects of sympathizing with the other side. The detainees did not have the right of defense and were seldom the victims of anonymous reporting.
There were thousands of murders in the 331 checas in Madrid, Barcelona and Valencia. The militiamen took hold of cash, jewelry and other goods from detainees and delivered it to the General Directorate of Security (belonging to the Ministry of Government). This checa is supposed to have depended on the Special Service Brigade, who reported directly to the Deputy Director of Security Juan Carlos Rodriguez, and was directed by Elviro Ferret, a Trade Unionist Party member. It was coordinated with another checa located nearby, at 22 Montera St.
In 1938 the façade of the building was destroyed by a fire bomb. From 1936 to 1939, General Franco‘s troops heavily attacked the civil population in Madrid, leading to starvation and chaos. The Republican Headquarters were located in the Telefonica building in Gran Via (some 150 meters away) and were constantly bombed. The aerial bombardment of civilians in Madrid was one of the first in the history of warfare. Some of those bombs aimed at the enemy really destroyed nearby civil buildings terrifying the civilian population into surrender. Franco is quoted as saying, “I will destroy Madrid rather than leave it to the Marxists”. This was heavily criticized by foreign journalists, among them Ernest Hemingway.
The war in Spain ended in 1939 and brought the dictatorship of General Franco, who died in power in 1975.
In the 1970’s the Illustrious Congregation of the Holy Burial and the Blessed Sacrament divided the building into flats for sale. In 1975 Spain became a Constitutional Monarchy under the King Juan Carlos I. The 1978 Constitution assured democracy and freedom and was approved by a vast majority of Spaniards. The last third of the 20th Century Spaniards had to quickly learn what it meant to live under other rules and catch up with European neighbours. Spain joined NATO in 1982 and the European Union in 1986. Madrid became innocently wild for a whole decade with La Movida in the 1980s and hosted the Football World Cup in 1982. The first Middle East Peace Conference took place in Madrid in 1991. Spain organized the Olympic Games of Barcelona and the Universal Exhibition of Seville in 1992. In the year 2000, after 25 years of democracy, Spain had become a modern country, ranking 8th in the world in economic development.
21st Century. Restored as it was in 1868.
From the very beginning of the 21st century, Spain seems to be pushed into a big change in all orders… and maybe it was about time for a change.
In the 21st century the building was old and tired. It had survived dozens of wars, radical changes, a great fire and several minor ones, thefts and several vandalizations. In the year 2000, most of the neighbors in the building were very old ladies, who were the last surviving members of families who had bought theirs flats in the 1970s and had aged along with the building.
After a general neglect during the last six decades of the 20th century, a continued decline sank the building to the lowest point of its history in 2005. The new neighbors in VillaJardines decided to solve the existing problems, despite no public support at all. To begin with, the building was falling apart but moreover, in 1986 some people had occupied some parts of the building and after 18 years they were still illegaly staying. To make things worse, from 2001 to 2005 a popular TV freak show man became a most unconfortable neighbor using the building facilities for several of his television businesses, and generating some minor sexual scandals.
On March 11th 2004, Madrid woke up from the 20th century dream with 192 deaths and more than one thousand wounded civilians. Ordinary citizens going to work were victims of Al Qaeda bomb attacks in commuter trains going to Atocha Station. Spain at the time was living one of its most peaceful times and had achieved a valuable economic progress. Changes in living conditions resulted in a high rate of life expectancy. Spanish themselves radically changed their perception of Europe. In 1985, 60% were in favor of integration, but only 9% were convinced that the process would be beneficial. In 2005, 69% felt that the entry of Spain into the EU had been beneficial.
In 2005, VillaJardines needed an urgent repair, after several decades of abandon. The Madrilenian Architect Susana Trigueros was charged in 2006 to renovate the building with a challenging project. After six years of restoration, 21st century energy saving solutions were succesfully implemented while still preserving the original materials and atmosphere from the latest major renovation of the building in 1868. In 2012 the building has been totally restored respecting the original materials and chromatic combinations that date back to 1868, according to the available information. If the old marble floors and the plaster mouldings in the ceilings could speak in the 21st century…
In the 21st century, and also in the middle of the restoration works, VillaJardines bursted again with all kind of activities and cultural events done in the building, becoming a popular spot for commercials, music concerts, gossip publications, product presentations, dinner parties and photo exhibitions. The biggest highligh came in 2012 when the French luxury champagne brand Dom Perignon chose VillaJardines to make the formal presentation of the 2003 vintage edition in Spain, with a gastronomical experience for 16 experts and journalists and a night piano cocktail party with just Dom Perignon to drink.
In the 21st century Madrid has changed its urban profile. Gone are those days when domes and towers of the churches dominated the city skyline. Today, Madrid is a modern European city that offers everything a person could need. The latest gigantic scale city developments and the pedestrianization of the streets in the 21st century have made Madrid a more modern, orderly and reasonably human city.
Spain in 2007 saw how the economic miracle was in fact the main cause of the biggest economic crisis recorded in modern times. In 2013 Spain reached a record 25% of unemployment and the banking crisis generated such a huge national deficit that banks had to be rescued with public money. Political supervisors were also blamed for not controlling the financial institutions and a huge desbilief was generated among Spaniards towards local politicians. Nevertheless, in 2013 despite such a huge crisis, Madrilians seem to keep calm and continue living in a city where they feel re-invention is still possible. Along its 450 years of history, Madrilians have been forced on numerous occasions to reinvent their lifes and have learned to see opportunities in any kind of change going towards any kind of new model.
If you have reached this point, congratultions. Now you know more of Spain, of Madrid and of VillaJardines. Now you have enough quality information to live the Madrid experience like a local.
All the above information simply intends to inform about the center of Madrid, Spain. Please let me know if any of this information is inappropriate or outdated.
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