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Cinnaminson, New Jersey
May 19, 2003
When you exit the palace, to the right is Capilla Real of El Pardo, which very much reminds me of Italian churches with walls painted to look like rose and yellow marble, Renaissance paintings of madonnas on the walls and above the altar, large chandelier in the middle and Ferdinand VII carpet on the floor.
The palace also has large well maintained gardens, and you might want to stroll along the alleys and enjoy the view of the palace from a distance.
From journal Travels to Spain - Side trips out of Madrid
As we come downstairs from the 2nd floor, we wind up in the Bourbon courtyard, where royal receptions take place. The carpets on the floor are so large that they cover the whole courtyard (365 square meters) and weigh 2 metric tons. The walls are covered with tapestries, and the ceiling cover is made of glass (that was added by Franco) – the glass makes the courtyard look like a greenhouse. However, at night when the ceiling reflects off the carpets on the floor, it creates an amazing effect so that the courtyard is lit without extra lighting.
Continued in Part IV
The palace is renowned for its tapestries; most of them were made at the Royal Factory of Tapestries in Madrid in the 18th centuries. From the courtyard of Habsburgs we are led to the 2nd floor, where we see a theater built by Carlos IV in the 19th century with the largest chandelier in the building, purple velvet with gold on the walls, draperies and furniture. This was a cinema during Franco’s time; he would watch movies here on Sunday afternoons. Next is Goya’s room also called the Ambassador’s room. Here you can see several of the famous tapestries made from 5 of Goya’s cartoons on display at Museo del Prado. Goya created 50 cartoons for royal tapestries, which then were reproduced for the Palacio Real in Madrid, El Pardo and El Escorial.
The principal hall has the largest tapestry in the palace and the fresco on the ceiling is by Mailla. All the rooms have beautiful carpets from the times of Ferdinand VII. Little council room next door has furniture from the times of Carlos IV with marble tops and ceiling painting by Goya’s brother-in-law (yes, he was also a painter). Carlos IV loved and collected clocks; he even had a nickname – the Clocker. He had 250 clocks in his collection and at one time 90 of them all in working condition were in his bedroom. How could he stand it when all of them were ringing every hour? Nonetheless, the most beautiful of the royal clocks is located here, in this room.
The council room is very original – it has a map of Spain on the ceiling, and 12 girls in national costumes on the frescoes represent 12 provinces of Spain in the 19th century (now there are 17). Tapestries on the walls show Madrid the way it looked in the 18th century. It was important to show to the visiting ambassadors that Madrid was as much a developed European city as any other European capital.
The next room is the throne salon and the office of Franco – here ceiling painted by Baillego represents the power of Spanish monarchy – this is the largest vaulted ceiling in the palace. As typical for each throne hall in any of the Spanish royal palaces, here the walls are covered in purple velvet. On one of the walls there is a small portrait that you wouldn’t pay much attention to, however, it’s a portrait of queen Isabella Catolica, the queen who sent Columbus on his journey in search of the new world. Flemish tapestries on the walls (17th century) made with gold and silver thread show scenes of various battles. The large writing desk has legs that look like Egyptian sphinxes was brought here from Palacio Real in Madrid where you can see another table made in the same manner.
Continued in Part III
You can get here by bus #601 from Moncloa or by car. If you go by car, go along Gran Via through Plaza de Espana in the direction of A-6 (A Coruna), go through the arch on Moncloa, follow M-30 to the exit to El Pardo, after the exit follow the signs. You will pass Zarzuela, La Quinta, and keep going until you see the sign for the Palacio Real. If you know where you are going, it will take you 20 minutes, if you don’t but just follow the signs, it will take you 30 minutes. But don’t worry, you won’t get lost.
The palace has only guided tours, and if you want an English-speaking guide, you may have to wait. The palace was built originally as a hunting pavilion in the 15th century on a piece of land that spreads 80 square kilometers (31 square miles). In the 16th century Carlos I ordered to refurbish the oldest of the buildings. Carlos III ordered to make the palace bigger and spent from January through March here hunting and living here with his family (he had 12 children, all with the same queen). Francesco Sabatini, who was the architect of Palacio Real in Madrid and many other royal palaces, used the older part of the building as a base, and built a replica of the courtyard on the other side of the building, so now there is the courtyard of the Habsburgs that is the courtyard that you enter the building through, and the courtyard of the Bourbons, the replica of the first, on the opposite site. Since the times of Ferdinand VII this palace was the official residence of Spanish kings, because it was close to the city and well guarded by the military (still is). Nowadays heads of state from foreign countries stay here when they come to Spain for official visits.
Continued in Part II