In the heart of Spanish Capital, Madrid, lies the infamous Plaza Mayor (Mayor’s Square), a grand rectangular square measuring 120m long and 90m wide (394ft x 295ft). It’s surrounded by three-story residential buildings (at one point up to six stories high) with 237 breathtaking balconies facing the Plaza and a total of nine arched entrances.
Photography by Youssof Taie
Fires have destroyed all the buildings surrounding the Plaza Mayor three times in history: in 1631, 1672 and 1790. Each time they were restored, the last reconstruction after a design by Juan de Villanueva is what we see today.
Above: A couple making their wedding appearance out one of the Plaza’s balconies, with a small detail of the painting adorning the walls behind them, these paintings were added to the square after Casa Panaderia was rebuilt in 1692 due to a fire.
At the center of the square stands 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 Campo to the Plaza Mayor. Around the same time, the plaza was redesigned with gardens, but those were removed in 1936.
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, Juan Gómez de la Mora, the plaza was completed in just two years.