Puerta de Alcalà, Madrid!!!

So here I am at my Puerta de Alcalà a monumental entrance to my Madrid and from which I always entered the city when living there. I have no words to describe it every time I see passing by it with my late dear Mom Gladys! and later my dear late wife Martine,and now the 3 boys: memories for a lifetime.

I have written pieces on it in my blog before but apparently not a full post on it, this is it the time has come to do so. Bear with me its a bit long but worth it me think. The Puerta de Alcalà is Madrid for me before any other site.

The Puerta de Alcalá is one of the five old Royal gates that gave access to the city of Madrid. It is located in the center of the roundabout of the Plaza de la Independencia. At the crossroads of the streets of Alcalá, Alfonso XII, Serrano and Salustiano Olózaga, next to the gates of the Retiro park such as the  Puerta de España, Puerta de la Independencia and Puerta de Hernani. The outline of the enclosure is formed by buildings from the late 19C and early 20C, built during the widening of Madrid. On the southeast side, is the Puerta de la Independencia, one of the main accesses to the Retiro Park.

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The gate or Puerta de  Alcalà  gave access to those travelers who formerly entered the town from France or Aragon. At present it is a monumental gate that is located near the Cibeles Fountain and next to the Retiro Park. It was built by mandate of Carlos III in substitution of another previous gate that already existed since the 16C. It is a gate of neoclassical style and monumental aspect similar to the Roman Arches of Triumph, it was erected looking its exterior to the east in 1778. The gate has subsequently been restored five times in more than two centuries of existence, being the last at the end of the 20C. The originality of its factory consists in being the first triumphal arch built in Europe after the fall of the Roman Empire!

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A bit of history I like

The city of Madrid had, since its inception, numerous gates and access gates to the city through its wall. The walls and the gates had a character of fiscal control of merchandise, at the same time as defensive. The wall was re-built with a growing radius, the so-called Christian wall that marked new limits. The gates proliferated in the 17C, and among them was that of Alcala. The exits from Madrid were flanked by five royal or registration gates (that is, those in which taxes were paid) such as those of Segovia (also called the Segovia Bridge), Guadalajara, Toledo, Atocha, Alcalá and Bilbao (or of the Pozos de la Nieve),  and fourteen minor or second order portholes that open on different dates such as  Vega, Vistillas, Gilimón, Campillo del Mundo Nuevo, Ambassadors, Valencia, Campanilla, Recoletos, Santa Barbara, Maravillas, Santo Domingo (or Fuencarral), Count Duque, San Bernardino (or San Joaquin) and San Vicente. The main gates remained open until 22h (10PM) at night in the winter time, and in the summer one more hour due to the greater length of the day. After this time, and only if necessary, a checkpoint  allowed the passage. However, the portholes opened in the early hours of the day and closed with the sunset, remaining closed all night.

The Puerta de Alcalá is currently one of the most important monumental references in the city of Madrid. During the 17C, two different architectural structures had said entrance before becoming a monument at the end of the 18C. Its relevance as a triumphal entry, providing excellence to the rite of entry into the city of the sovereign, was gradually gaining importance. From the Gate lining the Calle de Alcalá, the Puerta del Sol was accessed, and from there through the Calle Mayor to the Alcazar(Royal Palace).

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During the plague pandemic that occurred in Madrid in 1580, the Puerta de Alcalà was already mentioned as a point of closure to the population. It was in a much more advanced position than the current one, at the intersection of  Calle Barquillo with Calle de Alcalá. This gate was called Puerta de la Peste de la calle de Alcalá (or gate of the plague of the Alcala Street). A decade later, its position was advanced again so that in 1599, the celebration of the entry into the city of the wife  of Felipe III, Margarita of Austria  that were married in Valencia. At this time it was located somewhat further west than today, at the height of the Alcalá crossing with Alfonso XI streets.

The Gate had a structure divided into three parts, it was composed of a central arch and two lateral openings. The entire door was erected in brick, with the exception of the pedestals and pilasters used for the vertical articulation of the factory for which stone was used.  The decoration consisted of the Royal and City weapons, with two figures representing Manto and his son Ocno, both founders of the city according to the mythology Mantua Carpetana. The subsequent entry, already in 1615 by Isabel de Borbón in Madrid, generated new plans for remodeling the arch and its images. In 1624 the allegorical images were finally removed, mainly due to the imminent risk of collapse they presented. In 1636, part of the gate was demolished and a single-span brick structure came to replace the tripartite arch. The previously existing allegorical figures were replaced by other stone statues of Our Lady of Las Mercedes. On the side arches were two statues of San Pedro Nolasco and Blessed Mariana de Jesus. From the palace del Buen Retiro  the facade of the Royal site that was adjacent to the Alcalá road was literally glued to one of the ends of the gate, while the other at the beginning of the Recoletos meadow had been practically embedded in the walls of the well deposit established since 1667 in the immediate grounds

The old gate or Puerta de Alcalà was demolished in 1770 when the Calle de Alcalá was expanded, then called the Royal road of Aragon and Catalonia, with land taken from what is now the Retiro Park, belonging to the Buen Retiro Palace. This gate, which served as access to the city by the royal road of Aragon and Catalonia, was one of the five main ones that had the wall surrounding the town, along with those of Toledo, Segovia, Bilbao and Atocha.  In 1754, king  Fernando VI, through the Hospital Board of the capital, inaugurated the bullring of the Puerta de Alcalá, installed in front of the Jardines del Buen Retiro, and it would remain active until its closure in 1874, date on which it gave the alternative to a new square built next to the Aragón road, in the Madrid enclave known much later as the Goya neighborhood. That bullring of the Puerta de Alcalá would be for 120 years the bullring of the town of Madrid, between 1754 and 1874. It was replaced by the bullring of the Fuente del Berro, an installation that in turn would be relieved by the Monumental of Ventas in 1934.

On December 9, 1759, Carlos III (son of Felipe V) entered Madrid, from Naples to succeed his brother, the late Fernando VI, on the throne. Disembarked in Barcelona, ​​he made from there his first trip to Madrid and entered through the old Puerta de Alcalá, which was not to his liking so he decided to tear it down to erect a new one. The gate would be the first modern triumphal arch erected in Europe after the fall of the Roman Empire. In 1769 Carlos III decides that the Sabatini (as well as the gardens by the Royal Palace and others) project is the one to be carried out. After the election by Carlos III of the combined design of the Gate, a few days later on May 27, 1769,  the contracting of works and services for what will be the New Puerta de Alcalá began. This Puerta de Alcalà was inaugurated in 1778 as an authentic gate and access to Madrid, since on both sides of it there was still the wall that delimited the city from the east and that would remain standing until 1869, when the square was remodeled. It became the main entrance of the city and one of the most representative monuments of his reign, axis of the reforms he carried out throughout the eastern part of the city that included the  Botanical Garden, Paseo del Prado, Cibeles and Neptune fountains , among other.

The Puerta de Alcalá is modernized, and a more suitable environment and designed in the form of a square around it. This was decided to be call the Plaza de la Independencia square  in honor of Spanish independence and specifically the defenders of Zaragoza. It intends to decongest the growing traffic of vehicles (apparently there was already a lot of traffic then lol!) at the Puerta del Sol creating various congestions to Aragon. For this, it was decided  to have eight streets leave the new Plaza de la Independencia  radially and calls them as Sagunto, Numancia, Covadonga, Granada, Padilla, Bravo, Maldonado and Lanuza. The demolitions for the construction of the Gran Vía were contemplated from the Puerta de Alcalá as the increase in road traffic was beginning to be felt throughout the city.

In the Spanish Civil War Madrid was loyal to the Republic and made the gate suffer the effects of the rearguard in the so-called defense of Madrid. The Puerta de Alcalà was an ideal space for propaganda, it is for this reason that they hung up posters with portraits of various leaders of the Soviet Union. After the Civil War it served as an altar of masses for the celebration of the liberation of Madrid.

In the eighties, Bernardo Fuster and Luis Mendo, together with Francisco Villar, composed a song called La Puerta de Alcalá in which they tell the story of the monument. Recorded in 1986 by singers Víctor Manuel and Ana Belén in their album “Para la ternura siempre hay tiempo” or for tenderness there is always time. This song became a great popular success. In 1993 the Puerta de Alcalà was subjected to the most important restoration in its history. In the summer of 2006 the Plaza de la Independencia was subjected to some improvement works to become a roundabout. In August 2011, the Puerta de Alcalá was the scene of the act of welcoming Pope Benedict XVI on the occasion of the XXVI World Youth Day Madrid 2011. The Pope crossed the gate accompanied by young people from the five continents.

The tourist office of Madrid has info on it in English here: Tourist office of Madrid on the Puerta de Alcalà in English

There you go simply put, the best sight, a memory lane shock but always a must to see in my Madrid. Hope it is yours too with your visits. Enjoy the Puerta de Alcalà in lovely lively Madrid!

And remember, happy travels, good health, and many cheers to all!!!

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