Palacio de Fomento, Madrid!

Ok so here I continue in my update/revise mode of my older posts in my blog , again from 2018 and an off the beaten path monument of my beloved Madrid. Actually, it is in a very popular square facing a famous train station but folks seldom go in thinking it is a government building. It is but it can be visited! This is the old Palacio de Fomento or agriculture ministry of Spain!

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Well hold on , this is not your usual palace! It is located very centrally by the Atocha train station and had passed many times for its magnificent architecture. However, this Palacio de Fomento is actually the seat of Spain Ministry of Agriculture, Foods, and Environment! And another beauty of my beloved Madrid.

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I am sure many has seen it traveling in and out of Madrid by Atocha and marble of the structure on the top center of the building, wondering what it is and if it can be visited. Only accessable to the general public on guided visits in normal times…  I think it is worth a detour and think it deserve a single post of its own. Therefore, here is a primer ,hope you enjoy it as I.

The Palace of Fomento, current headquarters of the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Environment in Madrid , one of the most beautiful and emblematic buildings in Madrid, began to be built in the 1890’s. The project took place, because the former headquarters of the Ministry of Development (Convent of the Trinity in Calle Atocha) ,the current Teatro Calderón was small and decided to create a nice ministerial headquarters. To raise it was chosen some land that once belonged to the botanical garden (Real Jardin Botànico) and to separate them from it, had to open a new street, the current Cuesta de Moyano (where the book fair has been held for several years now).  The new building was inaugurated in the year 1900 by the Queen Maria Cristina and combined the tasks of Ministry of  Agriculture and Public Works.The plot of land in 1886 was originally destined for the Faculty of Sciences and the Central School of Arts and Crafts and Commerce, but the project was dismissed. Although it initially housed the headquarters of the Ministry of Public Works and the Ministry of Education and Fine arts, it is currently the main headquarters of the Ministry of Agriculture, Foods and Environment.

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 A bit on the architecture I like

It has a setback rectangular plant and is organized by two interior courtyards of equal proportions with iron and glass cover. The highlight of the building is the central body of the facade, composed of a central portico of equal height that the ground floor, which serves, at the same time, as a basement  to four pairs of giant columns of Corinthian in order that support a architrave and an attic of notable proportions.

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Also noteworthy are the decorations of tiles and enamels of Daniel Zuloaga, the paintings of Ferrant, the caryatids of the entrance portico that represent the industry and commerce, and the colossal sculptures of the front summit that Agustín Querol made in stone, and then they were replaced by identical bronze ones. Once past this staircase of the hall is when the wonderful monumental staircase of the palace comes. Because of the size and beauty of this staircase it is understood that it is truly a palace. In the front, the stairs, and the balustrades are of Italian polished marble. But then the budget failed short and they were made with stone of Robledo de Chabela. It is surrounded by the Ionic order and is also repeated here the architectural structures of the facade, as will happen in the courtyards, which  provides great harmony. The patios of lights are divided into three main bodies: two with galleries of arches and the last sculptures, following the same disposition as in the facade. The interior of the building is greatly changed by its use over time. It maintains however, the staircases with iron shelves and the elliptical plant library, with its green wood shelves and its staircases with cast iron on both sides.

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The building counts on its main façade with a bronze copy of a sculptural ensemble by Agustín Querol, known as the Glory and the Pegasus. A bronze copy, encrusted in the headquarters of the Ministry of Agriculture, and the original group, in marble, in the Plaza de Legazpi and the Glorieta de Cádiz.  In 2005, on the occasion of the works of the M-30 (beltway of Madrid, the original one I knew when lived in the city that passes under the Plaza de Legazpi) jeopardized its stability, the two groups of the Pegasus were withdrawn. After the end of the underground work, only one of them was re-placed.  The one located to the left of the Glory symbolizes material progress. A female figure (agriculture) carries a plow in the right hand while taking with the other one the reins of the Pegasus (symbol of the speed), which appears resting on its hind legs and in gesture to undertake the flight. In it,  is mounted a male figure (the industry) extending his left arm exhibiting a duce (own attribute of Mercury, a Roman god associated with trade). Under the winged horse, one can appreciate a sheaf of wheat and two sprockets, in clear allusion to Agriculture and the Industry respectively.

Many years closed to the general public and it finally opened in 2014 , organizing guided tours and dramatized plays inside the building. Inside it houses works of arts  from National patrimony and from the Prado Museum. I have passed by it many times and been on its grounds but never taken a tour.  Guided tours are free and take place on Saturdays and Sundays, not public holidays, at 12h noon. OF course, this info needs to be verify once getting there as with today’s virus time who knows! There is a telephone  91 347 50 68.  Mondays to Fridays  from 12h to 14h or write email to : entradaspalaciodefomento@mapa.es  the booked tickets must be collected at the entrance of the building desde  11h15 to 11h30 . Bookings will not be valid after 11h30.  In the case of dramatized visits, these have a cost of 8 euros per person and take place on Fridays and Saturdays, not holidays, at 20h (8pm). To book the tickets you have to call the same telephone above and or email at the same times.

Some orientation for the Palacio de Fomento as it is surrounded by emblematic buildings and places as well as important cultural centers.  As said, it is in front of the Atocha train station only a few meters from the Plaza del Emperador Carlos V (emperor Charles V square), in which center there is replica of the Fuente de la Alcachofa (as fountain in the Retiro Park) , and very close to the Paseo del Prado, Real Jardín Botánico (Royal Botanical garden),  Parque del Retiro (Retiro park),  Real Observatorio de Madrid (Royal Observatory of Madrid) , and the museums of Anthropology , Reina Sofia, and Prado.

How to get here is easy , Ministerio de Agricultura, Alimentación y Medio Ambiente( Palacio de Fomento) at  Paseo Infanta Isabel nº1 Metro: Atocha Renfe líne 1 Atocha Cercanías trains C-1, C2, C3, C4, C5, C7, C8, and C10.  Bus lines 10, 14, 19, 26, 32, 37, 85, 86 and Circular .

Some webpages to help you plan your trip here are

The official Ministry of  agriculture ;fishing and alimentation on visits in Spanish: https://www.mapa.gob.es/es/ministerio/palacio-de-fomento/visitas-guiadas/default.aspx

The Madrid tourist office on the Min Agro, fishing and alimentation/foods in English: https://www.esmadrid.com/en/tourist-information/ministerio-de-agricultura

Hope you enjoy my Madrid. An immense city with so much to offer the visitor/tourist and for locals as well. You never stop learning on Madrid. And of course, the off the beaten path wonder of the Palacio de Fomento!

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

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