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Notes on the Geography of Spain: Madrid: Photo 28

world pictures Spain: Madrid

The cathedral entrance faces the royal palace, which replaced an older one that burned in 1734 and which itself replaced the Muslim fortress. Goitia calls it "Madrid's outstanding building, huge and majestic." Writing as an architect, he calls it "one of the strongest and most solid constructions ever put by man, a really cyclopean achievement."

The usually dismissive Ford admits that the palace is "certainly... one of the most magnificent in the world." He suggests that tourists should "visit it also at moonlight; then, in the silent death-like loneliness, the pile looms like a ghostly thing of the enchanter, or a castle of snow." So much for romance. Returning to form, Ford writes that the entrance gate, shown here, "disappoints." He adds, astutely, that "nothing is more tiresome than a palace."

Work in any case began in 1738 to a design by Giambattista Sacchetti, and the building was executed in a combination of white Colmar limestone and gray Guadarrama granite. Sacchetti celebrated Spain's imperial history by adding up top statues of Moctazuma and Atahualpa. Were they noticed? By 1764, Charles II was resident, and the building continued to serve as a royal residence until 1931. It is now primarily a museum but is also used on state occasions.

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