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History & Origin of Madrid

The origin of Madrid, the capital city of Spain. Information about Madrid from a small muslim settlement to a big modern city. Discover the city of Madrid.

Madrid, the capital of Spain, has a passionate history. Starting out as a small Muslim settlement, its long history has converted it into one of the most populated cities in Spain.

The exact year of the first human settlement in Madrid is unknown, probably in prehistoric or Roman times. Madrid probably began as a crossroad between various rural settlements in the region. It is known, however, that there was a Roman Visigoth settlement there because ruins have been discovered of a Christian basilica near the Santa María de la Almudena church, in the center of the city. Additionally, two Visigothic necropolises have been discovered near Casa de Campo park and in the Tetuan de las Victorias neighborhood.

Madrid began to appear in historic records during the time of the Cordoba emirate. At the time, the Emir of Cordoba, Muhammad I, ordered that a stronghold be built to watch over his terrain in the Guadarrama mountain range. As a result of the fortress, a permanent population called Maǧrīţ began to grow to the south of Guadarrama.

It is believed that the actual Royal Palace was built over a Muslim fortress or hisn, although there is no concrete evidence. The archaeological work that has been conducted to discover Madrid's Medieval past has also uncovered ruins of watchtower walls in the Plaza de Oriente.

The real development of the city would occur with the arrival of King Philip II, who would relocate his court to Madrid in 1561 and declare it the capital of Spain. The urban expansion during the Habsburg Dynasty during the time is now the historic city center of Madrid, known as The Madrid of the Austrians.

The modernization of Madrid would take place under a new monarchical dynasty, the Bourbons, to which the actual king of Spain, Juan Carlos I, belongs. Among the important Bourbons, Carlos III stands out because in the 18th century he started a project to reform the sanitation of Madrid, the fountains, plazas and gardens. For his efforts, the King is remembered as the “Best Mayor of Madrid.”

Stories and legends of Madrid

The history of Madrid, like any old city can boast, is full of stories and legends. In particular, very near the don Quijote School in Madrid, there is a legend that could have come from an Edgar Allan Poe story.

In the intersection of Duque de Liria and Conde-Duque street, there is a building that once was a palace, belonging to the Marchioness of Hornazas, which was commonly referred to as “la Casa del Duende” (the elf house). On the lower floor there was an inn where clients often made a lot of ruckus. One day, a bearded dwarf appeared before them and threatened them with grave consequences if they were not quiet. And so, the men fell silent.

Several days had passed when some of the local clients, emboldened and likely drunk on wine, returned armed with clubs and became rowdy again. At midnight, six midgets appeared with sticks, which they handled dexterously, and beat up all the parishioners of the pub, which was forced to close due to lack of clients.

Discover for yourself all the legends of Madrid.