Madrid offers a wide artistic range, influenced by the many styles that have
marked the city through the centuries.
From the ruins of the ancient Arab wall, to small Gothic-style churches, and
early Renaissance constructions, Madrid's development is a showcase for a
variety of artistic periods. Madrid owes its name to the Arabic Magerit or
"mother of the waters", which was the name given to the fortress in the bank of
the Manzanares River, built by the Omayyad from Cordoba, Muhammad (823-886).
Although it grew under Arab rule for two hundred years, little is left of the
Arab presence: only some ruins of the wall are preserved, and a tower, which was
later turned into a bellower. With the coming of the Austrias in the 16th
century and the height of their splendour in the 17th century, the great
monuments of Madrid began to emerge in the area that is nowadays referred to as
the Madrid de los Austrias, one of the most famous areas of the city where, in
addition to the Plaza Mayor, there are many outstanding spots, churches, and
convents, full of art and atmosphere. The austere façades of the Baroque style
contrast with the lavish interiors of the palaces.
The 18th century left its
Neoclassical mark on the splendid Royal Palace complex, the Sabatini Gardens and
Campo del Moro, located in the city centre. The church of San Francisco El
Grande, the fountains of Paseo del Prado, the Toledo Bridge, the Prado Museum,
and Puerta de Alcalá are also good examples of this splendid style.
Madrid also has an assortment of palaces and monuments making up one of the
most important heritages in the history of the western world. Patrimonio
Nacional (National Heritage) is the institution in charge of safeguarding State
property which is at the service and disposal of the King, as well as managing
the convents and monasteries founded by monarchs throughout history. With a
tremendous wealth of art, the establishment of this collection of buildings has
for centuries been the moving force of Spanish culture. The properties, open to
the public, include the Madrid Royal Palace, the Pantheon of Important Men, the
Monastery of Las Descalzas Reales, the Royal Monastery of La Encarnación, the El
Pardo Royal Palace, the Aranjuez Royal Palace, the Royal Monastery of El
Escorial, the Prince's Cottage at El Escorial, the Infante's Cottage at El
Escorial, and the Benedictine Abbey of Santa Cruz del Valle de los Caídos.