The image above shows Madrid in the XVIIth century, as drawn by Israel Silvestre, from Paris (the original can be seen at the Biblioteca Digital Hispánica). The viewpoint is on the western shore of the Manzanares river, then just agricultural land.

The size of the river seems quite large when compared to what can be seen today (a spring view nearing floods? or simply the fact that the river was less contained than today?). Contemporary visitors that just go to the Barrio de Salamanca could be surprised with that view, as this is the true nature of historic Madrid: originally a border outpost on a hill overlooking a river. The bridge is today’s Puente de Segovia, but as far as buildings are concerned not many survive.

On this enlargment of the left part of the image you can see:

  • A dome- covered building on the left. By its position it was around the current position of the Parroquia de San Marcos
  • A road rising from the river, that was the “Camino del Rio” and is today the Cuesta de San Vicente
  • An enclosed area that rises from the river to the big building on the right side. The enclosed area is today’s Campo del Moro, and the building was the Alcazar, the Royal Palace for the Habsburg dinasty, replaced by the present Palacio Real.

In this view the Puente de Segovia is connected to the street of the same name, and a road to the left connects it to the Calle Mayor; the conexion is no longer this way, as the Catedral de La Almudena (a failed atempt to make classical architecture that has not much class) and its surroundings have changed the layout.  The lower fluvial plains are today covered by new neighborhoods. The valley by which the calle Segovia rises is today spanned by a viaduct that allows a connection between Palacio Real and San Francisco El Grande.

As much as I dislike the Almudena Cathedral (it is simply not good enough architecture for its size and preferent location), on this image to the right you can see an area in which today sits the best dome in Madrid, not built by the time of the drawing: San Francisco el Grande, completed in 1784. There are some Goya paintings in the church, but the best things are how the building is integrated in its urban setting (to the east, facing Carrera de San Francisco, as to the west, altough it rises majestically, there is not a specific façade)  and the proportions of the dome.

San Francisco el Grande

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