Royal Palace of Aranjuez

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Royal Palace of Aranjuez
Palacio Real de Aranjuez (Spanish)
There was a palace's military order, after the royal palace
Palacio Real de Aranjuez. Real Sitio de Aranjuez.jpg
Country Spain
Autonomous community Community of Madrid
Comarca Las Vegas
Municipality Coat of arms of Aranjuez Aranjuez
Architects Juan Bautista de Toledo,
Juan de Herrera,
Francesco Sabatini,
Giuseppe Gricci,
Rafael Contreras Muñoz.
Style Renaissance,
French Empire style,
Queen Isabel II style.
Established Exclusive property for the monarch: 1523
 - Initiated 16th century
 - Completion 18th century
For public Public
Visitation Open (are not allowed photos of its interior)
UNESCO World Heritage Site
Name Aranjuez Cultural Landscape
Year 2001 (#25)
Number 1044
Region Europe and North America
Criteria ii, iv
Heritage designation Spanish Property of Cultural Interest
Registration name Palacio Real de Aranjuez
Reference no. RI-51-0001063
Designated 1931
Wikimedia Commons: Royal Palace of Aranjuez

The Royal Palace of Aranjuez (Spanish: Palacio Real de Aranjuez) is a former royal residence of Spanish royalty. Located 50km south of Madrid in the town of Aranjuez, it is open to the public as one of several Spanish royal sites in the Community of Madrid, Spain. It was established around the time Philip II of Spain moved the capital from Toledo to Madrid. Aranjuez became one of four seasonal seats of government, occupied during the springtime (from about holy week). Thereafter, the court moved successively to Rascafría, El Escorial, and wintered in Madrid.

Several international treaties were signed in this palace and several members of the royal family died here, including:

In 1931, during the Second Spanish Republic, the area was declared an Artistic Historical Monument and opened to the public. The palace, gardens and associated buildings are part of the Aranjuez Cultural Landscape, which was declared a World Heritage Site by the United Nations Cultural Organization in 2001.

Management of the palace is entrusted to the Spanish Patrimonio Nacional which does not allow private photography of its interior for security reasons. However, licenses may be available for specific purposes upon application.


The area around Aranjuez enjoys a mild climate, a verdant and varied landscape with excellent Game hunting and so has long been inhabited. In the 12th century the Order of Santiago created an exclusive hunting reserve alongside the river Tagus near its junction with the river Jarama.

Its history as a royal site began in the 15th century, when the order's grandmaster Lorenzo I Suárez de Figueroa directed the construction of a grand hunting lodge designed for the recreation of members of the order and their royal and noble patrons, known as the Raso de Estrella (Star shaped Glade located between the present Royal Palace and Aranjuez railway station.) The site is today an open festival park.

In 1523, Charles I of Spain took possession of the area, which was designated Real Bosque y Casa de Aranjuez (Royal Woods and House of Aranjuez), in order to entertain his guests during the springtime hunting season.

In 1551, he established a botanical garden to catalog the many new species of plants brought from the Americas, but due to distractions elsewhere, this mission was not entirely successful.

Philip II became aware of the fertile meadows of Aranjuez, and designated that a portion of land to the north of the river Tagus should be devoted to pottager and general agriculture in 1561.

In an adjacent plot to the south of the river, the King began construction of the first palace, on the same site as the existing building. Philip engaged the services of the architect Juan Bautista de Toledo, and later Juan de Herrera. They were also responsible for the palace of The Royal Monastery of San Lorenzo which dates from about the same time.

After the death of Philip II in 1598, the works were still in progress with only the royal apartments and the chapel, plus the south tower and part of the western facades completed. Economic and political crisis and the fall of the royal house of Habsburg resulted in the project being abandoned.

In 1700, the first Bourbon king of Spain, Philip V, decided to resume the work, intending to make Aranjuez a rival to the grand palace of Versailles. Subsequently, this imposing style would be applied to La Granja de San Ildefonso. Philip V added a new north tower, completed the west facade and defined the structure that would shape the current palace. Little used, in the palace was almost destroyed by fire in 1748.

Ferdinand VI rebuilt the palace. Although still respecting the original foundations, the new structure was to reflect the prevailing late baroque style and 18th century aesthetic, of an imposing and ostentatious exterior accommodating a series of sumptuously furnished spaces within. As a tribute to its history, the main facade includes the statues of the main promoters of the preceding projects: "The Three Philips": Philip II, Philip V and Philip VI.

The wings enclosing the courtyard were added in the 18th century.

The imposing building of today is mainly due to Charles III in his reforming work for the capital city (he is sometimes called and The Mayor of Madrid) and modernization of the Spanish state.

The architect of the modern palace was the famous Italian Francesco Sabatini who designed the two wings of the west, which also provide the main building enclosing the courtyard, thus defining three sides of the square the cour d'honneur which faces the original entrance to the site, near the Raso de Estrella at the confluence of the two rivers. At one end of this complex was the chapel, and opposite was supposed to be a theater that was never completed.

The decoration was further enriched in 18th and 19th centuries with paintings by various artists; in the halls hardwood furniture and several collections of tapestries, clocks, lamps and sculptures were installed. Many of these unique pieces still adorn the succession of halls, chambers and spaces, among which the Salón de Porcelana was the favourite retreat of Charles III.

Aranjuez was a favorite abode of Charles III who took refuge there from Spanish politics for some time following the Esquilache Riots. He chosen Aranjuez to be his spring and summer residence at a period of history when the Royal Court used to move from Madrid in the spring and did not return to the capital until October.

The King embraced physiocracy (an early form of economics in which the wealth of a nation supposedly lay in its soil and people rather than its treasury). Charles, who enjoyed the palace and its rural environment, established the Cortijo de San Isadro as an experimental farm, and also divided the palace gardens into the intimate Jardín del Parterre and the wider Jardín de la Isla. He held lavish parties and sometimes sailed along stretches of the Tagus in rich artistically decorated and golden painted Falúas.

Charles' son, Charles IV and his wife Maria Luisa of Parma erected a pavilion known as the Casa del Labrador which is today open to the public and an important example of European Neoclassical architecture.

In 1807, Manuel Godoy, favorite of Charles IV's and sometime prime minister of Spain, tried to make peace with Napoleonic France but faced opposition of the rebellious heir to the throne Ferdinand (later called the "felon king"). Godoy claimed that the kingdom was safe from the impending Napoleonic French invasion because of the treaties he had facilitated.

In 1808, while Godoy was resident in Aranjuez (within the Palace of Osuna) the rumor of invasion spread, resulting in an angry mob led by the rebellious Ferdinand supporters finding him hiding in an attic. He was taken prisoner and later exiled. As a result of the successful Mutiny of Aranjuez in March of that year the palace Salón del Trono was to witness the abdication of King Charles IV in favor of his son Ferdinand VII, who himself abdicated in May.

In September 1808, in a formal ceremony held in the Chapel of the Royal Palace of Aranjuez before Monsignor Don Juan de la Vera, the Archbishop of Laodicea, the Supreme, central Napoleonic Junta was officially constituted.

After the Bourbon Restoration, Alfonso XII designated the Royal Palace of Aranjuez to be the residence of the noble household of the Dukes of Montpensier. His bride to be was the daughter of that family, Mercedes of Orléans. In 1878 the bride and her entourage arrived for the ceremony from Madrid at an imposing but temporary railway station constructed near the grand Plaza de Armas (western) entrance to the Palace of Aranjuez.

This would be the last grand event to held in Aranjuez, as Maria Christina of Austria the monarch's second wife, his son Alfonso XIII and his wife Victoria Eugenie of Battenberg all preferred the La Granja de San Ildefonso for their royal vacations.


The palace is the centerpiece set in a royal estate:

  • to the north, former potager gardens, now agricultural land intersected by geometric tree-lined "royal rides" which are now open to the public and mostly pedestrian walkways
  • to the east, a trident of paved roads (Reina, Principe & Infantas) along which the nobility erected family residences
  • to the west, a matching trident of rural tracks, one of which was the royal access road lined by barracks (now ruined). Furthest from the palace is an open area, the Raso de Estrella, the site of the original hunting lodge and now a festival ground. The original railway station was also here, before being relocated further west the current site. Some of the former railway sidings - now a car park for commuters are also still discernible. Directly in front of the palace is the elegant Oval lawn surrounded by monumental stone benches. The tourist mini-train stop is near here.
  • to the south, the Plaza de Parejas is an open sandy area surrounded by various palace dependencies described below.

Plaza de Parejas[edit]

Las parejas reales (an equestrian fiesta held outside the palace) by Luis Paret y Alcázar in 1770. Currently in Museo del Prado.

The south of the palace is a large open square known as Plaza de las Parejas. It defined on the east by a Renaissance-style two-story building, which were the auxiliary dependences of the palace (Casa de Caballeros y Oficios - now the local law courts and tax offices).To the west a warehouse area, servant halls and (after the fire) a separate kitchen-house (Casa de Fogones). In front - facing the palace (currently a hotel) is the Casa del Principe de Paz, intended to be the residence of Manuel Godoy. This square owes its name to the equestrian sports and fiestas of the nobility, who competed or paraded in pairs.

The palace consists essentially of two floors, the lower, ground level is lit by windows crowned by semicircular arches, while the upper floor opens onto balconies with iron railings. The central body of the palace rises to a third, superior level surmounted by a pediment bearing the shield of Ferdinand VI. At the sides of the shield are engraved two inscriptions:

  • left: Philippus II / Institvit / Philippus V / provexit (initiated by Philip II and continued by Philip V),
  • the right: Ferdinandu / VI Pius Felix / Consummavit / An MDCCLII (Completed in 1752 by the faithful and devout Ferdinand VI).

Entrance to the palace[edit]

The current public access to the east, via the M-305 road and boat-bridge is modern. For royalty, the traditionally formal access to the Palace is to cross the river Tagus by the (now closed) road to the west near the confluence and then travel eastwards, entering via the Plaza de Armas and through portico of the central body.

The central rise in the elevation of the building is to emphasise the main portico that is framed by five symmetrical exterior arches. On the ledge are the statues carved by Pedro Martinengo portray the three royal sponsors: Philip II, Philip V and Ferdinand VI.

Either side of the portico, the wings each have three grand terminal arches to further emphasise the grandeur of this royal access. Above the portico is a large balcony with stone parapets overlooking to the courtyard.

The portico provides access to interior through a hall which in turn leads to a grand central staircase made by Giacomo Bonavía at the behest of Ferdinand VI. The balustrade is of black iron with gold trim and fits within the Rococo trend of the moment. From the ceiling hangs an Empire style large chandelier gilt bronze and crystal from La Granja.


Behind the palace's main body is an interior courtyard around which are distributed the various halls of the palace The entire structure is built in red brick with white limestone details from Colmenar de Oreja. In both corners can be seen two small towers surmounted by domes resting on shallow circular drums with small windows that illuminate the interior, in one of which is set a clock.

The lobby is decorated with sculptures and on the top floor are three marble busts inside of respective alcoves representing Louis XIV of France, his wife Maria Theresa of Spain and their son Louis, the Grand Dauphin. These busts were made in 1683 by the French sculptor Antoine Coysevox. The presence of these three French characters in the palace is explained by the of the Spanish Royal Bourbon family with the French monarchy and particularly The Grand Dauphin who was his father of Philip V and his parents, the grandparents of Philip.

In almost all halls of the palace is easy to find clocks of all sizes and characteristics, as King Charles IV was a collector of clocks and an Horologer.

Salón de Guardias de la Reina[edit]

(Space for the guards of the Queen) Decorated with three mural scenes from the life of King Solomon painted by Italian Luca Giordano, olive wood furniture from the time of King Charles IV, and clocks from the collection of Charles IV.

Salón de la Reina Isabel II[edit]

(the room of Queen Isabel II). It is decorated with mythological scenes painted by Luca Giordano: Jupiter and Leda, Aeolus (the god of wind) and Triptolemus (the threefold warrior). The furniture is of Empire style.

Antecámara de Música[edit]

(Musical antechamber) Popularly known as Salón del tranvía. Nicknamed "the tram-station" this space was used for reception of important personalities. It is decorated with biblical scenes of the 17th-century Italian school and religious paintings by Francesco Solimena.

Sala de Música de la Reina[edit]

(The music room of the Queen) An olive wood piano made in England was a gift of Empress Eugénie de Montijo to Queen Isabel II. The rest of the furniture is Empire style mahogany. The bronze neo-Gothic lamp hanging from the ceiling is 19th-century.

Salón de Billar[edit]

(The billiard room)

Anteoratorio de la Reina[edit]

(The ante-oratory of the Queen) Mosaic made from tessera produced in the Vatican workshop. It was a gift from Pope Leo XIII to King Alfonso XII on the occasion of his marriage to Maria Christina of Austria.

Oratorio de la Reina[edit]

(Queen's oratory) The windows overlook the central courtyard of the palace. Rebuilt in time of King Charles IV by Juan de Villanueva. Decorated with stucco, in its walls are frescoes painted around 1791 by Francisco Bayeu y Subías, who was the brother in law of Francisco de Goya. The subjects represented are: Adoration of the Magi, Adoration of the Shepherds, the Flight into Egypt, Visitation and Zechariah and St. Elizabeth with the Virgin Mary. In addition to the pillars that form the frame of the main altar are two evangelists: St. Matthew and St. Luke. In the center of the vault is depicted God the Father with a celestial host of angels. At top of the dome flies the dove of the Holy Spirit. The canvas of the Immaculate Mary occupying the central space is work by Mariano Salvador Maella.

Salón del Trono[edit]

Salón del Trono

(Throne Room) The recessed dome is decorated with Pompeian style frescoes attributed to Vicente Camarón in 1851 and represent the Monarchy whose symbol, the royal crown, is supported by figures of Venus and Industry. To right stands Arts and left Abundance and Prudence. Around the hall runs a stucco base that simulates marble with green serpentine tones. In this hall kings officiated during formal visits. The walls are lined with red velvet. The furniture is mostly from the period of Isabel II, except for the decorative French Louis XVI style royal thrones that were used by Alfonso XII and his wife.

Despacho de la Reina[edit]

(Queen's office) So named for having been used by Isabel II as an office, formerly it was a bedroom. It has a large number of paintings that decorate its walls, including the Vase by Jan Brueghel. A landscape by Martínez del Mazo, two paintings of small size with view of classical buildings, painted by Francisco Galli Bibiena, and three vases by Arellano are some other of most interesting paintings of this hall. The vault is frescoed in Pompeian style by Mariano Salvador Maella with scenes from the Passion of Christ. Next to this hall there is a small chapel or private oratory with a painting of the Virgin by Luca Giordano. The lamp hanging from ceiling is of La Granja de San Ildefonso' glass. The furniture in this hall are from era of Charles IV, built at the Royal Workshop, highlighting in them fine marquetry work.

Gabinete de Porcelana[edit]

Gabinete de Porcelana

(Porcelain's room) Commissioned by Charles III, is work by the Royal Porcelain Factory of the Buen Retiro in Madrid. A medium-sized hall, its walls and ceilings are completely lined by plaques of white porcelain and reliefs with Rococo decoration of chinoiserie motifs (garlands of flowers, fruits, monkeys, vases, mandarins, parrots, samurais, birds and dragons). The ceramic plaques are attached to timber walls by screws. The ceramic plaques were made between 1760 and 1765 by the artist Giuseppe Gricci. The floor is marble. Eight large mirrors against the walls multiply the effect of this decorative madness. Interspersed with the above-described decoration are human groups in everyday scenes. In the center of the ceiling arises a lamp taking the form of a palm, while a Chinese with a hand fan and a monkey on his shoulders climbs the trunk. The purpose of this room was as a games room and playground.

Dormitorio de la Reina[edit]

(Queen's bedroom) The dome is decorated with tempera frescoes by Zacarías González Velázquez with allegories of Science, Virtue, Art, Law and Monarchy. The centerpiece is the Isabel II style's bed a gift of the city of Barcelona to Queen Isabel II during her marriage to Francis of Asissi of Bourbon. The consoles are works by French cabinetmaker Daumier's workshop.

Tocador de la Reina[edit]

(Queen's boudoir) The walls of this room are covered with silk curtains of Valencian factories. The boudoir is of palo santo wood, with mirrors on both sides and a chair with mother of pearl and gold inlay. The furniture is of Isabel II, while the vault is painted by Vicente Camarón with representations of the four seasons.

Salón de Baile[edit]

(Ballroom) Serves as a dividing hall between the private rooms of King and Queen. The current furniture is of late-19th century Isabel II style decoration but is unrelated to the original furniture which disappeared in a fire in late-19th century.

Comedor de gala[edit]

(Formal dining room) Formerly a debating chamber during the reign of Ferdinand VI, Charles III used it as a banquet hall for gala occasions, as the palace has several less formal dining rooms. It has a vaulted ceiling painted around 1750 by Jacopo Amigoni during the reign of Ferdinand VI with a very complicated moralizing symbology. The figure of Father Time is surrounded by women who are trying to clip his wings to prevent time flying away. Truth is portrayed as matron of angels while Wisdom pays her homage. The Monarchy is depicted by its positive attributes and virtues (Justice, Religion, Bounty, the Angel of Peace with an olive branch, Faith and Charity as a woman protecting children). Here also is a series of grisaille representing parts of the world where the Monarchy had its possessions. Occasionally this space was also used as a ballroom. The floor is Rococo style of very good quality, with stucco work by Carlos Antonio Bernasconi, representing military attributes, sheet music and musical instruments.

Dormitorio del Rey[edit]

(King's bedroom) The Empire style wooden bed is mahogany with bronze applications. The vault was frescoed by Jacopo Amigoni and Bartolomé Rusca, highlighting in them allegories of Peace, Justice and Abundance made by Bartolomé Rusca. On the bed canvas of christ Cristo en la Cruz by Anton Raphael Mengs of 1761. Also a canvas of 1825 the Madonna and Child by José de Madrazo Agudo. This room adjoins a small hall which has a toilet.

Salón de espejos[edit]

(Mirrors's room). So called Salón de espejos because its walls are decorated completely with mirrors from the La Granja de San Ildefonso's factory. The hall was used as a dressing room for King Charles IV. The ceiling is frescoed in Pompeian style, done by Juan de Mata Duque around 1803.

Salón árabe[edit]

Salón Árabe

(Moorish room) Hall made for Queen Isabel II between 1847 and 1851, decorated with a Moorish fantasy (neo-Nasrid) based in mozarabs, similar to the Sala de Dos Hermanas of the Alhambra in Granada. Work by Rafael Contreras Muñoz, along with the Gabinete de Porcelana, are the two most admired sights of the palace. Its furniture consists of a porcelain central table and a bronze and crystal lamp. It was used as a smoking room mainly for men. The decoration of the walls is made of brightly colored plaster work.

Despacho del Rey[edit]

(King's office) Vault with frescoes of Pompeian style by Juan de Mata Duque with allegories of the Liberal Arts. Wooden of olive's desk decorated with bronze and marble. The Empire style furniture is made by Jacob Desmalter the Napoleon Bonaparte's cabinetmaker.

Sala de estudio del Rey[edit]

(King's study room) The Pompeian style vault painted by Juan de Mata Duque and the furniture is of Carlos IV style.

Sala China[edit]

(Chinese room) Inside one finds a collection of two hundred and three small paintings that the Emperor of China gifted to Queen Isabel II. They are made with ink on rice paper and depict scenes from the court, parties, theater, animals etc. The vault was frescoed by Zacarías González Velázquez and represent mythological scenes in the roof's center, and at both sides countryside scenes. From the ceiling hangs a globe lamp with chinoiserie motifs.

Sala de guardias del Rey[edit]

(King's guardroom) This hall is one of the oldest in the palace, it is built in the Philip II's time. It has six large paintings by Luca Giordano, three of biblical themes: The death of Absalom, David wearing the breastplate and Construction of Solomon's Temple and three other of military issues. The 18th-century chairs are in mahogany.

Paintings of the palace[edit]


External links[edit]