Plaza de Cibeles

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The plaza is a landmark of Madrid and it is famous for the Cybele Palace (City Hall), and the fountain of the same name.

The Plaza de Cibeles is a square with a neo-classical complex of marble sculptures with fountains that has become an iconic symbol for the city of Madrid. It sits at the intersection of Calle de Alcalá (running from east to west), Paseo de Recoletos (to the North) and Paseo del Prado (to the south). Plaza de Cibeles was originally named Plaza de Madrid, but in 1900, the City Council named it Plaza de Castelar, which was eventually replaced by its current name.

It is currently delimited by four prominent buildings: The Bank of Spain, the Palacio de Buenavista, the Palacio de Linares and the Cybele Palace. These constructions are located in four different neighbourhoods from three different adjacent districts: Centro, Retiro and Salamanca.

In the years Cybele Palace and her fountain have become symbolic monuments of the city.[1][2][3]


The place where Plaza de Cibeles sits today used to form part of a wooded, longitudinal axis that, during the Renaissance, separated the urban section of Madrid from different monastic and palace complexes. It consisted of three main sections, known as the Prado de los Recoletos Agustinos (now the Paseo de Recoletos), the Prado de los Jerónimos (which corresponds to the now Paseo del Prado) and the Prado de Atocha.

The first important reform of this axis was carried out by Phillip II in 1570. In the eighteenth century, during the reign of Charles III, a new renovation had begun.

Cibeles Fountain[edit]

The Cybele Fountain

The fountain of Cybele is found in the part of Madrid commonly called the Paseo de Recoletos. This fountain is named after Cybele, a Phrygian goddess who had a significant cult in Rome, and is seen as one of Madrid's most important symbols. The fountain depicts the goddess, sitting on a chariot pulled by two lions. The fountain was built in the reign of Charles III and designed by Ventura Rodríguez between 1777 and 1782. The goddess and chariot are the work of Francisco Gutiérrez and the lions by Roberto Michel. The fountain originally stood next to the Buenavista Palace, and was moved to its present location in the middle of the square in the late 19th century. Up until the 19th century both the fountain of Neptune and Cybele looked directly at each other, until the city council decided to turn them round to face towards the centre of the city.

On one side of the fountain of Cybele, the Paseo de Recoletos starts, heading north to link up with the Paseo de la Castellana. On the other side, the Paseo del Prado begins and heads off south, towards the fountain of Neptune, in the Plaza de Cánovas del Castillo, and on until Atocha. Calle de Alcalá is the street which intersects the fountain from east to west. Calle de Alcalá starts in the Puerta del Sol and continues on to the outskirts of Madrid.

The fountain of Cybele has been adopted by the football club Real Madrid, whose fans use the area to celebrate its triumphs in competitions such as La Liga, the Champions League or the Copa del Rey. A flag of Real Madrid is usually wrapped around the Cybele statue.

Cybele Palace[edit]

Main article: Cybele Palace
Panoramic view as seen from Calle de Alcalá.
Plaza de Cibeles at Christmas

The most prominent of the buildings at the Plaza de Cibeles is the Cybele Palace (formerly named Palace of Communication). The cathedral-like landmark was built in 1909 by Antonio Palacios as the headquarters of the postal service. This impressive building was home to the Postal and Telegraphic Museum until 2007 when the landmark building became the Madrid City Hall (Ayuntamiento de Madrid).

Banco de España[edit]

Across the Paseo de Prado from city hall is the Bank of Spain. It is found opposite to the General Staff Headquarters of the Spanish Army. The oldest part of the enormous building, bordering the Cybele square, was built between 1882 and 1891. Throughout the twentieth century, three extensions were undertaken. The first of them took place between 1930 and 1934 and the second between 1969 and 1975. The most recent extension was added in 2006 and was designed by Rafael Moneo. Each architect has respected the original layout of the building since its inception. Inside, 30m below the surface is an area where the central bank stores its gold. Before modern security was installed, the room was flooded in case of danger by water coming from Cybele Fountain.

Linares Palace[edit]

Opposite the Bank of Spain is the Palacio de Linares. The baroque palace was built in 1873 by a rich banker, José de Murga. A century later, the building had fallen into disrepair but in 1992 it was completely renovated. It currently houses the Casa de América, a cultural center and art gallery focused mostly on Latin American arts. The building is said to be haunted by the spirits of its first owner, who made his fortune in the New World.

Buenavista Palace[edit]

Built in 1777 by the Duchess of Alba with designs of Pedro de Arnal. Surrounded by a French style garden by Ventura Rodríguez. Facing Cybele Palace is the Buenavista Palace, headquarters of the Spanish Army. The Crown owned it after the death of the Duchess of Alba, and became War Ministry in 1847 until 1939 when it was ceded to the Spanish Army to host its Headquarters.


External links[edit]

Coordinates: 40°25′09″N 3°41′35″W / 40.41917°N 3.69306°W / 40.41917; -3.69306