With such a grand place, you’d think that the current King, Felipe VI, would reserve a portion of it for him and his family. In fact, he is following the custom of many other Spanish kings before him and lives in the more modest Palacio de la Zarzuela on the outskirts of Madrid. The Patrimonio Nacional department of the Spanish State owns and administers the Royal Palace.
The palace has 7 stories and faces the Almudena Cathedral (Catedral de la Almudena), a controversial architecture both inside and outside, which mixes the truly elegant with the gaudy or the frightful) as well as the Plaza de Armas. Its late baroque style was inspired by Bernini, who designed part of St. Peter’s in Rome.
The construction is made of Colmenar white stone and marble for reliefs and details. One of the important inside structure is its great two-story stairway above which the ceiling is decorated roccoco style depicting allegorical scenes.
Some rooms were decorated by Tiépolo and Mengs. Walls show paintings of past royalty realized by Goya, el Bosco, Velázquez and Caravaggio. One of the rooms is decorated entirely of porcelain walls (a truly frightful room).
The queen’s rooms have been transformed into an immense dining room: the set table sitting fifty guests barely took half the room.
On the North side of the Plaza de Armas you find the Armoury, which has the largest collection of medieval armors in the world. In the center of the first room, life-size, there are 9 armored horses with their armored riders, complete with lances. You can also find child-sized armors. It became evident, as you moved through the exhibition, that they had to start early to be able to fight with several kilos of metal on their body. The collection is truly impressive and thrilling: what young girl has not dreamt of a knight on a white charger?
The Royal Palace was designed to be a showcase of the way the monarchy lived. I have not seen a lot of palaces here in Spain but it seems that they did love gilding everything around them. The architecture itself is elegant and sober; the furniture, walls, mirrors, candelabras, etc. could have used a little more restraint, but it’s still quite impressive. I’m looking forward seeing other churches and residences to compare to what I’ve seen so far.