|A royal residence has been at this spot in Madrid since the end of the 9th century when the Alcázar (fortified castle) occupied a defensive position. Since then several other royal palaces have occupied this site, until in 1734 a fire destroyed the elaborate palace designed for Philip IV. Philip V built the current palace on the same site as a way of emphasizing the continuity of the Spanish monarchy. Two prominent Italian architects designed the structure, first Filippo Juvarra (who died in 1736) and later G. B. Sacchetti, who adapted Juvarra's initial designs. Additional changes were made through the centuries to accommodate the needs of new monarchs.
The complex housed the royal family, courtiers, servants, administrative offices, and service quarters. On the east side the palace has six stories; on the lower west and north, it has two additional basements.
East facadeWhile the royal family occupied the lower floor in the summer, they moved to the main floor for the winter. Lords and ladies-in-waiting lived on the second floor. Rooms in the mezzanines over the lower, principal, and second floors held servants' quarters. Giant pilasters rest on a cushioned base and rise from the main floor through the second mezzanine and second floor. A balustrade tops the large cornice.
|The plan is essentially a square with emphasis at the corners. The southeast end of the square (left and below) received an additional wing to the south in the late 18th century.|
|A large parade ground (Plaza de Palacio or Plaza de Armas) is in front of the south facade. This parade ground is enclosed by low pavilions, added in the 19th century.|
Center: the parade ground looking north to the south facade; right: looking south to the Cathedral
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