El Parque de Retiro... "In memory of all the victims of terrorism"
El Parque de Retiro is a place that means a lot of things to different people. For some it is a place of fun and laughter, memories of childhood, romantic walks in the park, and memorable vacations. It is a place of royalty, of historical significance and a remarkable landmark of beauty. It is now also a place of reflection and remembrace following the terrorist attacks in Madrid in March 2004.
El Parque de Retiro was once the exclusive property of the Spanish Monarchy until the late 19th century when it became a public park which has gone on to become one of the main attractions in the city.
In 1561 King Philip II moved the Spanish Royal court to Madrid to the royal palace of Buen Retiro, and a formal avenue of trees were placed in in the gardens. The park has been influenced greatly by Spanish Royalty over the centuries and has had many additions created and ordered by Royal decree including a French Style garden commissioned by King Philip V called Parterre Francés this particular garden is home to the oldest tree in Madrid which is thought to be some 400 years old.
The park has been a focal point for centuries for royal courts, resplendent plays have been performed in the park for royal families and their courtiers including the courts of Philip IV and Charles II. Italian operas were the entertainment of the day in Buen Retiro for Ferdinand VI. King Charles III was the monarch who modified the perimeter of the park with stylish wrought iron railings and the following King Charles was monarch when the Astronomical Observatory was built by Juan de Villanueva.
Fruit trees were added by Queen Isabella II as well as trees to offer shade in the heat of the Madrid summers and during her reign the Campo Grande was landscaped. There are numerous statues and monuments, fountains and attractions that you will stumble upon of Kings and Queens from bygone eras such as the lake that has a monument dedicated to King Alfonso XII and the Galápagos Fountain was created to commemorate the birth of Isabel II, and of course there is the Paseo de las Estatuas, an avenue lined with statues of Kings and Queens.
There is the boating lake, the cafes and picnic benches, the army museum Museo del Ejército and of course Madrids very own Crystal Palace the Palacio de Cristal built in 1887 by Ricardo Velázquez Bosco who was a famous Spanish architect, archaeologist and scholar. Ricardo also designed and built the Palacio de Velázquez also in the Parque de El Buen Retiro which functions as an arts and crafts gallery. The park is vast so many an enjoyable day can be spent in a different garden or part of the park.
This park over the centuries has become a vast oasis in the middle of Madrid and has a number of gardens to while away a day or two during your visit to the city each with their own character and botanical significance. The Jardín de Vivaces, translated to the Garden of Perennials offering colour all year round, the Jardines de Cecilio Rodríguez, a classically Andalusian style of garden named after its designer that has 4 ponds with fountains, cypress trees and peacocks walking majestically throughout the garden. There is also the Jardines del Arquitecto Herrero Palacios with its artful topiary to look in wonder at and of course no great royal park would be complete without a rose garden.
The rose garden, or The Rosaleda has a statue that has caused much controversy in a Catholic country and many Madridiens have asked for the sculpture to be decommissioned. It is the statue of El Angel Caído, translated to The Fallen Angel. The statue is of Satan and represents Lucifer falling from Heaven. It is the only statue in Europe that is dedicated to Satan.
A poignant area of the park is the Bosque del Recuerdo, which translates to The Forest of Remembrance. The forest has 192 olive and cypress trees planted to commemorate the 191 civilians who died in the 11th March 2004 terrorist attack in Madrid. The 192nd tree is for the special forces agent who also died in the attack. Their Majesties King Juan Carlos I and Queen Sofia were the first people to lay flowers at the memorial forest and their white flowers had a message "In memory of all the victims of terrorism".
The park has held significance for many people throughout history. It has and continues to be a place of entertainment, relaxation, family outings and now a place of reflection. Take time whilst you are in this great capital city to visit El Parque de Retiro you will not be disappointed.
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