Community of Madrid
The town of Aranjuez, an ancient Moorish settlement on the banks of the river Tagus, owes its growth to the fact that successive Spanish monarchs made it a place of retreat for the Royal Family.
The first documents with records of Aranjuez date back to the 12th century. It is referred to by different but similar names, such as Arauz, Aranzoco, Aranzueque, Aranzuel and Arancues, all place names that probably derive from aranzazo, a kind of hawthorn or thorny bush.
Aranjuez stands on the banks of the river Tagus, in an area south of Madrid where the water moves sluggishly, designing meanders with lush riparian forests. The town fell under Christian rule definitively in 1139, in the time of King Alfonso VIII of Castile, who, in the same year, granted it to the Military Order of Santiago. Two and a half centuries later, in 1387, the then Master of the Order, Lorenzo Suárez de Figueroa, built a house of recreation outside the walls of the town.
The Spanish Crown
A century later, the town passed under control of the Spanish Crown, after the Catholic Monarchs took over magistery of the various Spanish military orders (1489). Successive monarchs of the House of Habsburg and the House of Bourbon endorsed Aranjuez, especially from 1561, when Philip II declared it a Royal Site. Aranjuez was the backdrop for a number of historic events, such as the Treaty of Aranjuez (13 February 1801), signed by Manuel de Godoy and Lucien Bonaparte, and the Revolt of Aranjuez (1808), which launched Spanish resistance to the troops of Napoleon Bonaparte. In 1850 the railway linking Aranjuez with Madrid was opened – the second oldest in the Iberian Peninsula after the Barcelona-Mataró line opened two years earlier. Aranjuez is today a modern and progressive town, strategically located on important communication routes.
The present appearance of the town is due mainly to the early Bourbon kings, who encouraged its development on a large scale in the 18th century. The fact that the town was declared a Historic and Artistic Monument in 1983 comes as no surprise, as it is a magnificent example of a town laid out in the Baroque style. The plans for the town were drawn up by the architects Santiago Bonavía and Alejandro González Velázquez at the instigation of Charles III (1759-1788).
Dating from the 18th century are several buildings, the most remarkable of which are: the church of St. Anthony, built by Santiago Bonavía and Alejandro González Velázquez over a chapel built by Ferdinand VI (1746-1759), with several paintings by Luis González Velázquez;the convent of St. Pascual, designed by Francisco Sabatini and built between 1765 and 1773, with altar fittings and retables from the 18th century; the theatre (1767), designed by Jaime Marquet, with ceiling paintings by Felipe Reyes depicting allegories of music and dance; and the 300-metre Long Bridge over the river Jarama, completed in 1761. Noteworthy also are the various buildings that make up the Royal Site, such as the Godoy, Medinaceli and Osuna Palaces, the House of Infantes and the Riding School, all dating from the 18th century, not to mention the famous gardens surrounding the Royal Palace, which inspired the master Joaquín Rodrigo when composing his Concierto de Aranjuez.
Antigua Carretera de Andalucia
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