Madrid is one of Europe’s most historically rich cities. Its documented history traces back to the ninth century, but the area in fact has been inhabited by humans since prehistoric times.
Here are some highlights from the history of Spain’s capital city:
The area now known as Madrid was inhabited by prehistoric humans. Numerous ancient objects have been uncovered in excavations along the banks of the River Manzanares, such as axes and large mammal remains, as evidence.
Originally named Mayrit, the city of Madrid was founded by the emir Muhammad at the close of the ninth century CE.
However, Madrid as such does not achieve a mention in chronicles until the late tenth century, at which time there was already a fort or castle where the Royal Palace, Palacio Real, stands today. This fort was occupied by the Moors, who having named the River Manzanares, al-Magrit, meaning "source of water", referred to the area as Mayrit. This name later changed to the Majerit or Magerit in Spanish, and later spelled Madrid. The old arab walls (citadel) surrounding this settlement can still be seen today. The city came to prominence during the Arab occupation of the Iberian peninsula, but passed into Christian hands during the Reconquest of Spain by the Christians.
The present location of Madrid, in Spain’s center, was established in 1083 by King Alfonso I. All prevalent symbols of Muslim influence and rule were removed during this period.
In 1329, King Fernando V assembled the famed Court of Madrid for the first time ever. This preceded one of the darker periods in Spanish history, the Spanish Inquisition.
In the 14th and 15th centuries, in the wake of the Reconquista, Moors and Jews banded together and formed a concentrated population in Madrid, named Moreria to this day. In 1494 they were all denounced as “unbelievers” and expelled from Spain. Mosques and other Muslim imagery once again disappeared from the area.
On May 2nd, 1808, a revolt began in the Puerta de Sol, thus beginning the War of Independence. The large scale war, in which the Spanish fought against Napoleon and their former allies in France, has given rise to a number of patriotic memorials in the city of Madrid. The Plaza Dos de Mayo is the most famous of these.
In 1835, the world famous University of Alcala de Henares was transferred to Madrid. The Faculty of Science was added to it, and the academy became the Universidad Complutense de Madrid (UCM).
After centuries of historical tumult, Madrid has made tremendous urban progress in recent years. It is considered one of Europe’s most progressive, modern, and beautiful cities. It has a vibrant local arts culture and boisterous nightlife, along with constant reminders of the city’s rich history. It is deservedly renowned as one of the continent’s best tourist destinations.