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Audio guide of Aranjuez (Madrid, Spain)

 

 

1. Welcome

 

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Welcome to the Royal Site and Town of Aranjuez, a town of kings and nobles whose Cultural Landscape has been declared a World Heritage Site. Aranjuez is located at the confluence of rivers Tagus and Jarama, an extensive and fertile lowland which for centuries has been an orchard in the dry plain of the south of Madrid.

 

 

The first Spanish HABSBURGS established the itinerant Castilian court in the centre of Spain, and Aranjuez - between Toledo and Spain - became the regular residence of Emperor Charles V; subsequently, Phillip II of Spain came up with the idea of a system of Royal Sites around the new capital. The court would remain in Madrid during the winter and it would embark on the Royal Progresses the rest of the year: Aranjuez in spring, Escorial in summer and Granja in autumn. Throughout Europe, royal sites were a display of the most refined architecture, gardening and decorative arts.

King Ferdinand VI and his wife Barbara of Portugal were deeply in love with this city, and during their pacific reign, astounding celebrations were the norm in a courtly, populous, comfortable and cheerful town. During the reign of CHARLES III, the city became an example of enlightened city; public buildings were erected such as the Theatre, the Hospital of Saint Charles, the Convent of Saint Pasqual and Real Cortijo wine cellar.

Charles IV gave way to an atmosphere of mystery and darkness, where the failure of the enlightenment ideals and the Napoleonic threat led to the Mutiny of Aranjuez, …

The mutiny is the most significant historical event that has ever happened in the Site and for many the end of the old regime.

During the reign of Ferdinand VII, the royal progresses in spring bring the Site's liveliness back, and in the reign of Isabella II, it enjoys its last period of splendour up to this date. Today it is a modern city, but its history and traditions are deeply rooted and well balanced with its historical and natural heritage.

 

 

In 2001, the UNESCO listed the Aranjuez Cultural Landscape as a World Heritage Site.

 

 

2. The Royal Palace of Aranjuez

 

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Philip II commissioned John the Baptist of Toledo to build the Royal Palace in 1561 on the land of a former residence of the Order of Santiago; it was to be a recreational residence in spring. Juan de Herrera would subsequently continue the works.

 

 

The palace's originality is the result of combining the traditions of the Castilian houses, military traditions and Italian villas, which value further the relationship between architecture and the environment.

Following the fire of 1748, Philip V initiates its reconstruction and Ferdinand VI eventually finishes it with the help of the Italian architect BONAVIA.

SABATINI, with the aim of accommodating the extended family of Charles III, carries out its last enlargement by adding two wings in perpendicular to the main façade. The pediment features the coat of arms of Ferdinand VI, over which statues of Kings Philip II, Philip V and Ferdinand VI can be seen.

The Palace is noted for the white of the stone from Colmenar and the red of the bricks used in its walls, making it one of the most beautiful buildings in Spanish Classicism.

 

 

3. The Palace Stop

 

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Within the palace enclosure, and opposite to the Military Parade Ground, is a large elliptical square shaped like a Roman circus with 10 stone benches. At this spot, celebrations were carried out in honour of the absolutist royalty.

 

 

Near the square is a rail stop called “Palace Stop”, which is linked to the train station. This rail route was the second created in the Iberian Peninsula - on February 9, 1851-, and it linked Madrid with Aranjuez. It was used to take the riverside garden products (strawberries and asparagus) to the capital; as a result, it was named the “Strawberry Train“.

Today, the Strawberry Train recreates the 19th century trip by means of a steam locomotive from the 20th century with wooden wagons and hostesses wearing clothes from the period and offering the travellers typical products from Aranjuez.

 

 

4. The Pairs Square and The House of Stoves

 

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The Pairs Square owes its name to a former horse riding game played in pairs of horse riders under the kings and queens' balconies.

 

 

From the balustrade, serving as the enclosure of the King's Garden, you could see the court's different recreational events, among them dressage in pairs.

Surrounding the square, we can see illustrious buildings such as the Houses of Trades and Knights on the east, the former palace stables on the south, which is currently a hotel, and the path of SILVELA Palace - including the small palace - on the west.

Behind the square, we can see the House of Stoves, displaying the ember stoves used by the monarch's servants. It was located away from the Palace with the aim of avoiding fires, which were very frequent at the time.

Aranjuez was initially a beautiful hunting forest, but the fertility of the extensive meadow together with the use of complex irrigation methods gave way to a first class farming area.

The gastronomic offer of Aranjuez brings the old tradition of the Royal Site to mind. It is based on tasty products from the vegetable garden and game such as pheasant, partridge and quail, and it can be tasted at the several restaurants in the city. It also has outstanding wines from the Autonomous Community of Madrid, specifically from the wetland of The Regajal and Real Cortijo wine cellar.

 

 

5. The Boat Bridge

 

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The Tagus River is the father to Aranjuez. Part of the history of Aranjuez is its effort to dominate the rivers, that is, to contain, cross and sail them.

 

 

From The Boat Bridge, one of the several appealing events that took place during the summer could be enjoyed, the Celebration of the “Raft”. When the flow of the river grew as a result of de-icing and rainfalls, the raftsmen would transport pine trunks from the Upper Tagus to the Royal Site of Aranjuez, which was usually accessed by rail and road. A hook at the end of a pole would be used as their main tool to channel the trunks. The writer Jose Luis SAMPEDRO in “The River that takes us” narrates the last celebration of the raft in the Tagus River.

 

 

6. The Eastern Trident

 

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From the Royal Palace extends a trident with wide avenues that symbolises the power of absolute monarchy over the Site.

 

 

The three avenues take their names from the windows of the rooms where the kings and queens stayed at in the palace: the Queen Path, the Prince Path and the Princesses Path. The historic city was designed by the architect Santiago Bonavia when Ferdinand VI abolished the prohibition of settlement and erected a new town that for the following 30 years would hold several thousands of residents.

 

 

7. The Monument to Joaquin Rodrigo

 

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Joaquin Rodrigo composed the first concert for guitar and orchestra in the history of music, and it was inspired by the Royal Palace gardens. The master describes the concert as it capturing «the fragrance of the magnolias, the chirping of the birds and the flow of the fountains» in the gardens of Aranjuez. Over half a century later, it has become one of the most interpreted musical pieces in the history of music, and it is the work of art that has most contributed to spreading the name of Aranjuez.

 

 

The remains of Joaquin Rodrigo and his wife and inseparable companion Victoria Kamhi are currently resting in the cemetery of Aranjuez. In 1983, he was awarded with the National Award for Music and was ennobled in 1991 by King Juan Carlos I with the title Marquis of the Gardens of Aranjuez.

 

 

8. Godoy Palace

 

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The large aristocratic families commissioned their own palaces in Aranjuez to accompany the court during its royal progresses. The new buildings were erected following the city’s uniform design.

 

 

Godoy Palace, which was Charles IV’s favourite residence, is today a school that still preserves the neoclassical portico designed by Juan de Villanueva. During the Mutiny Celebrations, which have been declared a National Tourist Attraction, the "Assault to the Godoy House" is interpreted by the neighbours wearing period clothing, in which they represent the events that led to overthrowing Godoy, the abdication of Charles IV and the appointment of Ferdinand VII as the new King of Spain.

 

 

9. Osuna Palace and Nuncio Palace

 

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Osuna Palace shares the same block, and it was designed by Santiago Bonavia for Farinelli, both Ferdinand VI and his wife Barbara of Portugal’s favourite artist. The building has two floors and we can see ironwork with cast iron elements on its balconies, which were installed during the alterations made in the 19th century. The side façade still preserves two large doors from which the stables were accessed.

 

 

In the next block, we see the Nuncio's residence, who was the Pope's representative in Aranjuez, built in the 18th century. By royal order, the coat of arms could not be exhibited on the façade, thus maintaining the Crown's supremacy. Today it is used as a meeting place.

 

 

 

10. Alpajés Church

 

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Alpajés Church is aligned in the distance with the centre of the Royal Palace. This old hermit belongs to brotherhood of Our Lady of Anguish, which is composed of most of the Royal Site's service. It was the first Church in the Town, although its interior was remodelled by BONAVIA with Baroque influences of the period.

 

 

Its façade exhibits the coat of arms of Charles II and the Golden Fleece from the chivalric order founded in 1429 by Philip III, Duke of Burgundy, as the insignia for the chivalric order comprised of 24 nobles chosen because of their military achievements. The insignia is a golden ram hanging from a red ribbon.

 

 

11. Saint Anthony Square

 

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Saint Anthony Square is an example of the Baroque taste for large urban areas and resulting from the geometrical organisation of the different architectural elements. Designed by Bonavia during Ferdinand VI's reign in 1750, it linked the Royal Palace of Aranjuez and the urban network that was being built towards the south.

 

 

The gallery surrounded by arcades that is nearest to the palace enclosure extends the façades of the House of Trades and the House of Knights, two buildings from different periods occupying the western side of the square. Their function was to maintain and administer the Royal Site and provide accommodation to the retinue.

 

 

12. The Fountain of Venus

 

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A Venus called del Jarro replaced the original statue of Ferdinand VI, and the entire fountain was remade by Gonzalez Velazquez with complex ornamentation. Legend says that it originally faced the palace, but the jealous queen ordered it to be turned looking towards the opposite location, as she saw in the goddess one of her husband's mistresses.

 

 

“Above the marble lions and golden suns rises in the centre of Spain a statue of a Woman: VENUS. This square is called, despite its size, the small square of Saint Anthony, and this enclosure surrounded by 18th century arches is the magic heart of Aranjuez. In this site, like two rivers of time, converge the Royal Site and the Town's history, the life in the palaces and gardens with the life in the country houses, the courtly and the popular…” by Jose Luis Sampedro (While the earth turns).

 

 

13. The House of Infantes and Isabella II's Garden

 

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On the eastern side, we can see a civil building commissioned by Charles III and built by Juan de Villanueva destined to provide accommodation for the Infantes Gabriel and Anthony. Next, we can see Isabella II's Garden or “the little Princess' Garden”, the last garden created in Aranjuez, when Isabella II was still a child.

 

 

The first trees were planted in 1830, and four years later, a marble pedestal with a bronze statue of the Young Queen was placed in the centre of the garden.

 

 

 

14. The Church of Saint Anthony

 

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Conceived as the exit from the square to fully attend the religious requirements of the Court, it was designed in 1752 by Bonavia, who making great show of his origins and training settled for models of clear Italian influence.

 

 

The result is a circular ground plan structure covered with a spherical vault and a large central cylindrical lantern.

The main façade is protected by a portico with five semicircular arches and Tuscan pilasters, which gives way to a terrace from the top, and is closed by a stonework balustrade and a triangular pediment.

 

 

15. Charles III's Royal Theatre

 

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Commissioned by Charles III and built by the architect Jaime Marquet, it is the oldest covered theatre in Spain, as previously public covered spaces were mainly used for religious acts. Up to the arrival of the House of Bourbon, theatre activity was carried out at improvised premises, on floorboards in squares and patios of private homes. The House of Bourbon, enthusiasts of this type of entertainment, believed there was a need to provide the Royal Sites with places destined to permanent theatres, and Charles III ordered the construction of three of the Court's theatres: the theatres in Aranjuez, Pardo and San Lorenzo.

 

 

All three are built following a standard model, the norms of Italian theatres. Since its inauguration, the theatre has enjoyed great cultural activity, and during the 16th century, drama and lyrical plays, operas, zarzuelas and comedies were plentiful.

 

 

16. The Supply Market and The House of Employees

 

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The Supply Market of Aranjuez, from the 19th century, is the first important municipal building. Built by the architect Enrique Sanchez Cedeño, it follows a model of iron architecture. In the 18th century, the food stalls shared space with stalls selling fabric, lingerie, shoes, watches, perfumes and jewellery, and today, you can purchase products from vegetable gardens.

 

 

The current City Hall was the former House of Employees, which included the highest category of employees working for the King. In 1835, with the creation of local councils, it became the City Hall. Its architecture is typical of waterfronts, with a symmetry of openings and alternating brick and stone construction.

 

 

The Monument of Alfonso XII dominates the Constitution Square and it pays homage to his gesture of lending the palace as a hospital during the cholera epidemic that devastated Aranjuez in 1885.

 

 

17. The Stables of the Queen Mother

 

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Ferdinand VI commissioned this building to the architect Marquet with the aim of housing the Stables and the Carriage House of the Queen Mother Elisabeth Farnese, as well as rooms for the service.

 

 

It is an example of late Baroque architecture, close to neoclassiscm. This large building occupies the entire block. Its façade has large openings arranged symmetrically in height. The interior is organised around two clearly differentiated patios, functionally and formally. After a fire, it was rebuilt by Isidro Gonzalez Velazquez, and the Queen Maria Christina destined it to an orphanage for the Infantry. In 1993, it was inaugurated as a Cultural Centre.

 

 

18. The City

 

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When walking through the streets of Aranjuez, the monuments have to be interpreted in the regularity and homogeneity of the complex, and not valued for their singularity and greatness from an isolated point of view. The kings and queens desired the city to predominantly exhibit large regal buildings, and the city's design was carefully described in the ordinances of Villanueva:

“Same height in the entire block, roofs with the same slope, simple and repetitive balconies, large access gates to each estate.”

 

 

The result of this work is described by the travellers of the 18th century:

“All the houses are new and white, they have windows with green shutters and all the streets are straight. The king has awarded, and still awards, land at no expense to whoever wishes to build, as long as it follows the uniformity of the buildings established in the plan.”

The GOVERNOR'S HOUSE was built by Villanueva in 1799 and in spite of housing the sites highest authority, it carefully follows the ordinance of the urban centre. The building has been used, almost uninterruptedly, as an educational centre for the last 100 years.

In 1983, the Old Quarter of Aranjuez was declared a Historic-Artistic Site.

 

 

19. The Convent of Saint Pasqual

 

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During the reign of Charles III, the small town of BONAVIA became highly populated and it required expanding towards the south. Since then, the Baroque scenery was replaced by a practical programme of buildings (hospital, slaughterhouse, theatre, convents) in accordance with the logic of the Enlightenment. Among these buildings, the Convent of Saint Pasqual stands out, an important building constructed by a congregation of cloistered Franciscan Conceptionist nuns.

 

 

The building includes an 18th century church and in its neoclassical façade, completed with two towers, its set of columns and pilasters and the crowning pediment stand out. The Church is complemented by convent premises, which are organised in the patios, and a large vegetable garden at the back.

Behind us is the Hospital of Saint Charles, designed by Serrano. It was enlarged in times of Isabella II, and it is currently pending restoration.

 

 

20. The Bullring

 

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The Bullring is one of the largest in Spain, as well as one of the oldest standing, and it shares its singularity with the bullring in Ronda and the Real Maestranza in Seville. Considered a historical-artistic bullring, the Royal Bullring was commissioned by Charles IV following the bullring of Madrid as an example, which was near the Alcala Gate. The building’s ground plan is not circular shaped, and it was built in open brickwork and stone from Colmenar, two typical construction elements in Aranjuez. Its austere exterior hides the rich treatment in the terraces, which house the Bullfighting Museum.

 

 

Around the day of Saint Ferdinand, Aranjuez celebrates its festivities, and the Mutiny Celebrations include a unique Goyesque bullfight, recreating the atmosphere of the 19th century, as in addition to the bullfighters, several enthusiasts attend the bullfight in period clothing.

“Saludos hoy 11 de mayo de 1797, cuando son las 5 de la tarde comienza el festejo en honor a nuestro rey, Carlos IV de Borbón. Los toreros Pedro Romero y Garcés, montera en mano, como mandan los cánones, hacen el primer paseíllo ante la gradería, llena hasta la bandera”.

 

 

21. The Palace Gardens

 

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Between the 16th and 18th centuries, while the Royal Palace was being built, the gardens grew next to the river, as so were the number of statues, ponds and pavilions. The kings and queens of Aranjuez were known for their patronage and they were always paying attention to the international cultural environment and interested in the most renowned artists from far away courts. The great gardeners of Aranjuez were also travellers and cultured people.

 

 

Embraced by the palace and its arches, the King's Garden is the archetype of a secret Renaissance garden, a reflection of the nature Philip II gave Aranjuez. This garden led to an old gallery that was subsequently closed up. The collection of busts surrounding the King's statue, arranged by his grandson Philip IV, represents the Roman emperors symbolically linked to the dynasty of the HABSBURGS. It was designed so the King was able to contemplate the Garden from the rooms and enjoy it in a fresh and remote place.

Conceived by John the Baptist of Toledo and by Juan de Herrera, it was finished in 1582 when the most valuable item of the Garden was placed: the green veined marble fountain sculpted by Roque Solario, which was restored together with the garden in 1986.

 

 

22. Parterre Garden

 

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This garden is also known as little Versailles. Designed by Marchand and built by the gardener Esteban Boteulou, its arrangement is inspired in the French Baroque Classicism.

 

 

Its beautiful and complex fountains are an example of the Romanesque spirit of the period, which was covered with a winding rearrangement of varied vegetation. There are still some samples of magnolia trees, tree strawberries and a Chilean wine palm. The magnolia tree is typical of the gardens of Aranjuez and it pays homage to the French botanist Pierre Magnol, the director of the Montpellier garden.

 

 

23. The Fountain of Hercules and Antaeus

 

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Located opposite the main gate of the Parterre, the Fountain of Hercules and Antaeus was commissioned to the architect Isidro Gonzalez Velazquez. It represents the second to last labour of Hercules, the Greek hero par excellence. Driven insane by Juno, he killed his children and presented himself before the King of Mycenae, who ordered him to perform twelve labours as penitence, which were impossible to carry out by a mortal.

 

 

Here we can see Hercules facing the giant Antaeus when crossing the Garden of the Hesperides. Our hero discovers that the only way of defeating Gaia's son is separating them. The main figure of the fountain represents precisely this moment. At their feet we can see the remaining eleven labours carried out by Hercules: the Nemean Lion, the Lernaean Hydra, the Erymanthian Boar, the Golden Hind of Artemis, the Stymphalian Birds, the Augean Stables, the Cretan Bull, the Mares of Diomedes, the Girdle of Hippolyta, the Cattle of Geryon, the Golden Apples of the Hesperides Garden and the multi-headed hound Cerberus.

 

 

24. The Fountain of Ceres

 

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Ceres, a goddess of agriculture, is represented by wheat spikes and an abundance sack that symbolises the wealth of the gardens of Aranjuez. She is seated with a torch in one hand and a poppy posy in the other.

 

 

Legend says that Ceres had a beautiful daughter, Persephone, who Hades fell in love with and abducted taking her to the underworld. Ceres abandoned Mount Olympus in a rage, leaving its labours unattended and not permitting the land to provide its fruit.

Before the helplessness of men, Jupiter allowed Persephone to return with her mother on the condition that she had not eaten anything from the underworld. Hades made Persephone eat some pomegranate, so the deal with Jupiter was kept partially. Since then, the land is covered with flowers and fruit during the period of the year Ceres enjoys her daughter’s company, and it dries up the rest of the year, thus explaining the year's seasons: spring-summer and autumn-winter.

 

 

25. The Isle Garden

 

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Although altered in subsequent centuries, the Isle Garden is the most complete and amazing garden of the Habsburgs period. It is a combination of Flemish and Italian influences over a Hispano-Arabic base, and it gathers an exceptional sculpture collection distributed in a dozen fountains - most of them installed during the 17th century - whose order and meaning cannot be agreed by specialists on the matter.

 

 

The garden was given this name because it is surrounded by the River Tagus on three of its sides and by an artificial island in its south side. Philip II, who was the real driving force behind the garden, turned the area into a privileged natural environment and took it to its maximum splendour.

It can be accessed from above the reservoir that causes the estuary river, and on both sides of the floodgates, the Tagus falls in two cascades. On the left, we can see the Castanet Cascade, commissioned by Ferdinand VI to remind his wife Barbara of Portugal the murmur of the sea she missed so much from her country.

 

 

26. The Fountain of Hercules and the Hydra and The Fountain of Apollo

 

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Philip IV commissioned this fountain to Jose de Villarreal and Bartolome Zumbido. On a black veined marble base and foundation, with a large basin and pedestal, the statue represents Hercules and the Hydra, the second labour of Hercules, which consisted in destroying this monster created by Juno. Hercules tried to fight it with a mace, but seeing that from each head he crushed another two grew, he cauterized the necks and finally subdued it.

 

 

Next, we encounter The Fountain of Apollo, which is from the same period and was assigned to the sculptor Michelangelo Naccherino. The features are of Vertumnus, the Etruscan god of plant growth and ripeness of fruit, and it makes clear reference to the wealth of the gardens in Aranjuez.

 

 

 

27. The Gallery

 

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We are now walking through a long and narrow avenue; it is the Gallery. In its time it was covered by a canopy (the foliage), and it leads to the other end of the Isle Garden along a continuous succession of small squares, which all have a fountain surrounded by canapés or stone benches.

 

 

Located in the centre of a square-shaped plaza is The Fountain of the Clock, also known as The Fountain of the Hours or the Ring. When it is in operation, the spurt's shade indicates the hours on the edges of the fountain as if it were a clock. In Moorish style, it is a reminiscence of the low fountains in Alhambra.

In our path, we come across The Fountain of the Boy with the Thorn, which represents an athlete removing a thorn from his left foot. It is a copy of the original found in the Vatican. The four Carrara marble columns with Corinthian capitals are crowned by four "Harpies" (mythological creatures that stole the souls of children).

Next, we can see the Fountain representing the goddess Venus, who is wringing her hair. At the end of the gallery, we encounter The Fountain of Baccus, the god of wine and orgies, who is crowned with shoots and clusters of grapes straddling a barrel while holding a glass in a toasting motion.

 

 

28. The Fountain of Neptune

 

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The end of the gallery leads to the right and reaches The Fountain of Neptune, which, although incomplete, its sculpture is of maximum interest.

 

 

The main pedestal includes the following legend:

“Our KING PHILLIP III commissioned this fountain when MR. FRANCISCO BRIZUELA was Governor in 1621. Neptune governs all the seas and waters, rides on white sea horses and all the inhabitants of the sea must obey him.”

 

29. The Fountain of Diana

 

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In this corner of the garden, we find Diana - the goddess of the hunt and twin sister of Apollo- lying down while looking at the sky and petting a mastiff. She has her arch and quiver.

 

 

The author of this marble sculptor is the French artist Peter Michell (1792-1794). A sculptor of Diana lying down and resting is not a frequent sight.

 

 

30. The Plane Tree of the Infante's Garden

 

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At the end of the path that divides the nursery gardens from the Garden is the Plane Tree of the Infante's Garden, a very large tree with around 220 years of age.

 

 

This tree has been included in the unique tree catalogue of the Autonomous Community of Madrid. Aranjuez has several specimens of this trees, which have unique features insofar as appearance, top and longevity.

 

 

31. The Prince's Garden

 

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The Prince's Garden is flanked by the Queen Path, a straight tree-lined path outlined in the 16th century by Phillip II. This 3-kilometre-long path was designed by Herrera, as so were its Round and Square plazas, and it was famous for the horse races that were celebrated on it.

This Garden was created by the Prince of Asturias, eventually Charles IV, following the Plan conceived by Paul Boutelou, and it is the result of unifying the layouts carried out under the reign of Philip II, Ferdinand VI and Charles III in a common layout. Its 150 hectares and 3 kilometres in length make it one of the largest fenced gardens in Europe.

 

 

It can be accessed from several points, although the most important access point is the Prince or Pier entrance, built by Villanueva. It has two stonework bases, four columns each, and it is crowned by Ionic order cornices topped by stone elves and flowers.

 

 

32. The Botanic Garden

 

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Since the reign of Phillip II, Aranjuez was the stage of unusual scientific activity in relation to the plant realm; subsequently, the botanic expeditions were resumed during the 18th century, and the Royal Site became the final destination of seeds and seedling plants from all continents. The royal gardeners, such as the Boutelou saga, were experts concerned with improving the species and their agricultural potential.

 

 

The variety of the garden is immense, in both common and exotic species. Many of these specimens distributed throughout Aranjuez have a significant specific interest and are included in catalogues of Unique Trees of the Autonomous Community of Madrid.

 

 

33. The Spanish Garden

 

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Leaving behind Pamplona square, where 8 large Colmenar stone vases can be seen with fruit and flowers, we encounter The Pavilion Garden on the right and The Spanish Garden on the left. Dominated by the Statue of Faun, there are beautiful liquid amber specimens, a native North American tree whose autumn colouring is spectacular. The name of this tree originates from its fragrant resin, which is similar to amber.

 

 

To the right, we find straight lines of fruit trees, which have been influenced by the historical gardens and the concept of Baroque geometric orchards within a Garden. The Landscape of Aranjuez is noted for gardens that extend into orchards and groves.

Next is one of the artistic expressions that inspired the Gardens of Aranjuez. It is an Arbour from the early 20th century called Rusiñol because it was subsequently painted by this artist, who received the first prize medal at the medieval Exhibition of Fine Arts in 1908. Santiago Rusiñol established his residence in Aranjuez until the end of his days, and the gardens were almost exclusively the main theme of his work in the second half of his life.

 

 

34. The Royal Pavilions

 

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Now, we are at a square with five picturesque Pavilions. The largest was erected by Bonavia in 1754, while the remaining four were built during the reign of Charles III so the Prince and Princess of Asturias, Charles and Maria Luisa, could use them as recreational areas. Subsequently, a small octagonal garden was built between them, which as an honour courtyard separated the Pier path and the main pavilion.

 

 

Here we can see one of the Unique Trees of the Autonomous Community of Madrid. It is a London plane tree reaching 56 m in height. The first seeds of this species were brought to Aranjuez in 1778 from Louisiana.

 

 

35. The Royal Pier and The Royal Barge Museum

 

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Leaving behind the Pavilions, we encounter The Royal Pier next to the River Tagus, a magnificent setting where the famous singer Farinelli was able to develop his festive imagination. Considered the best interpreter of his time, he spent most of his life serving the Spanish court, making the reign of Ferdinand VI a series of festivities and celebrations around music and singing. He built the famous Tagus Squadron - composed of barges that imitated the old galleys and gondolas-, which garnished with sailors and servants, delighted the royalty while languidly cruising through the calm flow of the river accompanied by music and water spectacles.

 

 

The pier was also a scenario for the love displayed by several monarchs, such as Ferdinand VI and Barbara of Portugal, and Maria de las Mercedes and Alfonso XII.

 

 

Following the path, we encounter The Royal Barge Museum, which houses the interesting collection of regal boats used for cruising through the Tagus. The 18th and 19th century barges have been preserved, and Charles IV's Barges and Felipe V's Royal Gondola are those that most stand out. The route includes nautical decorations and Engravings of the Tagus Squadron. We can also see a red brick Castle which was used as a viewpoint for the river, garden and Grove.

 

 

36. The Fountain of Narcissus

 

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Designed by Joaquin Dumandre, The Fountain of Narcissus was damaged during the occupation of this Royal Site by Napoleon's troops, and it was subsequently restored by Esteban Agreda in 1827. From this period are the four atlantes holding the basin over which Narcissus is standing on, who is sporting his items and is accompanied by a peacock, a symbol of his vanity and egotism. Legend says that the maidens and boys fell in love with Narcissus due to his beauty, but he rejected their advances. This sculpture represents the moment in which during a break from hunting he heads to a pond to drink some water and discovers his own image reflected in the water and falls in love with himself.

 

 

In the centre of the "fourth garden" is The Fountain of the Swans, also called The Fountain of the Heads, which was built during the reign of Charles IV by Joaquin Dumandre, who inspired the other fountain in Granja.

 

 

37. The Fountain of Apollo

 

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We have reached The Fountain of Apollo, which displays the god of beauty on a pedestal. Although commissioned by Charles IV, it was not finished until the reign of his son Ferdinand VII, and it was designed by Isidro Gonzalez Velazquez. Made of Carrara marble and in Rococo-style, this is the only fountain with architectural features among those that adorned The Prince's Garden.

 

 

At the back, an artificial mound stands out called the "Roller coaster", which was conceived as a viewpoint to enjoy a panoramic view of the entire garden and so the king could control the works. It is crowned by a square wooden space from which the growth of the trees could be seen.

 

 

38. The Chinese Pond

 

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Now we are entering the beautiful sixth garden. This garden features among the carefully kept grasslands The Chinese Pond, which is the most attractive and best-preserved exotic and eccentric feature from the period. The pond, which was full of coloured fish, includes surprising unconnected elements: a cave, an obelisk, and the Greek and Chinese Bandstands.

 

 

Next to the pond, we can see the 45-metre Swamp Cypress, catalogued as a Unique Tree of the Autonomous Community of Madrid. Due to its Mexican origin, this tree is called “Ahuehuete”, which means Old man of the water or Swamp Cypress because it originates from the swampy area of the mangrove swamps in the State of Virginia.

 

 

39. The American and Asian Isles

 

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The seventh Garden has the most advanced landscaping. Sinuous paths cross this garden forming several Isles: to the north are The American and Asian Isles, due to the exotic origin of its vegetation; and to the south is The Hermit Isle with a river that symbolises the River Tagus in its confluence with the Jarama.

 

 

This spot, today a small jungle sheltering pheasants and squirrels, has some of the most memorable tree specimens of Aranjuez. Among them are the Father Plane Tree, which is 225 years old, rises 42 metres and has a diameter equivalent to 8 people stretched out holding hands; the Twin Plane Tree, which is 200 years old and rises 50 metres high; and the large Pecan, whose tasty fruit - similar to a nut - attracts the elderly in autumn on their daily search. This Pecan originates from North America, in the area of Illinois and Indiana. There is an amazing group of Ahuehuetes, which are Mexican trees born from the seed of Aztec specimens, next to the Circular Gate.

 

 

40. The Royal Farmhand's House

 

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This small palace includes one of the most important examples of sumptuary and decorative art of the 19th century. Its interior may be considered the most fascinating decorative moment of the Spanish court, and it covers several rooms, all of which include many valuable collections of paintings, porcelains, watches...

 

 

Commissioned by Charles IV from a farmhouse used as a stopping place for hunters, it follows the line of the typical “Country Houses” found in the period's gardens. It took twelve years to build by Villanueva and Gonzalez Velazquez, and it was carried out in several successive stages. Its interior decoration, the most valued element, seems to be mostly by J.D. DUGOURC.

The elaborate ornamentation of the façade is of great interest, although its modern restoration is evident. The patio, fence and terraces exhibit a magnificent collection of sculptures with special historic and artistic value.

 

 

Bluehertz Audio guides has developed for Aranjuez´s town hall a dramatized audio guide service avaliable in Spanish, English and French languages, and a dramatized audio guide service for chindren avaliable in Spanish and English languages.

 

Aranjuez´s Tourist Office address: Antigua Carretera de Andalucia s/n, 28300 Aranjuez, Madrid.

- Tel.: +34 918 91 04 27 - www.aranjuez.es/index.php/turismo - infoturismo@aranjuez.es -

 

 

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