Alcalá Gate is one of the symbols of Madrid, an image that is present in most of the city’s postcards. Besides, it is a monument that all the Madrilenians love. Due to that love, the band Suburbano composed the song called ‘La Puerta de Alcalá’ (Alcalá Gate, in Spanish), which Victor Manuel and Ana Belén made famous.
Alcalá Gate is located in the center of Plaza de la Independencia, just in front of the main entrance to Buen Retiro Park. Serrano Street, one of the most commercial avenues of the city, starts from here and this square is crossed by Alcalá Street. It takes the name from it, that is, the street that head to Alcalá de Henares.
Alcalá Gate can also be seen from Plaza de Cibeles in a beautiful prospective. The best way to get to Alcalá Gate is by tube, getting off at Retiro Metro Station. There are many bus lines that pass this way too.
History of Alcalá Gate
Madrid had several walls during its history. As the city grew, the kings built up new ones. The first ones had a defensive mission, but the last ones just marked the administrative borders. Anyway, Alcalá Gate never served as a city entrance, as the nearest wall only reached Plaza de Cibeles in 18th century.
Actually, Alcalá Gate was just erected to serve as an impressive monument for those visitors who came from this way. King Charles III ordered the construction and commissioned it to Francesco Sabatini, his favourite architect. Both men changed the look of Madrid in the late 18th century, turning a humble town into a modern village. The style developed by them was Neoclassicism, which is also present on Alcalá Gate.
The features of Alcalá Gate
The legend tells us that King Charles III received two sketches from Francesco Sabatini and the monarch remained so much impressed that he decided to set one design on the eastern facade and the other one on the western facade. This is a detail that many Madrilenians don’t know: Alcalá Gate is different, depending on the position you watch it.
The eastern facade presents ten columns, flat and without fluting. The western side shows us a composition that includes four columns and six pilasters. The pediment is also different: the eastern one has a broken semi-circular pediment in Baroque style with an angel representing the Fame and holding the royal coat of arms, meanwhile the western is triangular like classic pediments. Both facades of Alcalá Gate also have an inscription: REGE CAROLO III, ANNO MDCCLXXVIII (Being King Charles III, year 1778).
Anecdotes related to Alcalá Gate
There are many anecdotes related to Alcalá Gate, some of them very important in Spanish history. For example, the murder of Eduardo Dato in 1921, President of Spanish Government and Major of Madrid, who was killed right in Alcalá Gate by two anarchists driving a sidecar.
Alcalá Gate also shows rest of cannon shrapnel. These holes date from 19th and 20th century and they occurred during two wars: the Independence War, against Napoleon’s soldiers, and the Civil War. In both cases, the headquarters of the armies were located in Buen Retiro Park, close to Alcalá Gate.
The most sympathetic anecdote of Alcalá Gate tells us that this square stands right in the middle of a Cañada Real, a rural road used by farmers for the migration of livestock. This route has been used for centuries and every year farmers cross this way with their herds, filling Alcalá Gate of sheeps and other animals. It is also a kind of claim to defend traditional livestock.