Plaza Mayor, Madrid, Spain

madrid sq

Plaza Mayor, Madrid, Spain

This regal plaza is one of the Spanish capital’s two main squares (the other being Plaza del Sol, literally the epicentre of Spain, as it is located in the very centre of the city/country). Plaza Mayor, however, is even more beautiful than its sister. Dating back to the 1500’s and the reigns of both Phillip II and Phillip III, the plaza was designed to augment the beauty of Madrid after the king decided to make Madrid the new capital. Over the years, Plaza Mayor has seen everything from public markets, street fairs, bullfights, demonstrations, public executions, football matches (not sure how that one worked out), and trials of the Spanish Inquisition. In the beginning, it was called Plaza del Arrabal, and was once the meeting point for tradesmen pouring in from the then-larger city of Toledo. Today, these four beautiful, 5-story walls of this amazing Spanish square marks the very heart of Madrid, and Spain itself.

Xàtiva, Spain

Xativa

Mudéjar architecture near Xàtiva, Spain.

Buildings such as this one were created by the Moors who remained in Spain after the Reconquista and the eventual rise of Christianity. The Moors dramatically changed the previously-dominant Iberian art and architecture. New buildings were often influenced by Islamic art, making tiles and mosaics and patterns became more popular, and creating a new style called Mudéjar architecture. From 760-1300, the Moors, originally from northern Africa, slowly gained then lost a foothold in Spain. The last of them were driven out, killed or converted by the Spanish Inquisition in the late 1400s. However, even though the Moors themselves have gone, many of the beautiful buildings they left behind still exist today in the Communidad Valencia, centred around the town of Teruel.