Arco de Cuchilleros, Madrid

Category: Madrid

Are you planning a getaway to Madrid, the beautiful capital and largest city in Spain? Have you mapped out the itinerary for your trip and made a list of all the sites and attractions you’d like to visit? Madrid is one of the most bountiful cities in Europe in terms of its museums, stunning architecture and majestic landscapes. In fact, the city is so bursting with interesting things to do and see that it can often be a challenge to visit all the places on your list. One tour stop you must consider visiting if you have the time, however, is the Plaza Mayor, and while you’re in this beautiful city square be sure to check out the Arco de Cuchilleros.

Arco de Cuchilleros photo creditThe Arco de Cuchilleros, or in English, the Cuchilleros Arch, is a fascinating example of old Spanish architecture and one of the most popular entrances into the Plaza Mayor, one of Spain’s oldest and most exciting districts. Built in the 17th century in the Baroque style, the entrance serves as a connection point between the square and La Cava de San Miguel, a lively street filled with vivacious bars and delicious restaurants serving tapas and other traditional fare. As you will surely observe while visiting this area, the Arch was built to compensate for the different levels of the streets in the Plaza Mayor and La Cava de San Miguel, a feature that distinguishes it from the other eight arches.

Throughout Spain’s history, fire has played a significant role in configuring the appearance of the Plaza Mayor. One such fire, the most devastating, happened in 1790. This fire caused major damage that eventually led to the square’s reconstruction by renowned Spanish architect Juan de Villanueva, who lowered the building fronts by two stories, enclosed the square at its corners and constructed nine entrance arches, including the Arco de Cuchilleros.

Of the nine arches that were built, the Arco de Cuchilleros stands out the most and is very well-known throughout the city for its monumental appearance, with steep steps leading up to the Plaza Mayor. What’s more, the historic and very picturesque buildings along this street are captivating for their height and leaning facades that serve as buttresses, giving the arch and street such a unique feel.

The name of the arch, “Cuchilleros,” derives from the cutler’s workshops that were once located where the structure now stands; workshops that supplied knives to the butchers in the Plaza Mayor, where the Casa de la Carniceria, at one time the general meat deposit, is now located.

If you plan to visit the Arco de Cuchilleros and Plaza Mayor, you’ll also find a number of other historic buildings and monuments to visit. The Statue of Phillip III, for example, is one of the most valuable works of art to be found in the streets of Madrid. It was designed by the artist Giambologna and completed by Pietro Tacca in 1616. For centuries the statue stood outside the entrance of Casa de Campo, but in 1818, Queen Isabella II borrowed it for the city and placed it in symbolic Plaza Mayor, where save for two Republics it has stood ever since.

Also of importance in the Plaza is the Casa de la Panderia, built by Diego Sillero in 1590. Throughout its long history this building served numerous functions, including acting as a large bakery to produce bread for the needy and as home to both the Royal Academy of Fine Arts and the History Academy. Today only the ground floor and cellar of this building remain, but as you are sure to notice, it is this building that once served as the model for the remainder of the buildings in the square.