With a booming population of over million people, Madrid reveals itself as a metropolitan oasis of revitalized energy, fun nightlife, deep culture, proud tradition, and incredible food.
Once known as Matrice, thanks to the Romans who first settled the region, Madrid became the national capital of Spain in the mid-1500s.
Madrid lies in the center of Spain, and Spain itself lies south of France and just above Morocco in North Africa. Because of its location, Madrid has enjoyed being the center of attention for a myriad of historical events and fascinating activities, including bullfighting and the reign of many kings.
Here are five more fascinating things you didn’t know about Madrid.
Miguel de Cervantes
The Spanish author of Don Quixote is from Madrid. Published in 1605, this novel is considered the first modern novel in history. Today it is one of the most translated pieces of literature because it presents the universal themes of creating a utopia out of reality and discovering whether we change the world or it changes us. The novel’s structure and scope has set the stage for literary works for centuries, influencing other authors around the world such as Henry Fielding, Gustave Flaubert and Fyodor Dostoyevsky and artists such as Pablo Picasso.
Cervantes never made much money from the novel; his real job was working for the Spanish Navy, and later as a purchasing agent and a tax collector. The custom at the time for young men wanting to “work their way up” was to take assignments in other countries. Cervantes was stationed in Italy, and upon his return the Algerians captured him and forced him into slavery for five years. He attempted escape four times, but was finally rescued by his parents, who paid the ransom money requested for Cervantes, with help from the Convent of the Barefoot Trinitarians.
Upon his return to Spain, Cervantes married, worked at his day job and wrote. He died in Madrid in 1616, one day before Shakespeare died, where he requested that he be buried in the Convent of the Barefoot Trinitarians. Although his wish was granted, you would have had difficulty in visiting the grave. In 1673, the convent underwent remodeling; the custom was to remove buried bones and later bring them back. The bones of Cervantes were removed from his unmarked grave and returned, but not placed in the same location.
Over 400 years later, archeologists have rediscovered the bones. Investigators and forensic specialists have positively identified remains belonging to Miguel de Cervantes and his wife by searching over thirty alcoves where the bones might have been stored and dating both the bones and clothing remnants. It’s likely that you’ll one day be able to visit the convent and pay your respects to the first novelist in the world.