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The city of Aranjuez has received the maximum recognition that a place that has already been classified as a ‘World Heritage Site’ can obtain: UNESCO has declared Aranjuez as a ‘place of exceptional cultural value’.
The general director of Cultural Heritage, Paloma Sobrini, was in charge of communicating the news. ‘Outstanding universal value’ is defined after the World Heritage Convention (1972) and throughout time it has been gaining great cultural and natural significance and today it is awarded to those places that «transcend national boundaries to be relevant to present and future generations of all humanity«. The intention of this new appointment is that the municipality can better guide its conservation and management of heritage.
Other places in Spain that have been declared of ‘place of exceptional universal value' are Atapuerca, the archaeological site of Tarraco, the Garajonay National Park and the Ruprestre Art of the Mediterranean Arc of the Iberian Peninsula.
Brief history of the Palace of Aranjuez.
In the 12th century, the order of Santiago settled in the surroundings of Aranjuez due to the lushness of the landscape and the mild climate and its good position as it is located between the waters of the Jarama and the Tagus. In the 15th century, the master Lorenzo Suárez de Figueroa ordered the construction of a kind of house-palace but he built it to the north of what is currently the Royal Palace, it was intended for idle use by members of the order.
From 1523 Aranjuez is royal property. Emperor Carlos V made Aranjuez become a royal property but agreed to allow the order to preserve the Royal Forest and House of Aranjuez. In 1551, a part of the land was destined to form a botanical garden, which would be the first in Europe and in which the new species brought from America were cataloged. Carlos V could hardly spend seasons in the Royal Palace of Aranjuez, since he had to face the armed conflicts in Europe. Felipe II granted Aranjuez the demarcation as a Royal Site in 1561. He dedicated part of the town's land to farming, being aware of its agricultural capabilities.
Felipe II was the monarch who began the construction of a first palace, which would correspond to the original antecedent of the current Palace of Aranjuez and for this it had Juan Bautista de Toledo and Juan de Herrera, who also took care of the works of El Escorial. Felipe II will die in 1598, with the works still unfinished. The deep economic crisis of the seventeenth century caused the lack of interest of the following Habsburgs and caused the paralysis of the construction of the Palace.
Felipe V, the first Bourbon, returned to retake the Palace. A new tower was erected to the north, the west façade was completed and it was at that moment that the layout of what is the current palace was established. In 1748 a fire broke out that ended all the efforts of years past.
Fernando VI, heir and son of Felipe V, rebuilt the palace, respecting the original plan of the building. The aesthetics produced in this reconstruction is typical of the 18th century, in the Baroque style.
The present form of the palace is mainly due to the figure of Carlos III, who was a reforming king of the court, being the architect Sabatini who devised the western wings of the palace. At one end Sabatini besieged a chapel and there were plans to put a theater at the other end, but they were not carried out. The combination of faith and reason, characteristic of this enlightened and deeply believing king, is reflected in the work of Carlos III.
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Carlos IV and María Luisa de Parma built the Casa del Labrador in the gardens, example of neoclassical architecture. The Palace of Aranjuez witnessed in 1808 the fall of the reign of Carlos IV due to a popular revolt against his favorite Godoy. Godoy had advised the kings to be safe from the Napoleonic invasion, which caused the population to radically position itself against the favorite. A revolt led by supporters of Fernando was manifested in front of the palace by Fernando and other groups stormed the house of Godoy, who was taken prisoner the next day, the abdication of Carlos IV had already taken place in his son Fernando.
After the Bourbon restoration, the Royal Palace was occupied by the Dukes of Montpensier.
The following monarchs, María Cristina de Habsburgo and Alfonso XIII and his wife chose La Granja for the royal holidays.