This paper is a review of Jesus Escobar’s book, entitled The Plaza Mayor and the Shaping of Baroque Madrid (2003). Jesus Escobar is a scholar and professor of Italian and Spanish Art and Urban architecture in the early 19th century at North Western University in Illinois, USA. He has done an extensive research studies and publications on both Spanish Art (Baroque) and Italian High Renaissance touching on societies, architectural designs and landscapes. Escobar’s book mainly covers the architectural design of Plaza Major and its contribution to development of the city of Madrid, making it the center for Spanish imperial power in the 16th century.
In this book, Escobar reflects on the Baroque architectures which were mainly associated with the era baroque that was ruled by aristocrats and nobles like the Kings and Clergy. Aristocracy was symbolized and popularized through cathedrals, palaces and monuments. The era of baroque began in the 16th century in Italy. Its architectural symbols correlated with the Roman Catholic’s religious symbols and images. The evolution of Baroque architectural designs and symbols is believed to have coincided with the European Colonization and particularly the Spanish conquest and establishment of colonies. The European colonies like Spain used the colonies to accumulate wealth to themselves. Therefore the Plaza Major became symbol that reinforced the Spanish colonial might that was reinforced the colonial mentality amongst the Spaniards. It reminded them they had become the centre of power to be reckoned with in the world.
In chapter One of this book, the author has covered wide historical events about the evolution and development of the city of Madrid as a small town to a global centre. In chapter two, Escobar has covers a great deal about the architectural design of Madrid and its bureaucratic power. While in Chapter 3 and 4, the author looks at how, The Plaza Major became a focal point for Spanish imperial power and social structure. In chapters 4 to 6, Escobar evaluates how Panaderian became a monumental figure that united the Spanish empire and culture in the 16thcentury. This is evident in the social- economic, cultural and political reforms that took place within the city of Madrid that transformed it into the capital of Spanish culture, politics and society.
In conclusion, Escobar argues that architectural designs of the public works and housing in the Medieval City of Madrid reflected the social systems and political structures of the time. The construction of the city’s public arenas reflects the governing forces behind the urban development of Madrid mainly the colonial conquests and aristocracy.
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