The Alcala Gate - History and Facts | History Hit

The Alcala Gate

Madrid, Community of Madrid, Spain

The Alcala Gate is an iconic eighteenth century triumphal arch in Madrid constructed under King Charles III of Spain.

Peta Stamper

24 Mar 2021
Image Credit: Shutterstock

About The Alcala Gate

The Alcala Gate or Puerta de Alcalá is a neo-classical triumphal gate in Madrid ‘s Plaza de la Independencia. Its name refers to the old path from Madrid to the city of Alcalá de Henares.

The Alcala Gate history

The gate was originally part of the former Walls of Philip IV surrounding Madrid between 1625 and 1868. Philip IV renewed and expanded the medieval walls which had long been surpassed by Madrid’s growing population. Their purpose was not defense, but helped control the flow of goods into the city and the collection of taxes.

In 1774, the Bourbon King Charles III commissioned Italian architect Francesco Sabatini to oversee the building of a monumental gate through which the Alcalá road would pass and the king could triumphantly enter the city. Built mostly with granite, Sabatini’s five-arched gate was the first of its kind to be built after the fall of the Roman Empire. Construction was completed in 1778, and the 19.5 metre-high gate stood over all those entering Madrid.

The walls surrounding The Alcala Gate were demolished in 1868 during Spain’s Glorious Revolution because they were considered a symbol of the then monarch, Isabela II, who was deposed during the revolution. When Spain again entered a period of tumult during the Civil War, huge portraits of Stalin and Commissars of the USSR hung on the gate, covering the inscription of Charles III with the Soviet flag.

In 2001, several gardens and beautiful night lights were added to the gate after Madrid was named World Book Capital, an honour reflecting the gate’s original direction to Alcalá, hometown of Spanish writer Cervantes known for writing ‘Don Quixote’.

The Alcala Gate today

Today, you can walk through The Alcala Gate taking note of its decorative facade including sculptures, reliefs and masks. Each arch is decorated with a lion’s head and on top you can distinguish the four statues representing the cardinal virtues: Prudence, Justice, Temperance and Fortitude. At the end of a busy day, the gate looks equally if not more triumphant when lit up from underneath at night.

Getting to The Alcala Gate

The Alcala Gate is located in the city’s centre, standing at the intersection of Madrid’s most glamorous and popular thoroughfares, Calle de Alcala, Calle de Alfonso XII and Calle de Serrano. You can reach it via Line 2 of the subway, alighting at Retiro or Banco de España stops, or on any of the bus tour routes.