THE HISTORY OF THE PALACE OF MONTERREY
The Palace of Monterrey is one of the best examples of civil architecture from the Spanish Renaissance and the greatest model of Plateresque. It has served as an example for other architectural styles, such as Neo-plateresque or the “Monterrey Style”, and as an inspiration for other buildings, such as the Academia de Caballería de Valladolid (Cavalry Academy of Valladolid), the current Archaeological Museum of Seville, and the Palace of the Provincial Council of Palencia.
It was erected at the request of Don Alonso de Acevedo y Zúñiga (1495-1559), the Third Count of Monterrey, a nobleman of the illustrious Galician lineage with significant wealth, which was linked to the city of Salamanca where he owned houses and property.
He entrusted the project of building the future palace to the architects Rodrigo Gil de Hontañón and Fray Martín de Santiago in 1539, with a budget of 10 million Maravedis (the Spanish currency at the time), a very high cost considering the Count's finances were not at their best after having spent large amounts on the construction of the palace-fortress of Monterrey de Galicia or on an aid to defend the imperial Vienna against the Ottomans. This is why the building was never completed as planned, furthermore, his son, who had to continue his work, died just three years after the Count, leaving a young child, Don Gaspar the 5th Count of Monterrey, as the heir.
Numerous local artists, sculptors, drafters and decorators took part in the construction of the building. The façade that can be viewed from the Plaza de las Agustinas is just one part of what was planned as it should correspond with another symmetrical construction to the north. There are several theories about the final design. According to Chueca Goitia, the result was a quadrangular palace situated around four porticoed courtyards. However, this theory seems complicated as the dimensions required for such a construction would have forced the church of Santa María de los Caballeros to be demolished. According to John D. Hoag, the palace had two parallel wings (only one of which has been built) enclosed by an eastern façade (only one part of which has been built) with a courtyard at the opposite end.
The main façade was adorned with beautiful decorations which included cresting and French-style chimneys. This decoration contrasts the lower part of the façade which has a medieval style. The most beautiful parts of the building are, without a doubt, the fortified towers, the whimsical openwork cresting, and the chimneys, the first of which are authentic stone filigree, and the second of which are in a French style. The coats of arms of the Third Count of Monterrey with the Acevedo and Fonseca lineages can be seen in the corners of the upper parts of the fortified towers.
The Palace was incorporated into the House of Alba after the marriage of Catalina de Haro y Guzmán (1672-1733), 8th Countess of Monterrey, 8th Marchioness of Carpio, who inherited all of the titles from the Olivares, Carpio and Monterrey lineages, as well as the famous Palace of Salamanca, to Don Francisco Álvarez de Toledo y Silva (1662-1739), 10th Duke of Alba. The couple only had one daughter together, Doña María del Pilar Teresa Álvarez de Toledo (1691-1755), 11th Duchess of Alba.
There is little information available about the Palace’s interior, although it housed a public school in the 19th century and is now the Duke of Alba’s residence. It was declared an “Architectural-Artistic Monument” on 6th May 1929.
There is evidence of certain refurbishment work made to the building during the 19th and 20th centuries. The most well-known of which are those made by the 17th Duke, Don Jacobo Fitz-James Stuart, and those by his daughter the 18th Duchess, Doña Cayetana, and by the 18th Duke, Don Luis. In the 1940s, work was carried out on the fortified towers, roofs and houses, until 1949, when the house was reopened. The work carried out by Manuel Cabanyes in 1952 is very interesting, he prepared a project and a report for the works in the façade-entrance. The setback of the main door was removed, making the decorations and medallions on the first and second floors visible. A year later, the main gate was installed.
From 1956 until 1960, the building was subject to some important changes, as refurbishment work was carried out on the top floor, which led to the gallery being closed. The 14-panel coffered ceiling, purchased from nuns from the Domestic Service of Salamanca (Daughters of Mary Immaculate), was placed in the upper gallery. In 1958, pieces of Talavera ceramics were ordered for the Talaveran bathroom, and windows, stained glass windows, staircases and paintings on the upper floors were acquired. Over the following years, minor refurbishment and repair works were carried out. The last significant restorations were carried out in 2017 at the request of the 19th Duke of Alba.
The Casa de Alba Foundation, chaired by the 19th Duke of Alba, Carlos Fitz-James Stuart y Martínez de Irujo, with the support of his two sons, Fernando, Duke of Huéscar, and Carlos, Count of Osorno, as trustees, has worked hard to open up the House of Alba collection as well as the duke’s palaces, his current residences, and to share information about them so other people can enjoy and get to know his legacy. The Duke of Alba defends a policy of openness and friendliness between the House of Alba and the citizens of Madrid, the citizens of Spain and any visitor interested in culture. The foundation was created in 1973 on the basis of several years of groundwork laid by his parents, Cayetana, 18th Duchess of Alba, and her consort, Luis, who began the work of preserving and sharing the historical and art collections of their house by taking the first step toward the foundation’s creation.