Cibeles Fountain – The Goddess of Madrid
Cibeles fountain is one of the main symbols of the change that Madrid experienced in the 18th Century under the principles of the Illustration period brought to the Capital by Carlos III. Nowadays it stands like one of the most important symbols of the City.
In the 18th Century Madrid was the Capital of a great empire that didn’t show the majestic that it should show. It didn’t act or dress like that. It was a Madrid where the horse carriages get the city completely dirty and where the citizens cleaned their houses by throwing their wastes through the window by yelling “Water goes!”
Madrid needed a deep change to become a great Capital in Europe. Madrid needed changing ideas that brought the principles of the Illustraction period to Improve the city and the Empire. It needed to renew its esthetic, political and cultural values. And all these changes finally arrived to Madrid in 1759 with the arrival to the Throne of Carlos III, king of Spain.
So to prepare the changes he established cleaning measures, a sewer system and a street light system for the city. And once it was cleaned and safe, he started to dress it up with the best clothes. To do it he created some of the most important avenues and monuments of the city such as Alcalá’s Gate, Prado Museum, Botanic Garden as well as one of the main symbols of Madrid: The Cibeles Fountain, the Greek goddess of the Nature and the Fertility.
To give this beauty to Madrid Carlos III decided to spread the Neoclasic style along the city, recovering the style of the ancient Greece and Rome, that is why he chose Cibeles and Neptuno to preside the Prado Avenue.
As you can see, Cibeles appears in a carriage carried by 2 lions. Why lions and not horses? Because the fountain represents the story of one of her most famous Myths, Hipómenes and Atalanta Mith. Let’s discover the story, they were not always lions:
Atalanta was a really beautiful hunter who became famous because of her strength and speed. Because of her beauty a lot of suitors tried to get her love but she was not interested in any of them as she had made a pact with Artemisa (the Goddess of the Hunting) to stay virgen.
Nevertheless her father wanted her to get married. So to avoid to get married Atalanta reached an agreement with her father: she would only get married if one of her suitors could beat her in a race by foot. If he won, she would marry him, if not, he would be condemned to death.
Beacause of her beauty and speed, the pretenders went to the Hades really fast, so she stayed single and happy for a long time. But then Hipómenes came into play. He knew that it was impossible to beat Atalanta by running, so he asked for help to Afrodita, the goddes of the Love. She told her that one of the main defects of Atalanta was avarice. So to defeat her, Afrodita gave 3 gold apples to Hipomenes.
Hipomenes took them and went to challenge Atalanta to the race. When the race started Hiponemes took one of the gold apples and threw it far away from the road of the race. When Atalanta saw the apple she got apart from the road to catch it letting an important advantage to Hipómenes. But just some minutes later, Atalanta reached back the head of the race; as we mentioned she was really really fast. So Hipómenes threw the second gold apple far from the road again. Atalanta went for it. He repeated this strategy as many times as apples he had, wining the race finally. “Love” won the battle and they got married!
Then time went by, and one day while they were hunting a sudden strong rain started in the forest. They tried to find one please to be covered and they found the Temple of Cibeles. Mad of the passion provoked by the sudden rain, they couldn’t resist theirselves and they made love inside the temple. Their punishment for dishonoring the sacred temple of Cibeles was to be converted in lions that would carry the carriage of Cibeles forever without being able to look each other into the eyes again. That is why you can find 2 lions, and each one of them is looking to a different a side. Sad ending for such a beautiful story.
So having this story in mind, Ventura Rodriguez designed the proyect and Francisco Gutiérrez y Roberto Michel sculpted the figure. 10,000 kilos of sculpted stone later, Cibeles was inaugurated in 1782.
Since then Cibeles have had different functions. In the beggining the fountains was used to provide water to the city but over time it has become one of the most important symbols of Madrid and it has changed its original function. Nowadays Cibeles, apart from being one of the most beautiful monuments of the city is also the place where Real Madrid supporters go to celebrate the trophies won by their team. The curious point is that before the 1991 Real Madrid and Atletico Supporters, Vikings and Indians used to share the same place for their celebrations! Something completely unthinkable nowadays!But in 1991, Atlético won the Copa del Rey against Real Madrid and they decided to go to Neptuno Fountain for the celebration instead of going to Cibeles. After that, the place to celebrate of the Atletico supporters became the Neptuno Fountain.
After such a long time living in the center of Madrid, the Cibeles Fountain has been witness of a lot of important events of the City such as invasions, Civil wars, Coups, so it has become one of the most beautiful and best well loved symbols of our city. So if you are going to visit Madrid, do not miss it! Specially now that you know its story!
The Cibeles fountain is just a small piece of the new route that we are preparing! So keep updated to our publications and facebook because we will launch it very soon! If you cannot resist the temptation of Discovering Madrid you can satisfy your appetite by trying Our Free Walking Tour Madrid!
We hope to see you soon in one of them!