Dos de Mayo Square- Malasaña Neighbourhood-Madrid
The Dos de Mayo Square (Second of May Square) is the well known center of Malasaña district. This location is full of terraces, bars, dogs and children playing, all blended with some alternative and hipster vibes. But…why is exactly this square called with the name of that uprising? Let’s find out.
Let’s get in context. People were fighting against the French during the whole day, since the dawn until the sunset. There were many areas of fights (well, actually the whole city), but the last resisting area, the bloodiest and the most organised resistance took place in the Artillery Park of Monteleon.
On that day in Madrid, there was a garrison of 3.500 Spanish soldiers that spent the day…in their quarters not moving a finger for the madrileños! Of course, “to avoid any conflict with the French army”. Well, not all of them followed the orders. There were two lieutenants who organised the only attempt made that day to help the insurgents. They were Daoíz and Velarde.
While Pedro Velarde was the hotheaded one, Luis Daoíz was the example of the perfect soldier – disciplined and always following commands. He was the one in charge of Monteleon that day. Although Velarde and the other insurgents were trying to draw him to their side, he remained loyal to his superiors. The thing is that just the previous night, Daoíz almost dueled a French officer, so he was also far out at that moment. Finally, Velarde persuaded Daoíz, and with the reinforcements of lieutenant Ruiz, they armed the people, manned the cannons, and…you can guess. This painting by Joaquin Sorolla Museum may help you.
Firing positions were organised around the nearby streets, manned cannons were put under cover, oficials were tasked to command the people of Madrid, all hell broke loose, and the fight went on for almost four hours. Around 200 madrileños were helping the Spanish soldiers, while general Lagrange concentrated 2.000 napoleonic soldiers only in one charge.
In the end, the Marquis of San Simón asked the French if he could get to talk with the defenders and persuade them to surrender. When they accepted to do so, general Lagrange pointed at Daoíz with his sabre and named him traitor. Daoíz could perfectly understand French and immediatly skewed the general with his sword. While the French were safeguarding Lagrange, the grenadiers charged and the last defenders died or were taken prisoners. Velarde died on the spot because of gunfire, Daoiz hours later because of bayonet wounds, and Ruiz 10 months later unnable to recover of his own wounds.
So, why do we call the Dos de Mayo Square (Second of May Square) like that? Because it was there where the artillery park of Monteleón was. In the middle, we can see the statues of the heroes Daoíz and Velarde. The arch behind is the gate of the artillery park, restored in 1869. Lieutenant Ruiz has his own statue (by Benlliure) in Plaza del Rey, close to Cibeles and Banco de España.
No one would be able to imagine what happened in this lively square, full of families and people passing by during the day, full of people drinking and partying at night. Is there a madrileño who haven’t heard, hey, let’s meet at “la Dosde”? (Plaza de DOS DE mayo in Spanish). Luckily no other 2nd of May will be like that one of 1808!
The most important day for Madrid gave birth to important militar and popular heroes. One of the most famous one was Manuela Malasaña, a young girl who fought against the french troops of Napoleón. Because of her courage her name was given to the neighbourhood where we find the Dos de Mayo square. If you want to discover her story, visit our post of Manuela Malaña, but if you want to discover everthing about the Uprising of the 2nd of May, Come with us and join to our Free Walking Tour Madrid!