The Jardines del Buen Retiro or Parque del Buen Retiro (literally “Gardens” or “Park of the Pleasant Retreat“), or simply El Retiro, the “Lungs of Madrid”, is the main park of the city of Madrid, capital of Spain. Buen Retiro Park (Parque del Buen Retiro) is a large and popular 1.4 km2 (350 acres) park at the edge of the city center, very close to the Puerta de Alcalá and not far from the Prado Museum. A magnificent park, filled with beautiful sculpture and monuments, galleries, a peaceful lake and host to a variety of events, it is one of Madrid’s premier attractions. The park is entirely surrounded by the present-day city. Close to the northern entrance of the park is the Estanque del Retiro (“Retiro Pond“), a large artificial pond. Next to it is the monument to King Alfonso XII, featuring a semicircular colonnade and an equestrian statue of the monarch on the top of a tall central core. The Rosaleda rose garden. Among the many rose bushes of all kinds stands the Fountain of the Falling Angel, erected in 1922, whose main sculpture El Angel Caído (at the top) is a work by Ricardo Bellver (1845–1924) inspired by a passage from John Milton’s Paradise Lost, which represents Lucifer falling from Heaven. It is claimed that this statue is the only known public monument of the devil.
The few remaining buildings of the Buen Retiro Palace, including Casón del Buen Retiro and the Museo del Ejército, now house museum collections. The Casón has a collection of 19th and 20th century paintings, including art by the Spanish painter Joaquín Sorolla. The Ejército is one of Spain’s foremost Army museums and it houses “La Tizona” the sword of the famous Spanish warrior El Cid. There are displays of armor, a cross carried by Christopher Columbus on his sea voyage to the New World and other artifacts. Since assuming its role as a public park the late 19th century, the “Parque del Retiro” has been used as avenue for various international exhibitions. Several emblematic buildings have remained as testimony to such events, including the Minig building, popularly known as the Velázquez Palace (1884) by architect Ricardo Velázquez Bosco, and the Palacio de Cristal (“Crystal Palace“), a glass pavilion inspired by The Crystal Palace in London, undoubtedly the gardens’ most extraordinary building. Built along with its artificial pond in 1887 by architect Ricardo Velázquez Bosco for the Philippine Islands Exhibitions, it was first used to display flower species indigenous to the islands. The landscape-style gardens located in the former “Campo Grande” are also a reminder of the international exhibitions that have taken place here in the past. The Paseo de la Argentina, also popularly known as Paseo de las Estatuas (“Statue Walk“), is decorated with some of the statues of kings from the Royal Palace from the Royal Palace, sculpted between 1750 and 1753. There are now art galleries in the Crystal Palace, Palacio de Velázquez, and Casa de Vacas. In the Retiro Park is also the Forest of the Departed (Bosque de los Ausentes), a memorial monument to commemorate the 191 victims of the 11 March 2004 Madrid attacks.
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