The Royal Palace of La Granja de San Ildefonso, known as La Granja, is an early 18th-century palace located in the hills near Segovia.
The site was purchased from the monks in 1719 by King Philip V, after his summer palace nearby at Valsaín burned down. Beginning in 1721, Philip began building a new palace and gardens modeled on Versailles, built by his grandfather, Louis XIV of France. Like Versailles it embraced a cour d'honneur on the approaching side, and formal gardens, with a main axis centred on the palace, that were surrounded by woodland in which further hidden garden features were disposed. Like Versailles, La Granja began as a retreat from the court but became a centre of royal government.
When the King decided to abdicate in 1724, his intention was to retire to La Granja. Unfortunately Philip's heir, King Louis I, died that same year, and Philip had to return to the throne. Consequently, a place designed for leisure and quiet retreat thus became an important meeting place for the King, his ministers and the court. The town of San Ildefonso expanded to provide housing and services to the courtiers who wanted a place near the king's favourite residence. Military barracks, a collegiate church (1721–1724), and even a royal glass factory (1728) were built to provide for the palace.
The church was selected as his burial site by Philip, marking a break with his Habsburg predecessors. The frescoes by Giambattista Tiepolo, completed by Francisco Bayeu, were badly damaged in a fire of 1918.
Philip's successor Ferdinand VI bequeathed the royal site of San Ildefonso, with all it contained, to his father's second wife, Isabel Farnese. At her death in 1766, it reverted to the Crown in the person of Charles III.
For the next two hundred years, La Granja was the court's main summer palace, and many royal weddings and burials, state treaties, and political events took place within its walls.
Currently the royal site is part the Patrimonio Nacional of Spain, which holds and maintains many of the Crown's lands and palaces. It is a popular tourist attraction, with gardens, and interiors displaying rooms with marble from Carrara, Japanese lacquer, and crystal chandeliers; portraits and other paintings; and a Museum of Flemish tapestries.
Extending over 6.1 km2, the gardens around the palace are one of the best examples of 18th-century European garden design in Spain. The French designer from the official French royal offices of Robert de Cotte was René Carlier, who used the natural slope of the site in the palace grounds design, for enhancing axial visual perspectives, and to provide sufficient head for water to shoot out/up from the twenty-six sculptural fountains in the formal gardens and landscape park.References:
The Porta Nigra (Latin for black gate) is the largest Roman city gate north of the Alps. It is designated as part of the Roman Monuments, Cathedral of St. Peter and Church of Our Lady in Trier UNESCO World Heritage Site. The name Porta Nigra originated in the Middle Ages due to the darkened colour of its stone; the original Roman name has not been preserved. Locals commonly refer to the Porta Nigra simply as Porta.
The Porta Nigra was built in grey sandstone between 186 and 200 AD. The original gate consisted of two four-storied towers, projecting as near semicircles on the outer side. A narrow courtyard separated the two gate openings on either side. For unknown reasons, however, the construction of the gate remained unfinished. For example, the stones at the northern (outer) side of the gate were never abraded, and the protruding stones would have made it impossible to install movable gates. Nonetheless, the gate was used for several centuries until the end of the Roman era in Trier.
In Roman times, the Porta Nigra was part of a system of four city gates, one of which stood at each side of the roughly rectangular Roman city. The Porta Nigra guarded the northern entry to the Roman city, while the Porta Alba (White Gate) was built in the east, the Porta Media (Middle Gate) in the south, and the Porta Inclyta (Famous Gate) in the west, next to the Roman bridge across the Moselle. The gates stood at the ends of the two main streets of the Roman Trier, one of which led north-south and the other east-west. Of these gates, only the Porta Nigra still exists today.
In the early Middle Ages the Roman city gates were no longer used for their original function and their stones were taken and reused for other buildings. Also iron and lead braces were broken out of the walls of the Porta Nigra for reuse. Traces of this destruction are still clearly visible on the north side of the gate.
After 1028, the Greek monk Simeon lived as a hermit in the ruins of the Porta Nigra. After his death (1035) and sanctification, the Simeonstift monastery was built next to the Porta Nigra to honor him. Saving it from further destruction, the Porta Nigra was transformed into a church: The inner court of the gate was roofed and intermediate ceilings were inserted. The two middle storeys of the former gate were converted into church naves: the upper storey being for the monks and the lower storey for the general public. The ground floor with the large gates was sealed, and a large outside staircase was constructed alongside the south side (the town side) of the gate, up to the lower storey of the church. A small staircase led further up to the upper storey. The church rooms were accessible through former windows of the western tower of the Porta Nigra that were enlarged to become entrance doors (still visible today). The top floor of the western tower was used as church tower, the eastern tower was leveled, and an apse added at its east side. An additional gate - the much smaller Simeon Gate - was built adjacent to the East side of the Porta Nigra and served as a city gate in medieval times.
In 1802 Napoleon Bonaparte dissolved the church in the Porta Nigra and the monastery beside it, along with the vast majority of Trier"s numerous churches and monasteries. On his visit to Trier in 1804, Napoleon ordered that the Porta Nigra be converted back to its Roman form. Only the apse was kept; but the eastern tower was not rebuilt to its original height. Local legend has it that Napoleon originally wanted to completely tear down the church, but locals convinced him that the church had actually been a Gaulish festival hall before being turned into a church. Another version of the story is that they told him about its Roman origins, persuading him to convert the gate back to its original form.
In 1986 the Porta Nigra was designated a World Heritage Site, along with other Roman monuments in Trier and its surroundings. The modern appearance of the Porta Nigra goes back almost unchanged to the reconstruction ordered by Napoleon. At the south side of the Porta Nigra, remains of Roman columns line the last 100 m of the street leading to the gate. Positioned where they had stood in Roman times, they give a slight impression of the aspect of the original Roman street that was lined with colonnades. The Porta Nigra, including the upper floors, is open to visitors.