Friday, March 15, 2019

House of Beasts

Paseo Fernán Núñez, 22, 28009 Madrid, Spain
On our third day in Madrid I happened upon Casa de Fieras, or House of Beasts, accidentally. As we were strolling through Retiro Park I saw these structures that looked "abandoned." Naturally, I started taking photos, and said something to my cousin along the lines of "These are so cool. They look abandoned." She mentioned that they kind of were. The old, controversial zoo used to reside in Retiro Park until it was moved to Casa de Campo park in 1972.
The history of Casa de Fieras is pretty dark which, to me, adds to it's intrigue. The zoo was the second one in Europe after the Vienna Zoo in Austria. It was built on the command of King Carlos III in 1774, making it older than the United States. During the 18th century it was common to see fights among different animals, like bears and lions, which were popular for upper class spectators. I imagine it was probably similar to the gladiator fights in the Roman Empire. During the Spanish Civil War, which lasted from 1936 to 1939, some of the animals were sacrificed to feed those who suffered from the famine. It is also said that about 30 prisoners were fed to the animals themselves; however, this remains an urban legend. During WWII many animals from other European zoos, especially from Berlin, were sent to Casa de Fieras to protect them from the atrocities of war. Can you imagine transporting wild animals during a time like that? The zoo was closed for good in June 1972 because it was not able to keep up with the number of visitors. The zoo is now located in Casa de Campo.
Currently, only a few of the cages remain, including the monkey pit and bear and lion cages. Most of the zoo now houses a library and botanical garden. You can see pictures of its former life here. While, I'm not a huge fan of zoos - it makes me extremely sad to see large animals in cages - I can appreciate the history of a place like this. I always try to imagine living in a time where seeing wild beasts or attending a World's Fair was a massive event in one's life. Sometimes I wish I could live in those times. I need to go back to Madrid, and take a better look at the House of Beasts, probably when it's a little cooler and I have more energy to take photos.

2 comments

  1. So intriguing and heartaching. Cool place to visit.

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    Replies
    1. Right? I wish the simplicity of being so amazed by zoos was still around though.

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