The equestrian statue of Felipe III

The equestrian statue of Felipe III is a monumental work located in the center of the Plaza Mayor of Madrid. Work of the Italian sculptor Juan de Bologna and his disciple Pietro Tacca was a gift from the Duke of Florence to the King of Spain in 1616. Initially, it was located in the Casa de Campo until, in 1848, Queen Elizabeth II ordered its transfer until its current location, presiding over the Plaza Mayor.

To be a statue of considerable dimsensions – weighed over 5.5 tons at the time of its completion – it has moved far more than expected. After the Revolution of 1868 was withdrawn to the warehouses of the Villa. In 1875, with the arrival of the Bourbon Restoration, the statue returned to the center of the square. In April 1931, during the Second Republic, the statue suffered the wrath of the antimonarchists with an explosive attack, introduced by the horse’s mouth, which at the time was hollow. The sculpture suffered great damage.

However, this attack allowed to discover a curious finding: the explosion scattered numerous ossicles in the place, and it was learned that they were remains of the multiple birds that, over the centuries, had been trapped inside the horse after sneaking through its mouth. The mouth was the only opening to the outside and for hundreds of years it was swallowing the unwary birds that, once inside the statue, could not come out again given the narrowness of the exit and the length of the neck. The equestrian statue of Felipe III was all a cemetery of little birds.

The damages of the attack were corrected and, to avoid that they kept still gliding little birds inside, the mouth of the horse was sealed. The statue has since remained in the Plaza Mayor, except in a brief period towards 1970, when it was temporarily withdrawn by the construction of an underground parking.

This same year (2017), coinciding with the 400th anniversary of the Plaza Mayor, the government of the Community of Madrid decided to protect the statue declaring it Well of Cultural Interest with Monument category to preserve its location definitively.