Welcome to Madrid
The Royal Observatory of Madrid was commissioned by Charles III at the suggestion of Jorge Juan. The construction of the main building, designed by Juan de Villanueva, began in 1790 on a small hill situated beside the present day Retiro Park. At the same time the astronomer W. Herschel was commissioned to build a 60 cm diameter reflecting telescope.
The Villanueva building accommodates most of the Observatory’s library, containing numerous antique books. It also houses a collection of old instruments and a small instrument room that is open to the public. The instruments include a meridian circle, a collection of precision clocks and a bronze mirror polished by W. Herschel. A Foucalt’s pendulum in the central rotunda displays the daily rotation of the earth. The building, crowned by a large equatorial telescope by Grubb (1912) also encloses the former living quarters of the astronomers. Another building, known as the Sun due to it being crowned by two domes, containing two Grubb telescopes and primarily used for observing the sun, today houses a multifunction room used for work meetings, courses and seminars.