Casa Riera – a beautiful garden with a dark legend

If you travel to Madrid there is an eerily beautiful and unnerving place that you must visit, the gardens of Casa Riera. While the gardens are in theory only open to the people working in the building at No. 1 Calle Marqués de Casa Riera, there is a cafeteria in the courtyard which is open to the public . This affords visitors the opportunity to see the garden and hear of the associated tragic tale.

According to stories that are told, an ancestor of the Marquis of Casa Riera once found two bodies in his garden: a man who had been stabbed with a sword and a woman dressed in white. The murderer or murderers would never be discovered. All that is known is that the marquis’s relative had a cypress tree planted at the spot where the crime was committed. Then he ordered that the building be abandoned, never to be reoccupied during the life of the cypress. Interesting, none of the subsequent owners right up to the time of the building’s demolition, ever spent much time at the property.

The original Marquis of Case Riera had obtained title in 1843 for services to the Crown, and it was around the same time that he bought this mansion for his bride, Doña Mercedes Mora y Narváez. However, the couple spent little time there, living most of their later years in Paris. At the end of the nineteenth century the whole area was transformed, with many of the neighbouring religious foundations being expropriated. This monastery next door, the mansion, the gardens and the cypress tree were all demolished. One descendant of the Marquis, Alejandro Mora y Riera then built a property on the site, but perhaps out of respect for the legend of the cypress tree, never spent much time there.

In the early 1930s, another building was erected on the site, designed by architect Rodriguez Avial. Right up to 1977, this was one of the main headquarters of the Francoist movement. However it was not until the 1990s that a garden was created by landscape architects Carmen Afion and Myriam  Silber on the same site as the original garden asssociated with the cypress legend. Although a new style of garden was created in keeping with the new building on the site, it does unnervingly but beautifully manage to still hold something of the atmosphere of the previous dwelling and gardens in which the murders occurred.

So, next time you are in Madrid, take a walk around this garden filled with climbing plants and beautiful bowers of flowers. Perhaps something of the tryst of the two murdered ‘lovers’ (?) will capture your imagination and your sense of romance.




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