What is a ‘Plaza Mayor’

Plaza means square, and Mayor means largest or main. So literally Plaza Mayor means the Main Square.

In Spain every town or city has or had an square called Plaza Mayor, although in some cases the name has change, usually for Plaza del Ayuntamiento (City-hall Square).

This ‘plazas’ where like the Roman Forums in the ancient Rome, in fact, in some cities of Spain, the location of the modern Plaza Mayor is the same as the Roman Forum during the Roman occupation of the Iberian Peninsula.

A Plaza Mayor was, in the middle ages, the place for having:

  • Daily or weekly Market
  • Festivities and religious events.
  • The City Hall
  • Court and jail

Sometimes the Plaza Mayor also holds the Cathedral or the main church, but it is usually not the case, as both powers, Church and Government, where separated.

Bullfighting in the Plaza Mayor

Once a year, usually for the festivities of the Patron Saint of the city, there used to be a bullfight in every town, even the ones without a bullring.

A temporary round structure would be set in the middle of the square, like the one they made in Madrid’s Plaza Mayor, for the last time, in 1970.

The Spanish Inquisition in the Plaza Mayor

Autos de Fe‘ where the final step of the Inquisitorial process, after the trials. Public ceremonies would be held in the Plazas, where the sentences where read. When the sentence was death, it was usually executed in the outskirts of the cities.

1683 painting by Francisco Rizi: Auto-da-fé held in Plaza Mayor, Madrid in 1680

Some of the ‘Plazas Mayores’ in Spain

Madrid

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Segovia

Plaza Mayor with arches

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Oviedo

Night illumination of the Cathedral in Oviedo's Plaza Mayor

Siguenza

This beautiful town is located in the province of Guadalajara.

Plaza Mayor Square

Alcalá de Henares

Alcala de Henares is a UNESCO world Heritage Site, apart from its beautiful square, the old university is worth a visit.

Gardens in the Plaza Mayor

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Trujillo

Panoramic view of Trujillo's Plaza Mayor

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Cuenca

Cuenca is well know for its ‘Casas Colgantes’ (Hanged Houses), but the cathedral and old town is also fascinating.

Plaza Mayor and Cathedral in Cuenca
The Cathedral ant the City-Hall in Cuenca’s Plaza Mayor

Toledo

Zocoover Square in Toledo
Zocodover square

👉 Check out our Blog ‘Toledo Sensations

Chinchon

👉 Read more: Things to see in Chinchon


Esther

Tour Guide in Madrid