Did you know?
Madrid began in 852 CE when the Moors built a fortress near the Manzanares river. The Moors had landed in Gibraltar early in the 8th century and within a few years had conquered most of the Iberian peninsular. They established an independent emirate based in Cordoba, southern Spain, and in 852 they built a fortress to protect the northern approach to Toledo: and this stood on the site of Madrid’s present day royal palace. Named Mayrit (later corrupted to Magerit, then Madrid), a small community arose around the fortress.
After the fortress had fallen to the Christians in the north in the 11th century, many of the earliest inhabitants of the town were monks, encouraged by Spanish rulers to establish monasteries there. In the 13th century a dispute arose over hunting rights on land owned by the Church. It was agreed that while the Church owned the soil, Madrilenos had rights to all that was above it, namely game. Thus Madrid acquired its symbol – a bear (the Church’s emblem) sniffing a tree.