History of the house

historia

"De poetas no digo: buen siglo es éste. Muchos están en ciernes para el año que viene; pero ninguno hay tan malo como Cervantes ni tan necio que alabe a don Quijote".
This is a paragraph from a letter Lope de Vega sent to a friend, when the literary and personal war between him and Cervantes had been declared and was publicly notorious. In a paradox of destiny, today the Lope de Vega House Museum, which was the writer's residence for the last 25 years of his life, is located on Calle Cervantes in Madrid, in the centrally located Barrio de las Letras (Neighborhood of the Writers).

"... mi casilla, mi quietud, mi huertecillo y estudio..." said Lope of this house, saying that with these words he sinned of false humility, given that the building he acquired in 1610 was quite prominent for the times. Open to the public as the Lope de Vega House Museum in 1935, the building was declared a historic-artistic monument that same year. It was built in 1578; the poet and dramatist bought it 32 years later for 9,000 Spanish reales, while his second wife, Juana de Guardo, was still alive.

Lope de Vega lived there for a quarter of a century, until his death in 1635. There he wrote some of his best-known works. And it was there that he suffered some of his greatest losses. Within those walls, his son Carlos Félix died when he was only seven years old. The house was the final home of Juana, who died in childbirth with Feliciana, the writer's last legitimate daughter. Marta de Nevares, another of Lope's great loves, also spent her last days there, blind and demented ("Resuelta en polvo ya, más siempre hermosa").

Passing it on

Lope left the house to his daughter Feliciana, who left it to the last known grandchild of the writer, Luis Antonio de Usátegui, who sold it in 1674 to the actress Mariana Romero. In the 18th and 19th centuries, it changed hands several times and underwent some changes. At the end of the 18th century, the historian and biographer Álvarez Baena confirmed that the entrance had been moved to the center, that it was missing the jambs and granite lintel, and that they created a Madrid-style corrala in the garden. He was the one who located and identified the house in 1751 and it was his research and studies that served as the base for the chronicler Mesonero Romanos to document the history of the house. The plaque that is now preserved in the entranceway and which was previously on the façade of the house was a suggestion of Mesonero Romanos to the Real Academia Española (Royal Spanish Academy).

In 1862, the Real Academia Española (RAE), with the permission from the then owners, celebrated the three hundredth anniversary of Lope's birth. This institution already had plans to acquire the building and convert it into a museum, reliving the times of the dramatist, its uses and his art, thus better spreading his legacy. The goal was reached much later, in 1931, when the owner, Antonia García, widow of Cabrejo, and antiquarian specialized in laces, named the Academy patron of the Foundation she had created and indicated the need to create the Lope de Vega Museum at that location.

Naming the museum

The restoration of the house fell to the architects Emilio Moya and especially to Pedro Muguruza. In the work done, the granite jambs Álvarez Baena was missing appeared in other corners of the building, the inscription on the lintel of the main door is authentic and was discovered (a section of it) among the materials used to fill the well.... And in 1935, three hundred years after Lope de Vega's death, the building was declared a monument and opened as a museum.
Other museums and collections sent works of art, furniture, belongings and books to complete the house. It contains pieces on deposit from the Prado Museum, the National Archeology Museum, the Instituto de Valencia de Don Juan (Madrid), the Santa Cruz Museum (Toledo) and the National Library as well as some private donations.

In 1949-59, the museum was expanded –the attic space was fitted out-- and in 1965 and 1973 the façade and the coverings were retouched. In 1990 the RAE and the Regional Government of Madrid signed an agreement of Cultural Cooperation, which assumed the management of the house museum, starting December 18, 2007.

The Lope de Vega House Museum, located in Madrid's historical center ("Beautiful Babylon where I was born", said the poet of the city), not only pays well-deserved tribute to the great writer and stimulates the knowledge of his figure and his work, but is also a tempting entrance into the Golden Age of Spain and the interesting Madrid of the 17th century, its homes, its society, its history, religion and culture.