Located in Plaza del Rey, within the Chueca neighborhood, we find the House with the Seven Chimneys, a 16th century building that throughout the centuries it has witnessed all kinds of events and ghost stories.
The House with the Seven Chimneys (Casa de las Siete Chimeneas) is a building from the “Madrid of the Austrians” built between 1574 and 1577 and was designed by the architect Antonio Sillero. It is one of the oldest palaces in Madrid and it is located at the corner of Calle de las Infantas with Plaza del Rey. At the moment, in the House of Seven Chimneys we find the Ministry of Culture and its current state is the result of a series of modifications made over time.
In the 18th century the house was occupied by the Marquis de Esquilache, an Italian Minister of Finance of Carlos III. During the Esquilache Rebellion, caused by the Marquis’ ban on the madrileños’ outfit of that time, the house was ransacked by the protestants, who killed one of the butlers who tried to stop their entry. The Marquis was not injured because he was not in the building but, after that rebellion, Carlos III dispensed with his services as a minister and he had to return to Italy.
Later, during the 19th century the building was restored and conditioned to become the headquarters of a bank, Banco de Castilla. Already in the 20th century, during the dictatorship of Primo de Rivera, it became the headquarters of the Women’s Lyceum Club, a feminist cultural association. Also, the House with the Seven Chimneys is a Historic Artistic Monument since 1948 and in 1995 it was declared a Site of Cultural Interest. In the 80s (1980-89) it was the headquarters of another bank, the Urquijo Bank, and immediately afterwards it became the headquarters of the Ministry of Culture, until today.
But the House with Seven Chimneys is also famous for the great variety of legends that have been told about it … one of them says that, in the time of Philip II, the building was the house of Captain Zapata and his wife Elena. Months after getting married, Zapata lost his life fighting in the Flanders war and shortly thereafter his unfortunate wife Elena appeared dead in her bedroom at the House with the Seven Chimneys. The causes of death were not clarified and the body disappeared, so that in Madrid plenty of rumours started to grow and people claimed to have seen the ghost of Elena wandering around the roof of the palace, kneeling and hitting her own chest right before disappearing. It is said that even today the ghost can be seen walking among the seven chimneys on the roof.
Some other even crazier theories say that Elena was a lover of Philip II himself and that maybe he had something to do with the death of the young woman, that the palace was built to enclose an illegitimate daughter of the King who ended up going crazy between the walls of the house, or that the butler killed during the Esquilache Rebellion can still be seen walking through the corridors of this little palace.
But the truth is that there are two facts that somehow fueled all these theories that at first seem so “crazy”: during the renovation of the building in the 19th century, the body of a woman was discovered between the walls of the basements of the house, along with a bag with coins from the time of Philip II. And, in addition, during the last renovation works in the ´50s, the remains of another skeleton buried between the walls of the building were found, this time masculine and even today, anonymous … another story to add to the mysteries of the old Madrid!
Remember that if you want to keep on discovering many more legends, curiosities and stories like this, you can join one of our Free Tour Madrid from Monday to Saturday. We’ll be waiting for you!