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The school during the nineteenth century

Godoy's persecution of enlightened men illustrates the extent of the decadence of the Spanish monarchy at the end of the eighteenth and beginning of the 20th century. This government corruption reached into all institutions. Therefore it is hardly surprising that when the school's funds were taken over by the town council, it was driven to an economic crisis that it tried to mitigate by organizing a charity bullfight, under the protection of Charles IV in 1803 "…the funds obtained are to be invested in aid and relief for the poor orphan children, called the "Doctrine children", dedicated to San Ildefonso…"

The French invasion led to the short reign of Jose Bonaparte, who introduced very important changes into institutions giving refuge to children. For example the new Ordinances and the "Improvement Plan for the Doctrine Children of San Ildefonso School". However, the occupation triggered the Independence War causing famine and anarchy in the city. The situation of violence and the lack of economical resources forced the evacuation of the school between 1808 and 1814.

The liberal spirit of the Spanish Constitution (1812) included the new ideas from the French Revolution, making the State answerable for the inequality between the rich and the poor (Rousseau). The creation of a social framework of liberty, equality and fraternity became necessary and this led to universal, compulsory and free primary education. However, the Restoration stopped the reforms and the fact that another charity bullfight was organized, this time under the protection of the dying king Fernando VII in 1833, was a sign of the institutional and economical stagnation of the Madrid Town Council.

In spite of difficulties such as confiscations or the Carlist Wars, in the mid XIX century the San Ildefonso School strengthened its reputation both as an educational centre and as a unique institution for protecting children. It is enough to say that in 1859 one of Madrid's first gymnasiums was opened in the school. But by the end of the XIX century, the old building in Tabernillas street was nearly in ruins and as the renovations in 1789 did not meet the Institution's needs the Town Council decided to buy a new building. The former Lujanes Palace (1669), situated in the "Plaza de la Paja" was inaugurated by their Royal Highnesses Alfonso XII and María Cristina. This has been the new residence for the San Ildefonso children until this time.

Retrato de la familia de Carlos IV que protegió a la Institución ildefonsina [ Museo del Prado, Madrid ].


Corrida de la Beneficencia en favor de los Niños Doctrinos de San Ildefonso [ Archivo de la Villa, Madrid ].

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