Preciados Street in Madrid: The origin of the name

By | 10 April, 2014 | 0 comments

Balanza antigua, instrumento de los almotacenes

Located in the heart of Madrid, between Plaza del Callao and the Puerta del Sol, tens of thousands of people walk through Calle Preciados every day. This is perhaps the busiest shopping street in the centre of Madrid and also the most expensive one: it occupies the #5 spot in the world ranking of streets with the highest rent price and it is located just fifty yards from our hotel.

However, few know the origin of its name. The street pays tribute to the Preciado brothers, who were beloved by the people of Madrid thanks to their excellent work as civil servants.

Our history goes back many centuries, back to 1490, when there was still a royal country house in this area that the monarchs used for leisure and recreation.

En aquel tiempo, convivían gran variedad de monedas, legado de los diferentes reinos que habían convivido en las últimas décadas en el centro de la Península. A esta complejidad se añadía que los criterios de pesos y medidas no estaban unificados, por lo que había sustanciales diferencias entre una fanega madrileña y una fanega toledana, por ejemplo.

¿Y cómo hacían los lugareños para entenderse?

Se encomendaban a la figura del almotacén. Este personaje era fundamental para el entendimiento de las partes durante las transacciones comerciales: examinaba los instrumentos de medir para garantizar que no habían sido falseados, comprobaba la autenticidad de las monedas y servía de mediador para aclarar el peso de una arroba, un quintal, un celemín, un azumbre o una fanega.

Los hermanos Preciado compartían este oficio y lo desempeñaban con especial pulcritud y honestidad, lo que les valió la estima de los comerciantes de la zona. Contribuyeron, además a la reforma monetaria española de 1497 y a la creación de un sistema de medida unificado. En esta calle se construyeron sendas casas, por lo que los madrileños comenzaron a llamarla “la calle de los Preciados”, que hoy abreviadamente se llama “calle de Preciados”.

Terminamos con una frase del cronista madrileño Pedro de Répide, que se refiere así a la denominación de la calle: “De hombres tan celosos del bien público es bueno que haya permanecido la memoria, ya que no ha podido quedar el ejemplo”.

De un pasado más reciente, la calle Preciados nos deja también el nombre de las antiguas Galerías Preciados, una de las cadenas de grandes almacenes más populares de España en la segunda mitad del siglo XX hasta que fue adquirida por El Corte Inglés, uno de cuyos almacenes ocupa hoy un edificio de esta gran arteria comercial de Madrid.

La proximidad de nuestro hotel a las tiendas y grandes superficies comerciales de la calle Preciados, hace del Liabeny uno de los hoteles más convenientes para ir de compras en Madrid.

Foto (CC) Procsilas Moscas en Flickr

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Back then, there were a large variety of currencies, a legacy from the different kingdoms that coexisted in the previous decades in the middle of the Iberian Peninsula. To this complexity there was the added problem that the weight and measure units were not standardised, so there were considerable differences between a fanega (unit measure) from Madrid and a fanega from Toledo, for example.

So how did the people understand each other?

They called upon the almotacén, a person who was essential for the understanding of the parties during commercial transactions since he was the one who examined the measuring items to guarantee that they had not been tampered with. He also checked the authenticity of coins and used to mediate to clarify the weight of different Spanish units, such as the arroba, the quintal, the celemín, the azumbre or the fanega.

The Preciado brothers shared this job and performed it with special neatness and honesty, which earned them the respect and esteem from the area’s traders. They also contributed to the Spanish currency reform of 1397 and to the creation of a unified measuring system. They built themselves a house each on this street, so people started calling it the “street of the Preciados”, which today is abbreviated to “Calle de Preciados”.

We finish with a phrase from the local reporter from back then, Pedro de Répide, who refers to the denomination of this street like this: “From such protective men of the good people, it is good that memory has endured, since the example did not remain”.

In more recent times, Calle Preciados also gave us the name of the old Galerías Preciados, one of the most popular department stores in Spain in the second half of the 20th century, until it was acquired by another department-store chain, El Corte Inglés, who now occupies a building in this great shopping artery of Madrid.

The proximity of our hotel to the shops and department stores of Calle Preciados makes Liabeny one of the most convenient hotels for going shopping in Madrid.

Photo (CC) Procsilas Moscas – Flickr

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Categories: Madrid Diversión, Madrid Turismo

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