The National Theatre Museum is exclusively managed by the Ministry of Education, Culture and Sport and a Department of the National Institute of Scenic Arts and Music (INAEM in Spanish).
The Palacios de los Maestres (Masters’ Palaces), situated on the northern side of the main plaza of Almagro, was built in the Middle Ages as the residence of the lay friars and knights of the Order of Calatrava and seat of the Grand Master. In the 16th century it became the residence of the Governor of Almagro, and in the 18th century it was used as the barracks of the cavalry. In 1802 a section of the palaces was converted into a new priory convent of the Order, until 1816. Subsequently, with the seizure of Mendizábal, the building passed on to private hands and was dismantled.
Originally the Palacios de los Maestres included a complex of buildings with different functions: convent residence, political seat and administrative centre of the Maestrazgo of Calatrava.
From the original design it conserves the grand tower of the corner, built from adorned masonry, and a magnificent curved central patio, with brick horseshoe arches framed by an alfiz, leaning on primitive supports in the form of small columns, on the northern side; and square stone pillars, on the eastern and western sides. In one of its galleries it conserves the base and a polychrome panelled ceiling with heraldry dating back to the 15th century.
In 1994 the Almagro City Council donated the Palacios de los Maestres so that it could become the seat of the National Theatre Museum, and since then it has been the object of important works that have been carried out in order to adapt the remains of a historical building to the needs of a modern museum.
The restoration work of the Palacios de los Maestres, under the architect Horacio Fernández del Castillo, marks the end of the recovery of a building of significant historical relevance within La Mancha region and the city of Almagro, as well as a reference point for students and theatre lovers.
Having overcome the study phase, in which the terrain was analysed with prospecting and archaeological research, as a precaution against the existence of remains of a historical interest, the work commenced to condition the building, respecting its original characteristics and equipping it for its new use.
The rehabilitation project and extension of the site includes a complete restoration of the ancient cloister, the construction of a new museum installation around the rear courtyard and the rehabilitation of the passage to the street of the Grand Master to access the library and painting room.
The new museum occupies a surface area of 2,213.68 square metres, over three levels, distributed into exhibition halls on the three floors, library, warehouses in the basement and on the mezzanine, offices on the upper floor and tower and, finally, a Mudejar cloister for temporary exhibitions and other activities.
To complement its usual programme, the Museum, thanks to the Almagro City Council, will use the old church of San Agustín as an exhibition area and the ancient silo as a warehouse.
Objective of the National Theatre Museum
Due to the wealth of its contents and because we are dealing with the only museum that is exclusively dedicated to the history of scenic arts in our country, the objective of the National Theatre Museum is the exhibition of the cultural legacy of Spanish theatre in all its forms since its origins.
The creation of new services and installations, like the library, will allow the specialised public to consult and research. The pedagogical activities will also attend to the needs of schoolchildren, without forgetting the interest and curiosity of the general broader public, who year after year attend in Almagro one of the most established theatre events in our country, as is the International Classical Theatre Festival. Its proximity to the “Corral de Comedias” (17th century) is a further incentive for theatre lovers.
The Cultural Holdings
The cultural holdings of the National Theatre Museum involves a historical journey that commences with the Greco-Roman theatre and covers medieval theatre, with special interest in the “Misterio de Elche” (Mystery Play of Elche) and “La Celestina”, continues with theatre from the Golden Age, the open-air comedy theatres (corrales de comedias), stage activity from the 18th century, Romanticism and “Don Juan Tenorio” as exponents of stage activity of the 19th century, the avant-garde of the 20th century and Art theatres, opera, zarzuela, dance and frivolous theatre, to conclude with the creation of the National Theatres and Spanish Festivals.
See permanent exhibition.
These collections are valuable material providing information on the scenic arts and the artists and creators that have populated our stages. It is worth highlighting that there are more than 8,000 works on paper: scenography, costume designs, drawings and illustrations. The wealth of this museum is completed with paintings, sculptures and photography (more than 25,000 snapshots dating back to 1870), costumes (more than 2,000 since the end of the 18th century), models, sets, musical archives, administrative documents and season programmes pertaining to the different Spanish theatres.
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