Casinos can best be described as social clubs, locations where the elite, ambitious and monied can gather to socialise together in an exclusive environment.
Membership is by subscription and many casinos still operate throughout Spain in this fashion today, amongst them the glorious casino in Murcia's Capital.
Most Casinos are for members only, but the Casino in Murcia can be visited by the public during specified hours and is an interesting insight into a world of exclusivity, as well as being a very beautiful building in its own right.
The current appearance of the Casino de Murcia is the result of a series of reforms and modifications made to the original structure, which was built in 1852.
In November, 2009, the casino was reopened after four years of restoration work which cost a total of ten million euros. This restoration was an almost complete rehabilitation of the building, including the strengthening of the foundations, which had shown signs of instability, the repair of structural weaknesses, the renovation of all the facilities (including the necessary improvements in installations and access) and the restoration of all the finishes and decorative and artistic features, such as paintings, sculptures, lamps and furniture .
The façade was designed by the architect Pedro Cerdán Martínez, and produced by the sculptor Manuel Castaños. The date carved into the stonework is 1902, and the style can best be described as eclectic, containing both classical and modernist decorative elements.
It is made from sandstone, with a plinth of red marble from Cehegín. Pedro Cerdán was an important architect within the Region of Murcia and also designed the indoor Veronicas Marketplace in Murcia which is a treasure trove of smells and goodies and well worth visiting, the Casa del Piñon in La Unión which is now the Town Hall and also the Casa del Reloj in San Pedro del Pinatar.
Entering via the striking stained glass door which so characterises Arabic architecture of the period, visitors enter the striking Arabic Patio, again designed by Manuel Castaños.
This is a two-floor construction with a large iron and glass dome in the neo-Nazarite style, inspired by the royal salons of the Alhambra in Granada and the Alcázar in Seville. Over 35,000 leaves of pure gold were used in the decoration.
The dome is perhaps the most outstanding architectural feature, making a third floor and being the highest part of the casino.
From here visitors follow a course into the Galería central, which is a central passageway covered with a glass dome.
From here, other rooms lead off, including the Biblioteca Inglesa, designed in 1913 by the British firm, Waring and Gillow and holds a collection of 20,000 books.
The "Congresillo" is the name popularly given to one of the lounges, situated opposite the library, which was a meeting point for influential people in the economic and social life of Murcia.
In this room many appointments to important civic and political posts were decided, and other important decisions made. The paintings hanging in this room include works by Obdulio Millares and Manuel Picolo (1892).
The Pompeyan (or Roman) Patio took on its current shape in the reform work carried out in 1893. Initially it was known as the square patio, and was covered by awnings.
Its decoration includes a beautiful statue by the sculptor José Planes in the centre, and there are 14 columns, each made of a single Ionic capital.
The sides of this patio include beautiful copies of two sculptures of Danaide and Amazon, the originals of which are currently in the Vatican museum.
The Ballroom is the only room which remains the same as in the first phase of the Casino's construction, between 1870 and 1875. Valuable paintings which adorn its walls -four matrons among the clouds, representing Music, Sculpture, Painting and Architecture - and there are four medallions representing some of Murcia's most famous personages: Romea, Salzillo, Floridablanca and Villacís.
These paintings are the work of Manuel de San Miguel, except the groups of Music and Dance, which are attributed to Manuel Picolo.
It's also worth taking a look at the five smelted bronze lamps, coated in gold, decorated with 1,800 pieces of Bacarat cut glass. These were made in Paris by Chalier and Jean in 1886.
The Tocador de Señoras
This ladies dressing room is opulent in the extreme, with silks embroidered in gold thread from workshops in Lorca.
One of the most interesting aspects of this room is the ceiling, work of José Marín Baldo, an allegory of the night, representing the goddess Selene.
Users of the room experience the curious effect that eyes from the ceiling follow them wherever they go, and the whole is a most curious and effective work which is amongst the most popular rooms with visitors.
Real Casino de Murcia
Calle Trapería no 18
Tel 968 215 399
11.30am to 9pm
Entrance Prices ( correct summer 2011)
5 euros standard
4 euros pensionistas
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