Only time makes habit a habit. Madrid gives a good example of this in the Panecillo passageway, which was prohibited from entering in 1829 for security reasons, as Pedro de Répide recounts in his volume on the toponymy of the capital. The narrowness of this square – formed by the Basilica of San Miguel, the house of the Counts of Miranda and the Archbishop’s Palace – led to assaults and ambushes until the installation of entry and exit bars that still remain today. It took 185 years for such closure of a public road to have the legal authorization of the permanent ford. Requested by the managers of the old noble residence, which since then houses some twenty luxury tourist apartments, the permit gives access to the parking lot shared with San Miguel, a temple entrusted to Opus Dei.
The alley was the object, in between, of a privatization legitimized by the years, but without that clear legal basis that would later provide a ford. The same secretary of the basilica admits that it is a “public road, but closed to traffic.” From the bars, the passerby can only glimpse it in an incomplete way, since in its center a stone fountain stands out and two cypress trees grow haughtily that, yes, have served as decoration to the series Love is forever (Atresmedia), set in the postwar period. It is striking, however, that the fence keys are kept in the basilica, but that the District Board or cleaning crews lack a copy. It is the concierge of the tourist complex who maintains this hidden corner in the Madrid de los Austrias that for almost two centuries has been given to private enjoyment.
The Pasadizo del Panecillo was already part of the city’s foreground, the one drawn by Pedro Teixeira in 1656, although it appeared without a name and with larger proportions. The width of the alley decreased when the current basilica replaced, in 1739, the disappeared Romanesque parish of the martyrs Justo and Pastor. The new temple completely occupied a square that preceded the Archbishop’s Palace, whose Baroque façade was oppressed by the convex side of San Miguel, thus narrowing the passageway. Access to the old premises of the prelate can only be seen at an angle from Calle de San Justo, where a fan-shaped staircase leads to the gate. From there hangs a padlock, always attached, which can only be opened from the inside.
On the opposite flank, there are many curious people who take advantage of the exit of a vehicle to sneak into the alley. The automatic door closes behind them and they are trapped in this secret place, from which they only manage to escape. They arrive here attracted by the name of the passageway, which already appears in many tourist guides and is due to the old custom of distributing bread to the poor, sponsored by the Infante and Cardinal of Toledo Luis Antonio de Borbón y Farnesio, founder of the Palace Archiepiscopal. This also implanted the alms of raisins, custom that is in the origin of another adjoining street: the street of La Pasa. The donation, which was carried out through a window, must have been suppressed due to the “continuous scandals it caused”, as De Répide explains in his book. Since then, silence has reigned in the Callejón del Panecillo.
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