In one of the most central areas of Madrid is a solemn 18th century building whose interior often goes unnoticed. Its about Royal College of Pious Schools of San Fernando, a school for the education of poor children and the first of the Piarist Order. Unfortunately, the complex is partially in ruins. What has resisted the most is the church, whose side chapels support its imposing dome, turning it into a magical place to study.

Today, the old school complex is the headquarters of the National University of Distance Education (UNED). The church houses a majestic library with a beautiful circular lamp of a faint yellowish color that illuminates the room lined with brick walls. Here, in an environment that may remind you of the rooms of the hogwarts castle, the famous school from the “Harry Potter” book and movie saga, it’s easier to bend your elbows.


Children of Santiago Rodríguez Bookstore.


This is the oldest bookstore in Spain: more than 170 years of history and five generations of the same family

More than 250 years of history

In 1729 Father Juan García de la Concepción was appointed chaplain of the Pilar hermitage, where the future school would be built, with the right to run a school. By the end of that year there were already 400 children being educated. The hermitage was definitively handed over to the Piarist Order in 1735 and adjacent buildings were purchased to expand the center. Thanks to donations from kings like Charles III and Charles IV and other heroes, Construction of the school ended in 1761, when it already had more than two thousand students.

Pious Schools of San Fernando
Pious Schools of San Fernando

It acquired prestige for the quality of its teaching staff and in 1795 they achieved a historic milestone: opening the first school for deaf-mutes in Spain.

During the 19th century the school suffered periods of instability caused by the invasion of French troops in 1808, revolutionary revolts in 1820, the secularization of the government or the Carlist wars. Towards the end of the century things were better for the order until the arrival of the Civil war. In the revolution of 1936 the school perished, a victim of lack of culture and fanaticism, which reduced it to ashes. After the Civil War, it was considered to return, but it was almost unfeasible, so the order settled in Argüelles to continue its educational activity until 1975. They moved the school to Pozuelo de Alarcón.

The Piarists are a religious order dedicated to the education of children founded in the 17th century by San José de Calasanz (1557-1648)

After half a century of abandonment, the ruins of the church were rehabilitated as University Library of the UNED Associated Center in Madrid between 1996 and 1999, adding a new classroom.

How to visit the Royal College

The library is located in the Tribulete Street, 14two minutes walk from the station exit Lavapiés metro (line 3). Some bus lines that pass through there are 27, 34, 36, 41, 119 and C1. On the other hand, the Embajadores Cercanías and Metro station (C5) is about 400 meters away.

He time to visit the library of the Pious Schools is from Monday to Friday from 9:15 a.m. to 10 p.m. Admission is free. Visits are individual or in small groups (maximum 5 people) because the simultaneous capacity is 10 people. It should be noted that this is still a study center and may not always be available for tourism. From January 15 to February 9, 2024, visits are suspended.

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