Beti-Jai: a beautiful historical fronton in the centre of the Chamberí district
This incredible place known as Beti-Jai (“always joyful”) has more than 125 years of history behind it and is an architectural gem that combines an eclectic and NeoMudejar style and is part of Madrid’s cultural and historical heritage.
Following its inauguration in 1894 in the centre of the Chamberí district, with capacity of 4000 spectators, it functioned as a fronton (a Pelota court) until 1918. Since 1919, it has had several functions as an auto repair shop, a police station, a prison, and a papier maché and plaster workshop, among others. In 1991, it was declared a National Monument and a Place of Cultural Interest in 2011. In May 2015, the Town Hall finalized the expropriation process and acquired the Beti-Jai, and carried out its refurbishment without changing its essence, this was largely completed at the beginning of 2019.
“It’s a monument, rather than a fronton.” F. Larumbe
Fernando Larumbe is a great connoisseur of Pelota, he is a member of the platform that helped to save this wonder of a sporting space dating back to the end of the 19th century when Basque Pelota would bring together many fans in the tens of frontons around the city. In fact, its origin dates back to precisely that time, at the end of the 19th century, when Pelota reached great levels of popularity in Spain and a bourgeois family, who loved this sports discipline and spent long periods of time in San Sebastián, decided to mandate Joaquín Rucoba and Octavio de Toledo to construct this beautiful fronton to accommodate these sports events.
Currently, it can be visited prior appointment and its future is uncertain. The Town Hall has not progressed with the project to assign Beti-Jai cultural functions, as was suggested, and it is still pending refurbishment of some areas, due to budget restrictions we are told. However, it has also been suggested to us that, sadly, the idea of private exploitation is also in the air…
Without further comment, and while we continue with the uncertainty, we encourage you to go and visit it. The place is fabulous. And if you cannot, because you are not in Madrid, you will always have these snapshots and the documentary film: “Beti-Jai, the Sistine chapel of Pelota” or “Beti-Jai, the forgotten temple”, directed by Santiago Zamarro which is about to be premiered.
(*) Pics by Ely Sánchez.