Every capital city has its historical and cultural buildings of great significance and Madrid is no different. What most visitors to the city do not know is that that the Catedral de Santa María la Real de la Almudena next to the Royal Palace is not the official main Church of Madrid, that in fact it is The Real Basilica de San Francisco el Grande, just down the road from the Catedral de Santa María la Real de la Almudena yet often overlooked. The Real Basilica de San Francisco el Grande is a must visit during your time in the city and unlike the Catedral de Santa María la Real de la Almudena which is equally as beautiful but so very different it does not have an ever flowing stream of tourists flooding through its door, yet the The Real Basilica de San Francisco el Grande is anything but understated, in fact its grandeur and the art within its most holy walls are sacred, beautiful and breathtaking.
So first of all let us look at the location of the Basilica de San Francisco el Grande located in the atmospheric La Latina area of the city...
You can see from the map how near the Real Basilica de San Francisco el Grande is to the Catedral de Santa María la Real de la Almudena.
The Basilica has an amazing and lengthy history and is one of the Bien de Interés Cultural landmarks in Madrid, in English a Spanish Property of Cultural Interest. Its Dome or Cúpula is considered to be the third largest amongst the circular domes of Christianity and is simply stunning. The site on which it stands is thought to have once housed a Franciscan convent, which, according to legend was founded by St. Francis of Assisi in 1217. In 1836 the Franciscans were expelled and the building was requisitioned by the Spanish State until King Alfonso XIII in 1926 returned the church to the Franciscans. Pope John XXIII on 30th June 1962 declared the church to be a minor basilica and after being reconsecrated on the 8th November that year was given the title of Our Lady of the Angels. The decoration of the church has a central theme of Our Lady of the Angels and show different scenes of kings and saints who pay homage to the Virgin and as you walk around the basilica you will see statues of the twelve Apostles. Inside the Royal Basilica there are numerous paintings from the 17th to the 19th centuries by great masters such as Zurbarán and Goya. Take a look below to see for yourself. Goya even added himself in his painting below, he is wearing the yellow tabard on the right hand side, facing us.
The tour of the Royal Basilica is incredible and does not include only the Church and its chapels. Behind the alter there are a series of great corridors lined with more great works of art, rooms that are full of interesting artifacts including Renaissance sillería, walnut wood seats sculpted in a beautiful design for the churches superiors, and mirrors gifted by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II strategically placed in order to look at the spectacular frescos on the ceilings.
The history of this Royal Basilica is rich and yet so overlooked so make sure the next time you are in the wonderful city of Madrid that you take some time to visit, you will not be disappointed...