Sunday, 21 February 2010

16 February 2010 - Madrid

Rain today, an improvement on the snow of yesterday.

We took a walk up the northward side streets to a small church of San Antonio de los Alemanes. It was one of Madrids hidden gems apparently.

Built in 1640 and used originally as a place of shelter for Portuguese immigrants. About 50 years later the King of Spain donated it to the Germans who also used it as a shelter. The Hermandad del Refugio [Refuge Brotherhood] still manages it today. They look after the poor offering them food and a place to sleep. They also have the school adjoining the church where 400 children are taught. A funny story about the Brotherhood is that they are known as "La Ronda del pan y el huevo", the bread and egg patrol. At dusk a priest with two members of the brotherhood and several servants went to look for tramps to whom they offered some bread, water and a hard boiled egg. They had a wooden of tool with holes. If the egg went through the hole it was rejected as too small. This was the origin of the sentence: Si pasa, no pasa. If it goes through, it won´t do. I have no idea if that's a true story or not but I liked it!!!

The church was built by Francisco Seseña although the façade was made by Juan Gomez de Mora. Its interior is amazing, with beautiful frescos by Luca Giordano. Built in baroque style, the interior of the church has only one nave with a splendid vault. There are no columns or pillars. The idea is to present a single space, with no divisions and attract the visitor to the frescos surrounding him or her and end up looking at the paintings dedicated to Saint Antonio in the vault. Incidently, Luca Giordana was also responsible for the frescoes in Palazzo Medici-Riccardi in Florence. This is one of them:-

On the day we visited there was a wedding taking place in it so it was difficult to get inside.

One street along and Amber stumbled across a brilliant shop full of manga comics, characters and books. It was an aladdin's cave for her. She bought a vinyl figure character from one of her Death Note books.

Lunchtime and a little German restaurant called Edelweiss was calling us. Another great eatery even if it does specialise in German cuisine in the middle of Madrid.

It was certainly very popular, a testiment to the fantastic food on offer. Amber chose the traditional brockwurst, I had a pork knuckle with sauerkraut and mashed potato

and Andrew selected a mixed German stew. I could not fault the food and helpings are enormous so be prepared for a long walk after this meal!!!

And walk we did, down the little side streets for our afternoon trip to Museo del Prado, Madrid's number one tourist attraction.

Our walk took us through Peurto del Sol, one of Madrid's big plazas.

The plaza has a large sculpture of the emblem of Madrid called El oso y el madrono, or bear and strawberry tree! If you didn't know it was Madrid's emblem, like us, then you could be forgiven for thinking what a weird statue to have in a middle of a plaza, random or what?

Having walked off half of our large German lunch, we arrived at the Prado. This art gallery houses a large collection amassed by the Spanish royal family. This one had a 152 million euro extension. The building also has a lower vault containing some very rare and no doubt expensive artefacs.

Just like the other gallery there are no shortages of paintings here to keep you amused. Admittedly some very old paintings which did "go on a bit" but hey I put that down to my ignorance. But there was plenty paintings that we did appreciate there.

The Garden of Earthly Delights by Heironymus Bosch. Historians and critics frequently interpret the painting as a warning on the perils of life's temptations.

There were numerous paintings by Raphael, El Greco, Tintoretto and Rubens.

We also enjoyed, if you can use that term, a special exhibiton of Goya's Pinturas Negras [Black Paintings] which is a series of murals of witches, fights and death scenes. Not a jolly fella was he?

And then Andrew spotted the odd gem from his neck of the woods, a portrait of Robert Butcher of Walthamstow by Thomas Gainsborough.

But the real biggie in this place is Diego Valazquez's Les Meninas from 1656.

Think we still preferred Reina Sofia since it has a better mix of ancient and modern art.

This is the modern entrance to the Prado.

... and what looked like a wing of the Prado on fire!!

A church behind the Prado looked like it was having its stonework cleaned.

And just a little further along we loved the big slate doors on this building.

And just in case you hadn't seen enough art indoors, in Madrid they cater for outside art interest too. Although this wreck of a boat was hardly engaging!!

Since we were at the Prado area of town I wanted to go and see the amazing railway station close by. Noticeable from its semi circular glass front you have to admire how far the architects will go even with their day to day general purpose buildings. It looks pretty special too when lit up at night.

Alas the station has a rather tainted record. Estacion de Atocha to give it it's Sunday name, was the scene of the horrific rail bombings in March 2004 which killed 191 people and injured many more. There's a translucent glass memorial outside throws light down into a chamber on which messages of condolence are kept.

The railway station inside is home to a large tropical garden. It's more like the botanical garden than a railway station.

The fantastic glass front in more detail.

The glass structure outside the station, part of the memorial area.

Madrid also ensures that any government buildings are afforded the same opulence as any other building. The Ministerio de Agricultura is across from the station. Guide books describe it as overblown and hard to miss. Built around 1893 it's crowning glory if you pardon the pun is a striking figure of "Glory" flanked by winged horses!! Only in Madrid!!

1 comment:

Pamela said...

What beautiful buildings.