Cathedral, Basilica, Ermita, Temple, Museum and CaixaForum
29.09.2009 - 03.10.2009 23 °C
The Royal Palace and Royal Theatre are omitted from the subtitle because I did not visit them, although I had planned to do so. The Royal Theatre only had guided visits in Spanish for about an hour, which I felt was a bit more than my Spanish would stand. The Palace had tours in English but it would mean waiting about two hours or returning. I meant to return after a look at the Cathedral and the Basilica de San Francisco el Grande (St Francis of Assisi). Howeevr, having walked to the cathedral and realised the sheer size of the Palace I changed my mind.
Initially I had not thought a visit to the Cathedral Museum was my cup of tea but, having missed out on the above two visits and having noticed that the Cathedral Museum ticket also gave access to the Cupola, I changed my mind. The views from the Cupola were terrific. One of the most stiking buildings was the above basilica with the fourth largest dome in Europe. Then the descent led to the cathedral itself. I have been to many cathedrals and my interest in ecclesiastical architecture is as great as my enthusiasm for religion is small - VERY in each case. This cathedral was only inaugurated (if that is what one does to cathedrals) in the 1990s and the mixture of traditional Baroque with very modern was unique and fascinating.
I had already visited the Ermita de San Antonio de Florida, where the main interest for me was the painting by Goya - a total contrast with the 'Black Paintings' at the Prado. The fact that his remains lay there did not add to the appeal! I had also visited the Templo de Debod, a genuine Egyptian temple of the second century BCE donated by the Egyptian Government as a thankyou for Spanish help with the Aswan Dam. I found it rather more interesting than I had expected.
I was disappointed to find that the Basilica de San Francisco had unusual visiting hours and that having missed the early session i could not get in until 17.30. I took the Metro to Serano to see the Archaeological Museum. This was being extended and will be excellent when the work is finished. meanwhile there is free entry to a single large exhibition hall. If the exhibits on show are typical of their collections, it will make a superb visit.
My desire to see the Basilica de San Francisco was strengthened by the fact that I could walk back via the Cava Baja, a road with a million or so good restaurants - or so it seemed. I arrived to find that a talk was being given in Spanish by an official guide and to my surprise my Spanish was up t most of it so I joind the group and went all round the rooms behind the Basilica.
I did not see the CaixaForum (sic) until my final morning. It is a free cultural centre without any permanent collection but with stunning exhibition halls. The exhibition on at the time was one about the works of Richard Rogers, the Architect and with any number of models and literally hundreds of photographs it was excellent - and I repeat free.
There is also a fine auditorium which is used frequently for concerts. I thought it a great asset for Madrid. Outside it there is a most fascinating vertical garden by Patrick Blanc with 15,000 plants of 250 different species.