One thing Spain does better than many other countries, is offer magnificent buildings to see, and learn about. One such building is the Basilica de San Francisco El Grande, or church of San Francisco in Madrid. When it comes to the most important places to see in Madrid, this is right up there at the top of the list. To get an idea of how massive this building, the dome atop the church of San Francisco is larger than that on St. Paul’s Cathedral. It is architecturally astounding. Inside the church are a number of sculptures and paintings that are a dream to view for art lovers.
Created with Neo-classical design, the church of San Francisco towers over a portion of old Madrid. The dome roof is a massive portion of the three-sectioned building. And while it looks large from the outside, you cannot really understand the magnitude of it until you view the 108 foot open ceiling from the inside. The interior is a vision, decorated with highly-detailed stained glass windows and frescoes. Considered one of the most beautiful cathedrals in all of Europe, it is a sight that leaves many in awe.
When it comes to the history of the basilica, it was created under the reign of Carlos III in 1760. Even the grounds the church was built on had a religious history, having been a Franciscan convent in the past. It is believed the original convent was founded by St. Francis of Assisi himself in 1217. The entryway is a set of seven hand carved, fantastic walnut doors that take guests inside the chapels.
If you enter one of the three doors nearest the circular portion of the building, you may find the San Bernardino de Siena chapel. Look at the paintings on the wall here. One is a Goya painting of the saint, the other is a self-portrait from Goya.
While the church may not have been constructed until the middle of the 18th century, that does not mean everything inside is from the 18th century. On the contrary, many of the items in the church are much, much older. Even the choir stalls are from the 16th century, gothic pieces from Segovia.
In addition to the Goya paintings in the San Bernardino de Siena, there are other painted masterpieces by artists such as Maella, Cano, and Zurbarán, not to mention beautiful sculptures in marble by artists such as Benlliure and Bellver.
While it may seem like the church is more of an art sanctuary, with so many masterpieces inside, it is also a fully operational cathedral. While visitors are welcome, they will be accompanied by a guide and are asked to remain silent as a sign of respect as they pass through.
When you are planning your sightseeing tour schedule, the church of San Francisco is easy to get to. It is located in the Plaza de San Francisco el Grande, and can be accessed from the La Latina of Puerta del Toledo Metro stops.