The first European Cathedral my primate foot set upon was in Madrid, Spain. First of all, let me start out by saying, España, te amo. Tienes buena gente, vistas bonissimas, y la comida mejor del mundo. Okay. Now that that’s out of the way (and frankly it should go double for Catalonia, so just go read this post and think that thought softly to yourself.) We were pretty severely bedraggled after getting married, partying all night, then an early morning drive to Houston to catch a longish overnight flight to Madrid when we first arrived. Frankly our first day on the continent was spent sleeping, followed by a quick break for sandwiches (ay! Cién Montaditos! Te amo. Eres la comida rapida necesito en mí vida todo los días.) followed by more sleeping.
After a quick reconnoiter for breakfast and bearings-getting, we made our way to the center of Spanish Royalty. In Madrid, the Cathedral of St. Mary of the Wall (a visage of St. Mary appeared at the city wall during the Moorish invasion, if my history is right) is situated directly across from the Palacio Real. The Palacio was closed, so it was onto the Cathedral.
The Cathedral provided some rather stunning vistas of Madrid, and being a newer Cathedral, the Gothic Revival architecture and somewhat modern approach to the relief carvings was immensely interesting. I felt like we lived in a place where the ancient coexisted with the modern when we were in South Korea, but frankly, I feel as if Spain is really the place where ancient culture transcends modern aesthetic more than any other place I’ve ever been.
Foodies will speak of a food’s terroir, meaning you can taste a little bit of the earth that it was grown/raised in/on. I feel like Cathedral churches do that too, showing you a little bit of the zeitgeist of when and where they were built. If you’re familiar even distantly with 19th-20th century Spanish history, you know if was a rough time. I feel like this church, much like the works of Pablo Picasso, Goya, and other Spanish painters, captured a moment of stunning beauty in a clime of general difficulty and despair.
I remember remarking about how the art style of the iconography in this Cathedral wasn’t dissimilar to what I’ve seen in my hometown of San Antonio, Texas – which was once of course part of Spain. While the scale of the building is far greater than anything we have in my sleepy little hometown, the religious core, what the carvings of the saints, Mary, and Christ himself look like, are very similar.
As with any cathedral church, the verticality of this building was absolutely stunning.
I found the angular design and bold colors of the stained glass to be quintessentially Spanish, and the modernity of the glass contrasted starkly with the statuary and classic design of the altar.
I feel like a second post will be necessary to talk about the Crypt at Santa Maria de la Almudena. We had to stop for lunch in between visits, as it was just a bit too much to take in at once. You can look forward to that in a future post. This post unfortunately, has gone a bit long, but I feel like this Cathedral deserves it.