Church of San Antonio de los Alemanes

This Baroque church is well worth a visit, even though it is only open during Mass. It is located at the corner of Calle de la Puebla and Corredera Baja de San Pablo, a short walk from the Gran Vía and the nearest Metro station at Callao.

The principle attraction of the church is its frescos by Luca Giordano and Francisco Ricci. The prolific Neopolitan painter Luca Giordano was made court painter to Charles II of Spain from 1692 to 1702, and during this time he also created works for the Royal Palace and the Buen Retiro Palace.

He was renowned for his speed of painting, and had been nicknamed "Luca-get-it-done-fast" (Luca fà-presto") by his father. On one occasion at the Spanish court, the Queen apparently asked him what his wife looked like, and he proceeded to include her image in the painting he had before him. His style was a mix of the Venetian and Roman.

Francisco Ricci was the son of an Italian painter, and came to Madrid to work on the decorations at the Escurial Monastery under Federico Zuccaro. Together with Juan Carreño de Miranda, he helped to develop the Madrid School of Spanish Baroque before his death in 1685.

The 17th century church itself is built in the Baroque style and was designed by Pedro Sánchez. The highly decorative High Altar and three side altars belong to the 18th century and were commissioned by the last Habsburg kings of Spain.

The church was founded by Felipe III as a refuge and hospital for the many Portuguese immigrants who came to Madrid when Portugal was under Spanish rule. For this reason it was originally called "Hospital de los Portugueses". When Portugal became independent, however, Phillip IV's Queen, Mariana de Austria, dedicated the refuge to German immigrants, and it became known as "San Antonio de los Alemanes", St. Anthony of the Germans. The construction of the church part of this building took place in the 1620's and 1630's.

King Phillip V gave the administration of the church over to the Hermandad del Refugio (Fraternity of Sanctuary), and this group continues to manage it today, offering the homeless people of Madrid food and a place to sleep.

The Church is dedicated to St Anthony of Padua, patron saint of the poor. St. Anthony was born in Lisbon, Portugal in 1198, and became a first an Augustinian, then a Franciscan monk, well-known for his eloquent preaching. He preached in France and Italy and died in Padua in 1231 at the age of 36. Many people believe that St. Anthony can help to find things which have been lost or misplaced.

(Photo courtesy of Madrid Historico)