"El Grande" refers to Saint Francis of Assissi but it could also refer to the size of this neo-classical basilica in the centre of Madrid
(see the church's location on our sights map).
Even bigger than the San Isidro Church (Madrid's Cathedral until 1993, when the Almudena Cathedral was inaugurated),
the Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi is topped by a massive dome measuring 108 feet (33 metres) in diameter
which, surprisingly perhaps for some, is bigger than that of Saint Paul's Cathedral in London and is in
fact the 3rd largest in Europe after those of Saint Peter's and Hagia Sophia, and thus of course the largest in Spain.
Tourist Accommodation Near The San Francisco el Grande Basilica
King Carlos III instigated construction in 1760 (finalised by Francesco Sabatini in 1784 and restored in 1880) on the site of a Franciscan convent allegedly founded by Saint Francis of Assisi in 1217. The seven main doors are made of carved walnut, while the 16th century Gothic choir stalls came from the province of Segovia. But the most outstanding parts of the building are the three chapels adjoining the circular church.
Especially noteworthy is that of San Bernardino de Siena, containing a masterpiece by Goya depicting San Bernardino preaching and Goya himself.
Goya painted the church in several of his works, including in the Prado's "Pradera de San Isidro", showing the dome and bell towers rising above the city's skyline.
Other paintings in the chapels are by Zurbaran and Alonso Cano among others, while the marble sculptures were by Ricardo Bellver and Mariano Benlliure. The frescoes covering the dome and the ceilings were created in Germany, as were the stained-glass windows.