Here’s a little church that, from the outside, doesn’t really attract attention. Dedicated to Saint Anthony of Padua and built by the architect Filippo Fontana at the end of the 18th century at the request of Charles IV, the San Antonio de la Florida Chapel hides a true marvel: a grandiose pictoral ensemble painted by Francisco de Goya (1746-1828). The famous painter painted the frescoes of the dome, apse and cornice in 1798.
It took Goya less than six months to complete this fresco depicting the miracle of St. Anthony. But here the painter defied the usual rules of religious art. If traditionally one represents men below and the celestial world above, Goya did the opposite by placing the angels on the lower part, supporting the dome where the world of men is located.
This whole little world is a representation of the 18th-century Madrid society: it shows the common people as well as the aristocrats and bourgeoisie. And what I like the most: some unusual details like children trying to step over the railing or characters who seem to be watching us.
Conceived at that time as a place of pilgrimage on the outskirts of Madrid, this chapel is now a museum that people visit to admire the Master’s frescoes. A replica of the church was built across the street to accommodate religious services.
The Goya grave
The interest of the San Antonio de la Florida Chapel is not only limited to the paintings. It also contains the tomb of the artist, who was repatriated there in 1919, more than ninety years after his death! Goya died in Bordeaux in 1828 after a tumour and a serious fall on the stairs.
Initially buried in the Bordeaux cemetery of the Chartreuse, Goya’s body was exhumed in 1899 and transferred to Madrid, first to the crypt of the collegiate church of Saint-Isidore, then to a mass grave in the Sacramental of San Isidro before finally resting under the dome he had painted one hundred and twenty years earlier.
Glorieta de San Antonio de la Florida, 5
Tuesday to Sunday, 9:30 am to 8 pm
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