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The Royal Convent of La Encarnacion
La Encarnacion is located near the Royal Palace. It was founded in 1611 by Philip III and Margaret of Austria. It was Queen Margaret who was very interested in building the convent, after seeing the results of the Las Descalzas Convent. The royal architect Juan Gomez de Mora was given the job of building the convent. Queen Margaret was the one who chose the nuns to occupy it.
When one visits the convent today, one has to be guided by the official guide in a group and one cannot go wandering by himself. If one is very lucky, one will have a very good guide by the name of Felipe Martinez. He is a tall and handsome man with a regal bearing, impressive in his long navy blue double breasted jacket with gold buttons. What is great about him is his friendliness and his knowledge of art of that time. One can ask him all types of questions and he always will have a friendly answer. From experience, guides in the royal palaces and convents do not have a sense of humor, but Felipe does.
What is very noticeable are in the convent are tiles on the bases of the walls, in a blue and white pattern, with the acanthus motif. They are the same Talavera de la Reina tiles from Toledo that can be seen in El Escorial, since both buildings were built around the same time.
The Hall of the Kings is an impressive room with full length paintings of many kings, queens, and their children. It is unsure who some of the less important people are. There was a very strict protocol when artists painted kings and queens. They had to have a serious mien and the clothes depicted had to be very elaborate to show their regal status. The dresses of the queens seemed to be very rigid because of this protocol. Now one can understand why all the other paintings of royal people in other museums follow the same protocol.
The Relics Chapel is the most interesting part of the convent. It contains the relics of hundreds of saints. During the Reformation, many countries that became Protestant did not want to keep the relics of the saints, since they no longer believed in them. So this convent collected all that they
could. There are display cabinets around the room that contain compartments and caskets containing the relics. The room has a beautiful painted ceiling and also contains 700 items, including reliquaries, oil paintings on copper, polychromed wood, ivory and alabaster carvings, medals and rosaries. St. Pantaleon was an early Christian martyr during the Diocletian persecution of 303 AD. There is a reliquary that holds a flask with his blood, according to tradition. The blood supposedly liquefies on July 27 of every year. Interesting, isn’t it?
The church of the convent is one of the most beautiful in Madrid. It was refurbished by Ventura Rodriguez. The ground plan of the church is in the form of the Latin cross. There is a dome which lets in a lot of light. The paintings on the high altar and two side altars were done by Vincenzo Carducci in 1616. The center painting is The Annunciation and the side paintings are of St. Philip and St. Margaret, in memory of the founders of the convent.
This convent is a must see for people interested in art and history.
Address: Plaza de la Encarnación, 1
Bus: Línes 3, 25, 39 and 148
Metro: Ópera Station, Línes 5 and 2
Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Saturday: 10:30-12:45 H, 16:00-17:45 H
Friday: 10:30-12:45 H
Sundays and holidays: 11:00-13:45 H.