The Basilica of San Francisco el Grande

Near the Royal Palace, there is the Basilica of San Francisco el Grande, which is dedicated to Our Lady of the Angels. The exterior of the church is in the neo-classic style and the facade of this church is simple and modest. St. Francis of Assissi came to Spain in 1214 on a pilgrimage to the tomb of St. James in Santiago de Compostela. He built a modest home for his companions and himself where the church now stands. In 1760 the building was demolished to build a bigger church. The building was finished in 1784 under the direction of Francisco Sabatini, the architect of the Royal Palace. There is a small fee to enter the church and a guide explains everything. Once one enters the church, one is overwhelmed by the beauty of the church.

It has the biggest dome (33 m) of any church in Spain. The inside of the dome has beautiful large paintings. There are seven chapels, and each chapel has three very large paintings, all done by famous artists. One of them was Goya (St. Bernardine of Siena). Two of the large paintings were done by artists from Malaga, namely Jose Moreno Carbonero and Antonio Muñoz Degrain.

The main chapel has its paintings flanked by pilasters that are gilded and topped with Corinthian decorations. There are two Renaissance pulpits made of carved white marble. Each has four panels decorated with motifs in gilded bas-relief, inspired by the life of St. Francis. Around the rotunda are 12 statues of the apostles, that are 2.85 m high. There is a very good French organ at the back of the church on the upper level. They built a false organ so that the case would match that of the real one so that the look from below would be symmetrical. There are cloisters and a sacristy in the back that have 49 paintings done by famous artists, and these paintings mostly deal with the life of St. Francis. One can also find many beautifully carved choir chairs.

After the Law of Secularization of 1835, the Franciscan friars were thrown out and the church became government property. The present owner is the Foreign Affairs Ministry. The Franciscans still say Mass everyday in the church, but they are not allowed to do any maintenance. The church has been under very slow restoration for the last 30 years. Some of the murals near the ceiling have been damaged by water seeping. This is a pity that the church cannot be completely restored immediately. However the church is probably one of the most beautiful churches in Spain.

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