Catedral de Almudena


Madrid became the capital of Spain in 1561. Some people think that the government moved because Madrid is more central geographically, but since Toledo isn’t really that much farther away, I suspect there were other influences as well. It’s located on a high plain in the desert, and it’s one of the few European cities without a navigable river.

Unfortunately for the Catholics (and that was everyone in those days), Madrid did not have a cathedral. While plans were discussed for a long time, construction on the Catedral de Almudena did not start until 1879, and wasn’t finished until 1993!  This makes it one of the most modern cathedrals in Europe, although parts of the church feel quite traditional.

This looks fairly traditional for a church, right?  You can see the ribs, the barrel vaults, the traditional stonework. There is a little bit of ornamentation painted on the ceiling, but it’s certainly nothing like the colors to come!

Just look at that!  I was totally shocked by the ceiling in the nave. Bright, colorful, modern design … it’s fantastic!  The stained glass windows also utilize a very modern design, with large panes of single colors, some of which had abstract designs rather than the usual Saint-So-and-So.

Below is a zoomed-in shot of the ceiling. You can see the bright colors and the geometric designs. Something like this could only be done in a modern church, because medieval churches had no means of lighting a space so high! (You feel this strongly in Notre Dame, where it feels like the church goes up and up forever into the darkness.)

This might be a bit of a silly comment, but I was surpised by how very Catholic the cathedral was. (Remember that America is a largely protestant nation, and my experience with religion is limited.)  I’d always read about how the Protestants hated the gold, gilt and icons of “Popery”, but I can’t say that I’ve every really seen a church that was dripping in that kind of stuff. Until now! 

I can officially say that the cathedral in Madrid is very, very Catholic!  (And of course I mean that in the nicest way, it’s just a different style of cathedral than I’m used it!)  For example…

Now, as I’ve mentioned before, I’ve seen my fair share of churches and cathedrals. And I’m familiar with the “drop a quarter, light a candle” scenario. (In fact, I lit a candle once and felt immediately guilty … maybe I really am a Catholic?)  But here in Madrid, I saw a first.  Electric candles!  You drop a Euro (inflation!) into the box, and it automatically lights up one of these bulbs. Unfortunately you don’t get to pick, and I think they go in order. I particularly enjoy the fake wax dripping down the side of the fake candle. I mean, it’s obvious that it’s fake, but they tried so hard!  Talk about form not following function!

This is the last picture I’m going to post, and I don’t have a particular reason to post it, except that I think it’s humorous. I guess we were all wilting a little bit in the heat!

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Posted on 11/06/2010, in travel, Travel to Europe and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. Beauitiful-such amazing colors. Glad you had a fun trip! Keep the postings coming.

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