Our last full day in Madrid….having said goodbye to our daughter/sister the day before (crazy girl got back to her abode Saturday night, worked on Sunday, then jumped back on the train to Munich Sunday night to catch Birmingham-rooted band St. Paul and the Broken Bones in a concert there….)
I had hoped to get up early and perhaps hit an 8:30 Mass, purportedly being celebrated at San Francisco el Grande…
(The earliest Mass I could find even sort of close in Madrid….it seemed to me that in most churches, the earliest Sunday morning Mass was 11.)
But you know what happened, right?
Madrilenos streaming in waves under my window until 3AM…all about that bass from that club down the block…so I didn’t awake until 9 or so. Oh, well…what happens, happens, and there’s always a reason. I don’t get stressed (much) about scheduling and plans during travel anymore. There’s so much to see, and if you miss what you planned to see…there’s always something else to see, isn’t there? And it’s not as if there’s only one interesting church in Madrid, Spain.
So, once I roused everyone, we headed to ……another church on my list. San Antonio de los Alemanes. Every wall and the ceiling was extravagantly painted, which was a bit of a change from the usual Spanish baroque pattern of carved, decorated main and side altars. We arrived about ten minutes after the schedule Mass time, at which point, the priest was well into his homily, which he continued for quite a while. There were, as was the case the previous Sunday at another church, about thirty in attendance.
They must be restoring the sanctuary.
We made a brief stop back at the apartment, then continued on (walking) to the National Archaeological Museum (in the same building as the Biblioteca Nacional). It was a free admission day, so the line to get in was quite long – about halfway down the block – but moved quickly, so in about twenty minutes, we were in. (Which was good, because it was after noon, and the museum was to close at 3).
It was an excellent museum. One of the best of its type I’ve ever visited. I’m not kidding – it’s a model for others, I’d say.
You begin (if you like) by gathering in front a large relief map of Spain. Above the map, a series of slides is shown, slides that move through all the eras covered in the museum. As an era and its characteristics are flashed on the screen, the relevant sites light up on the map. From prehistory through the Bronze Age through Roman Hispania through the modern era, it was an engaging overview.
From there, you tour the quite extensive collection which is curated and displayed with an eye to historical progression and clarity. All placards are offered in both Spanish and English. The video offerings which introduce each era are quite sophisticated and not at all lame, as you might sometimes find in a museum. Honestly, if you’re going to Madrid, I’d make this museum your #2 stop after the Prado, even before the other art museums. It’s that well done, and it gives you such a valuable understanding of Spanish history and the Spanish self-understanding.
These were bronze tablets erected in towns by Romans displaying various laws and statues.
We could have stayed longer, but of course the place closed at 3. I wish we’d gone earlier in the week and had given it more time – we saw probably 3/4 of the place. So we ate lunch, then headed back to the Prado. I had purchased a “visit twice in one year” ticket the first time, and children are free, so why not?
We caught some pieces we’d missed, primarily the wing dedicated to Venetians, revisited Ribera, Velasquez and Bosch, and found the back hallway dedicated to an exhibit called, “Hoy Toca el Prado,” in which a few paintings from the collection are reproduced in a sort of relief, for the benefit of the blind. It’s received some international press, but was actually quite small, and, as I said, off in a side hallway, so…good work, Prado marketing!
Appropriately, a painting about Vulcan. (there’s a Birmingham connection…look it up.)
Then…..back to the Puerto del Sol, Plaza Mayor and parts around and in between to pick up some more souvenirs and just soak it all in….
The big stuff is great, but it’s the smaller corners that say “Europe” to me, and that I remember most.
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