Spanish version

Basilica San Francisco el Grande

Plaque commemorating Saint Francis´stayAs the legend goes, Saint Francis of Assisi lived in a tent here on his pilmgrimage to Santiago de Compostela in 1217 and built a small hermitage.This area was then outside of themedieval city.

Later it was decided to built a bigger church and convent to honor Saint Francis, San Francisco. One of the architechts involved in the project was Sabatini.
The church was built in 1784, but the decoration is from 1884. The church is dedicated to the Virgen of the Angels.

When the court was established in Madrid, the church was used for many official ceremonies.

King Carlos III admired Saint Francis very much and decided that the church dedicated to him had to be more impressive. The convent was demolished and a new one build with a big  dome. With 33m diameter, it is one of the biggest in the world. It was built following the design of Rome´s Pantheon and the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem. Brother Francisco Cabezas designed the new dome with an innovative project for the time. Until then the vaults were made with false plaster ceilings hanging from wooden beams.

Another architect, Ventura Rodriguez, was angry that his project had not been chosen for the church. As a member of the Academy he obstructed Brother Cabezas´design. Eventually Brother Cabezas gave in and went to Valencia where he died in 1763. Different architects were then involved in the project but none of them was able to build the dome. Finally King Carlos III asked Sabatini to finish the church.

During the War of Independence, general Murat´s troops lived in the church after expelling the monks. In 1812 it became a hospital.
After the war, the franciscans returned to the convent until the Ecclesiastical Confiscation put into practise by San Francisco el Grande Mendizabal. They were expelled and the church was closed.

The convent became an infantry headquarter and the church was opened again.
In 1869 the government wanted to turn it into a national mausoleum and many significant characters of Spanish history were buried in the church. But a few years later, the idea was abandoned and the remains were returned to their original burial places.In 1926 Alfonso XIII returned it to the franciscans.

In 1965 it was given the title of minor basilica.
The building underwent many restaurations and modifications, the last one in 2001.
Inside it has seven chapels, where we can see works by the most important painters like Bayeu, Zurbaran and Goya.

The basilica is located in Plaza San Francisco, 11.

@Copyright 2008, 2009 Mª Dolores Diehl Busch. All rights reserved.
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