Archive for August 23rd, 2018

August 23, 2018

Iglesia de Santa María or of Santa María la Mayor in Alcalà de Henares!

At the end of the day past all the main tv shows, let me tell you about a nice Church with a nice anecdote for us while visiting Alcalà de Henares in the Comunidad de Madrid. I will be talking about the Church of Saint Mary or Saint Mary the Major.

This is a smallish city but it is pack with monuments of a rich history and great architecture compact in the city center. We have always arrived by car into an underground parking San Lucas (Plaza San Lucas)  outside the old town and just walk in very easily to see all on foot. The best combination possible anywhere.

Let me start, and even if written bits of it in my other Alcalà de Henares posts, really deserves a post on its own; here it goes.

The Church of Saint Mary or Iglesia de Santa María or of Santa María la Mayor is the denomination that has had two buildings throughout history in the city of Alcalá de Henares. Of the old Church of Santa Maria, located south of the Plaza de Cervantes , in front of the city/town hall, there is only the design of its plant marked on the ground and two parts that have been restored: the tower and a chapel. This, called the (Capilla de los Oidos) Chapel of the Ears, of Mudejar decoration, contains a baptismal font specially celebrated for being in which Miguel de Cervantes (Don Quijote writer author) was baptized; It is currently destined for temporary exhibitions and the “universes of Cervantes” interpretation Center , sort of a museum to understand the work of Cervantes. This Chapel was built at the beginning of the 15C by King Juan II of Castilla, in what was then a hermitage under the patronage of San Juan de los Caballeros (Saint John of the Knights) or of Letran. And that in 1454 Bishop Carrillo made the Church under the patronage of St. Mary. For centuries, the towers of St. Mary and the Holy Children (Santos Niños) represented the duality institutional of City Hall and University. The first as a parish Church and the second as Magisterial. The Stork’s Nest of the tower is protected, which obliges to restrict the scaling visits in breeding season. This Church was destroyed at the beginning of the Spanish Civil War by 1936.

After the war, the denomination of Church of Santa Maria La Mayor was applied to the Church of the former Jesuit college: the Colegio Maximo of the Company of Jesus, current Faculty of Law of the University of Alcalá, in the Calle Libreros (booksellers). This building, started in 1567, interrupted its construction until 1602-1620, when thanks to donations from the Mendoza family was terminated, in the absence of the façade. Its style is the conventional of the Jesuit churches of Italian influence. Four statues of Saint Peter, Saint Paul, Saint Ignatius and Saint Francis Xavier stand out on the façade. The connection to the Mendoza is attested by the presence of its heraldic shield. The main altarpiece, baroque, is the work of the Jesuit Francisco Bautista; His paintings were destroyed in the Spanish Civil war and were replaced by new ones, of the Parishioner Manuel Palero.

Alcala de Henares

Alcala de Henares

Alcala de Henares

First, it testifies to the early splendor of the company of Jesus founded by Ignatius of Loyola in the transit of the Renaissance to the Baroque, in that city that attracted the founder on his return from the Holy Land and, in whose Hospital of Antezana at Calle Mayor, still remains the Kitchen where he prepared his meals. As usual, the architectural model of the Gesu in Rome is omnipresent; a Latin cross plant with a large presbytery, a cupola on the transept and a side chapel connected to each other. For the façade, the Roman Church of San Giacomo deli Incurable   was taken as a reference. The temple is a symbol of the reformation and served as an example for successive  Jesuit Churches. Like other conventual spaces in Alcalá de Henares, the collegiate building became a cavalry barracks until the 80’s of the 20C when it was rehabilitated to host the Faculty of Law, inaugurated in 1991.

Alcala de Henares

Alcala de Henares

Annexed to the Church is the Chapel of the Santas Formas (holy forms), from the 17C, decorated in 1699 by Juan Vicente Ribera, and which was added a sacristy in the early 18C

Alcala de Henares

I have several webpages that I believe offers great information even if some in Spanish on the subject of these Churches. These are

Church on Costasur webpage of Alcala de Henares

Webpage on main Street on the Church and Alcalà de Henares

Local effort on tourism and the Church Saint Mary

Official city of Alcala de Henares on tourist sites

Tourist office of Alcala de Henares on Chapel of Listeners

Tourist office of Alcala de Henares on Tower of St Mary

Tourist office of Alcala de Henares on tourist sites

Center of Interpretation Cervantes on Church St Mary

Well , this is an unique Church with a lot more history that is actually available online but I hope gave you enough to get a more complete picture of it, the Tower of St Mary ,remaining of old Church, and the Chapel as well as the Hospital Antezana (where Cervantes father was a surgeon doctor) and the Cervantes interpretation center.

Alcala de Henares

Alcala de Henares

Alcala de Henares

The anecdote is that by the side of the Church there is a tapas bar offering tapas for as little as one euro and a glass of beer for 70 cents! La Gitana Loca, (the crazy gipsy) and this I have spread the words to my family and friends in Madrid and are livid about it, just wonderful place indeed. And yes even this wrote about it before in my blog, bet you have not notice lol!  See it here again! La Gitana Loca

Alcala de Henares

Enjoy the visit, and remember, happy travels, good health, and many cheers to all!!!



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August 23, 2018

Cathédrale Notre Dame de Reims!

So we go there a must to visit, one of the greatest Cathedrals ever, more history in it you can have a lifetime to trace. It is not only for the kings althought that is a big part but also the French resistance in WWI, and a symbol of France to the world. This is the Cathédrale Notre Dame de Reims (Notre Dame Cathedral), in the department 51 of the Marne, new region of Grand Est (old Champagne-Ardennes).

I have come here several times since early days in France circa 1990; the family youngs came here to make some early money in the vineyards and the maternal grandmother of my dear late wife Martine,  is the one who told me to come visit. It has been a love affairs ever since. I have written on Reims several posts but the one most identify with the Cathedral is below:

The Cathédrale of Notre-Dame de Reims, in the Department  51 of the Marne, Region Grand East (ancient Champagne-Ardennes). Its construction began in the early 13C.  Consecrated to the Virgin Mary, the Cathedral of Reims was completed in the 14C.  This is one of the major achievements of Gothic art in France, both for its architecture and for its statuary, which has 2 303 statues.


A bit of history I like

According to Flodoard, Nicaise, Bishop of Reims, founded the first Cathedral in the early 5C, probably around 401AD, on ancient Gallo-Romain baths. It lies not far from the previous Basilica, that of the Holy Apostles erected under Bétause. It was before the door of his Cathedral, already dedicated to the Virgin Mary, that Nicaise would have been decapitated by the vandals in 407 or by the Huns in 451(depending from whom). The term “Sainte-Marie” suggests that the second date is the right one, since St. Mary Major, is considered the first Church consecrated to Mary, dates from the year 430. The building then measures about 20 meters wide  on 55 meters long. This is where Clovis ‘ baptism takes place, by Bishop Remi of Reims(later Saint Remi), on December 25th(Christmas Day). The year of this celebration is debatable and is located between 496 and 499 (From family the first year is the most correct). In 816, Louis the Pious was the first French monarch crowned in Reims, by Pope Stephen IV and the last 1825: Charles X by Bishop Jean-Baptiste de Latil.

Archbishop Ebbon continued the work until 846, under the episcopate of Hincmar. The Archbishop adorns the interior of the building with gilding, mosaics, paintings, sculptures and tapistries. He consecrated this second Cathedral in 862 in the presence of Charles the Bald. The new building is 86 meters long and has two transepts. At the beginning of the 10C, an ancient crypt dating from the first Cathedral was discovered, unobstructed and renovated before being consecrated to Saint Remi. This crypt is the “initial nucleus” from which each Cathedral is built, thus the altar has been located in the same place for more than fifteen centuries!!. In addition to this work to the west of the Cathedral, a new Choir and Chapels are beginning to be built to the east of the Cathedral. The building measures 110 meters in length. At the end of the century, the nave and the transept were of Carolingian style, while the bedside in construction and the façade were of the first Gothic art. It is known, however, that Archbishop Albéric de Humbert poses the first stone of a new Cathedral in 1211, the fire destroying the previous building. Four architects succeeded each other on the construction site, the main work of which was completed in 1275. The Kings Charles VIII and then Louis XII, sacred in the Cathedral, provide financial support for the reconstruction, unlike their predecessor Louis XI. They grant in particular a royal grant, corresponding to part of the salt tax. As a thank-you, the new roof is topped with fleur de Lys and the Royal coat of arms is affixed to the top of the bedside. This decoration is nevertheless suspended in 1516, the work is stopped before the completion of the arrows.

The political power of the Archbishops of Reims culminated in Henry I in 1027 to definitively set the place of the coronation in Reims. All the kings of France were made sacred in the city of Reims, with the exception of seven of them  :  Hugh Capet at the Cathedral of Notre-Dame de Noyon or at the Cathedral of Notre-Dame de Reims in 987 by Adalberon, Archbishop of Reims;  Robert II at the Cathedral of St. Croix d’Orléans in 987 by Adalberon, Archbishop of Reims;  Louis VI at the Cathedral of St. Croix d’Orléans in 1108 by Dagobert, Archbishop of Sens; John I (died immediately after his birth);  Henri IV at the Cathedral of Notre-Dame de Chartres in 1594 by Nicolas de Thou, Bishop of Chartres; Louis XVIII (was not sacred); Louis-Philippe I (King of the French, is not a sacrament).  When Louis IX was crowned in 1226, the Cathedral as we know it today is still under construction. The coronation of Charles VII in 1429 is of particular importance, in that it reverses the course of the Hundred Years ‘ War thanks to the tenacity of Joan of Arc, whose statue sits on the Cathedral Square.  The Cathedral glorifies royalty. On the façade, in the center of the Gallery of Kings composed of 56 statues with a height of 4.5 meters, Clovis throne surrounded by his wife Clotilde and Remi.

On 8 October 2016, a plaque with the names of the thirty-one Sacred kings in Reims is set up in the Cathedral in the presence of Mgr Thierry Jordan, Archbishop of Reims, and Prince Louis de Bourbon, one of the present contenders to the throne of France (legitimate king Louis XX).

The troubles of the French Revolution have not reached the extent that we have seen elsewhere with only some statues  broken, gates torn away, the scepter and the hand of justice burned. The cathedral is turned into a forage store and the project to demolished it  is quickly abandoned.

The Franco-German reconciliation was symbolically formalized in July 1962 by Charles de Gaulle and Konrad Adenauer under the vaults of the Cathedral of Reims which was intentionally bombarded in 1914 by the German Army in order to break the French moral.  The Cathedral of Reims was described as a “martyr’s Cathedral”. Pope John Paul II, during his pastoral visit to France, came to the Cathedral of Reims on September 22, 1996 to celebrate the 1 500th anniversary of the baptism of Clovis.

Today, the bell tower have only two bells: Marie (7 and a half tons) and Charlotte (11 tons). These two bells are now very seldom used, so that they can preserve the fragile state to which the structure is still subjected; and that the vibrations generated by the sound of the bells could worsen.  Total length of the Cathedral is  149  meters, inside length: 138 meters, height of the nave: 38 meters, height of the two facade towers: 81.50 meters, height of the tower to the Angel (tour à l’ange): 87 meters, width of the western facade: 49 meters. Rosaries windows; the diameter of the West rosary is 12.5 meters , diameter of the northern rosary is  9.65 meters, diameter of the south rosary is  9.65 meters.

A bit introduction to the interior as it can be lenthly, brief:

The Cathedral of Reims is built on a plane in a slightly adapted Latin cross: The three-vessel nave is crossed by a transept, also with three vessels. However, the bedside retains the width of the transept. This allows the placement of two parallel-oriented Chapels of the right Choir , of which they are separated by an ambulatory. This one opens on five radiant Chapels, the axe Chapel being a little deeper than the other four. Vaults of quadripartite warheads cover the entire building. All the same at nearly 82 meters high. The orientation of the Cathedral follows a south-west-northeast axis. The Cathedral is therefore oriented not towards the Orient, but on the axis of the summer Solstice.  The elevation is three stories in the nave, the transept and the choir. Large arcades separate the main ship from the collateral. Above the large arcades, a triforium and high windows chant the wall. The Cathedral of Reims introduces a new window model, the reformed window or window-frame: composed of two lancets surmounted by a rose, it is independent of the architecture.


A brief tour of the Chapels as I like them.

The Chapel of St. John, located under the arm of the south transept, contains the great altarpiece, aka Altar of the Apostles. It dates from 1541. It represents the resurrection and the Virgin of Pity. In the center of the lower register is a Pietà, in the center of the upper register a triumphant Christ and in the pediment the eternal Father being capped with a tiara. The bluish cross that overcomes it was that which was on the beam of glory of the rood of the Cathedral.

The Chapel of Saint Joseph, it is dedicated to Joseph, son of Jacob. His limestone altar is carved from three scenes of Joseph’s life. The blue and gilded silver coin carries the weapons of the biblical character. The ground is paved with scenes of Joseph’s life drawn by lead threads encrusted in stone; They are divided into two groups of ten pieces.

The Chapel of the Sacré-Coeur, the stained-glass windows are the work of Imi Knoebel. The golden and red altar, which rests on a black marble, is surmounted by a golden Christ. The walls and niches are still painted.

The Chapel of the Blessed Sacrament or Chapel of the Virgin, this chapel is located at the beginning of the ambulatory around the choir, on the north side.  It includes a statue of the Virgin of the Immaculate Conception, made in 1742.  The altar with circular pediment is supported by four marble columns dating back to 1741.  On the ground before the altar is the tombstone of Cardinal Robert de Lenoncourt, 78th Archbishop of Reims (1534-1552) who has sacred king François I.

And a bit on the exteriors as can be lenghtly as well.

The western façade:  The Cathedral of Reims has a very rich statuary. The number of statues adorning it is indeed 2 303. The building is distinguished by a rare unit of style, despite a construction that stretched over more than two hundred years (mainly in the 13C) the central portal has as its general theme the Virgin and its glorification, which is exceptional. It is usually the Christ Savior, the cornerstone of the Church, which is located at the middle of the main gate to welcome the visitor;   The right gate is dedicated to the end of time and the Last Judgement; The portal on the left includes Saints and Martyrs. You can see the statue of the angel in the smile, emblem of the city of Reims.


At 50 meters from the ground, on the western side, is the Gallery of Kings with, in the center, the baptism of Clovis. Below, we can observe the story of David’s fight against Goliath. The statue of Goliath, which is more than five meters high (it is the largest of the statues of the façade), is currently in the Palace of Tau, which adjoins the Cathedral. Just above the great gate is a copy of the Coronation of the Virgin. The original of this grandiose ensemble is also at the Palais du Tau. (worth seeing it too).  Facade of the south transept the South rose of the transept is flanked by two statues: on one side, the Church, on the other, the Synagogue which is recognized by its blindfolds.  Despite the successive destructions begun in the 18C, the Cathedral still has many 13C stained-glass windows, grouped in the high parts of the nave, the choir and the transept.



The Cathedral has two organs, the great organ on a rostrum above the entrance to the north porch, and the choir organ (smaller) in the nave.  The great organ: the buffet dates from the 15C, partly destroyed by a fire in 1481, it was rebuilt by Ojo-Heystre in 1487, then by Jean Thury in 1647. The buffet is topped by a blessing Christ and by two musicians Angels. The Choir organ is the work of the cabinetmaker Étienne-Gabriel Vantadour in the middle of the 19C, after WWI a gift of the Countess Werlé ,a game of Charles Mutin was added. Inaugurated in October 1926, it found its place in the Choir in May 1927 during the opening to the public of the nave of the Cathedral. It features two keyboards and a 17-game crankset.

And finally, there is crest of ridge of the roof adorned with an alternation of clovers and Fleurs de Lys, recalling that the Cathedral was the place of the coronation of the Kings of France. Suppressed and destroyed in the French revolution, these elements were restored in 1924-1926 during the reconstruction that followed the destruction of WWI (Great War).

I will give several webpages to help you plan your trip here,probably repeated some from other previous blog posts. Hope it helps you enjoy this jewel of my belle France.

Official Cathedral of Reims :

Official Friends of the Cathedral of Reims:

Tourist office of Reims :

City of Reims on the Cathedral in French :

Tourist office dept 51 Marne on the Cathedral in English :

The region of Champagne-Ardennes (now Grand Est) on the Cathedral in English:

And there you go, you have all you need for a splendid trip here, and again very much recommended. The Palais de Tau next over is an antiquity museum very much worth seeing too while visiting the Cathedral as well. Enjoy it.

And remember, happy travels, good health, and many cheers to all!!!

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