Church San Manuel y San Benito, Madrid!

Ok so here I am again and another missed in my blog. I will skip my history in Madrid as have many many posts on it. However, only briefly mentioned this church and it was my mom’s favorite and near our home. Oh well as the saying goes , better late than never.

I like to tell you a bit more on the Church San Benito and San Manuel of Madrid.

Near my old home ,apartment or piso in the Calle de Alcalà but further where the church is just across from the Retiro park before arriving at the Puerta de Alcalà lies the Church of San Manuel y San Benito where my mom used to take me as a boy. It is still nostalgic to see it and remind  me of my mother again, always in my mind even if already 13 years passing in France.

The Church of San Manuel and San Benito,is located on Calle de Alcalá, 83, in front of the Retiro Park and was built between 1902 and 1911. The work was intended as a residence and church for the Augustinians Fathers. The patrons of this initiative were the Catalan businessman Manuel Caviggioli and his wife Benita Maurici,(both of Italian descend) who donated the land for this purpose and from whom the church takes its dedication.


It is one of the best examples of Madrid’s Neo-Byzantine architecture, and always a sight from the Retiro park, a must for me to stop ok. The Church of San Manuel and San Benito has a centralized layout of a Greek cross, with a large cupola on pedantries where the four evangelists are symbolically represented. Inside, there is a side chapel de la Epístola, with a white marble altar in the center and the two tombs of the Catalan couple on the sides. Of its facade, the tower stands out, erected in the manner of the Italian bell towers.


The restoration in the last third of the 20C of the Church of San Manuel and San Benito,left it spanking beautiful. The exterior was built in stone and white marble, and the splendid red copper dome. At the corner between the Calle de Alcalá and Calle Lagasca, where the entrances to the church are located, a bell tower with a square floor layout, more than 43 meters high,can be seen.   Again, the white Macael marble in the semicircular apse that houses the High Altar, with ornaments of various colors. Another of the most unique and beautiful details of this temple are the mosaics that adorn the walls and ceilings. And the sculptures that continue to amaze us. In the center of the Altar is the figure of El Salvador (the Saviour) that measures two and a half meters, on the sides of Saints San Agustín and San José, all of them made of Carrara marble.The images of the two lateral chapels, the one on the left, dedicated to Santa Rita, and the one on the right that houses the tombs of the founders. On the central body, the magnificent cupola with mosaics representing the evangelists. At the foot, in the high choir,one of the best organs in Madrid!


The complex as a whole includes the schools of the Caviggioli Foundation, with an entrance on Calle de Columela .This small street istrategically located next to Puerta de Alcalá and the Retiro park, was built on the space it had occupied the bullring of Puerta de Alcalá, demolished in 1874 (for the one in Ventas see post). On its short route on the continuation of Calle de Recoletos that links it with the Paseo de Recoletos, there are side facades of great architecture such as the old palace of the Duke of Abrantes ,and after José de Palafox, on the corner of Calle Serrano, and the Caviggioli Foundation schools, next to the Church of San Manuel and San Benito.

A bit of the story on the protagonists, Manuel Caviggioli and his wife Benita Maurici, of humble Italian origin, were born in Barcelona, he in 1825, she in 1819. It is not well known how they forged a great fortune. They settled in Madrid from youth, they managed to enter the most aristocratic circles. Don Manuel planned to build a pantheon temple that, once deceased, would keep his remains, as well as a residence for a religious community that would be in charge of directing a foundation whose purpose would be the free instruction of the working class. He died in 1901, and it was his widow, Doña Benita, who finally launched the project. Don Manuel and Doña Benita used part of their money to build the church and the school, entrusted to the Augustinian Fathers. In return, in the future, they should remember them in their prayers by celebrating masses and funerals monthly and on special dates. Along with the couple’s undoubtedly good intentions and religious beliefs, there was a desire to perpetuate their memory and record their power. They did all this. The first stone of the so-called Church of El Salvador -after San Manuel and San Benito, in honor of their promoters-, and of the free schools, was laid and blessed in 1903. Doña Benita died the following year, so she could not see the work finished either. Fulfilling her wishes, on December 30, 1910, the transfer of the coffins from the Almudena cemetery to the new temple took place. On January 1, 1911, the official inauguration took place in the Church of San Manuel y San Benito.

The School functioned until the beginning of the Spanish Civil War in 1936. The church, convent and classrooms became a dance hall, warehouse, commissary, public library, and headquarters of the Communist Party, among other things. Today it houses the sacristy, parish offices, classrooms for cultural activity and other rooms. The complex is surrounded by gardens and a beautiful wrought iron fence, which from the Retiro offers a spectacular view. Indeed I come up by here to see the fence gate always.

One of the nice off the beaten path monument of my Madrid and located in one of the most visible areas by the Puerta de Alcalà and Retiro park! It is always memorable for me to visit again, and hope you get the chance to do so, it is a very nice church inside.

The official Church of San Manuel y San Benito in Spanish: Official Church San Manuel y San Benito

The tourist office of Madrid on the Church of San Manuel y San Benito in English: Tourist office Madrid on Church San Manuel y San Benito

Hope you get to see it and let me know about, one nice off the beaten path monument in my Madrid. As we said, From Madrid to heavens and a hole in the sky to look down on it everyday!

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


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