Europe in January 2017 – The Fifth Day

After yesterday’s infusion of culture we return to some ‘sight-seeing’ today, and the intrepid travellers sallied forth in search of something quintessentially Spanish: bull-fighting!

Our destination this morning was the Plaza de Toros in the suburb of Las Ventas.

The facade of the Plaza de Toros, Las Ventas

Having reached our destination, we were faced with an imposing edifice (as the photo shows) which fronted a large space dedicated to this aspect of traditional Spanish life that has been exported to many other places both near and far. Our visit included the Museao Taurino, which highlighted the many positive (?) aspects of bull-fighting in Spanish life, as well as the opportunity to walk into the ring (ruedo) itself.

Perhaps the strangest part of the whole experience was hearing the word “liturgy” used in connection with the event of a bull-fight. For the life of me I can’t understand how anything connected with the killing of a living entity could be linked to the word “liturgy”: ritual, yes, but liturgy, no.

The other thing that struck about our visit to the Plaza de Toros was the sheer lack of numbers. Granted we were there when the gates (literally) opened, and it seemed to be that a goodly number of a fellow visitors were from outside Spain, but I wonder if either a) the Spanish are moving away from this aspect of their history and culture, or b) they are so engaged with it that they don’t feel the need to visit the Plaza except when there is a “spectacular” (as each event is named). I don’t have an answer to the doubt, but I would certainly like to know.

After our visit to the Plaza de Toros, we ventured forth to the Ermita de San Antonio de la Florida (the Royal Chapel of Saint Anthony of Florida) which is known, and renown, for two things: firstly, the ceiling and dome frescoes are by non other than Francisco Goya (whose works of art we had also seen during yesterday’s visit to the Museo Nacional de la Prado), and secondly, because it is the place where he was buried, after being transferred from Bordeaux where he had died. A small building, Goya’s artistic treatment of the dome and ceiling transforms the building into something uniquely beautiful and transcendent. Following Goya’s burial in the building it became necessary for a replica (or parallel) version of the Ermita to built next door in order for the local parish to have a functional building in which to celebrate the liturgy of the Church.

Following the Ermita, we intrepid travellers walked back towards the centre of the city, stopping at a ceramic shop featuring works original and hereditary works from across several provinces of Spain (the store owner we spoke to was the fourth generation of his family to have worked with the various families whose works he was selling), and then a quick stop for lunch at the Mercado de San Miguel (as mentioned in a previous instalment.

For this particular intrepid traveller, this was followed by a return to the tiny apartment for some rest and washing, etc, before meeting up with my fellow travellers for Mass at one of the local parish churches (a Carmelite parish in the middle of Sol, believe it or not) and dinner to celebrate our last night in Madrid.

Tomorrow we fly from Madrid to Rome – but that, dear readers, is for the next instalment.