Victoria liked Madrid very much …
I took the pic above at Puerta del Sol. Can you see the sign to the right of that gorgeous girl? It says “Puerta del Sol”.
(Btw, this post has nothing to do with Victoria’s Secret).
Puerta del Sol (pic above) is Madrid’s most famous square. It marks more or less the geographical center of Spain.
Arenal Street comes out in front of Puerta del Sol. Victoria lived in that street. Victoria loved this old, bohemian, charming and dazzling neighborhood, known as “el Madrid de los Austrias” …
Arguably, the most famous institution of the 21st century in Madrid is its football (soccer) club: the Real Madrid.
The Real Madrid team plays at the “Santiago Bernabeu Stadium”, which is located far away from Victoria’s neighborhood.
David Bekham played in the Real Madrid team a few years ago. He was (and he is) married to an English lady named Victoria Bekham, who was a singer in a pop group called “Spice Girls”.
Well, this post is not about that Victoria.
In fact, our Victoria has nothing to do with soccer nor pop music.
Let’s go on.
This is the city of Ávila (Spain):
Ávila is surrounded by an enormous medieval wall. This old city was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1985.
Victoria was born in Ávila.
Teresa, a courageous, intelligent and very good person, was born in Ávila too.
Teresa was some 30 years older than Victoria, but the former exerted a strong influence on the latter. Some people say that Teresa and Victoria’s parents were good friends, but to be sincere I am not very sure about this fact.
As a teenager, Victoria was sent to a college in Rome, Italy.
Victoria was very successful in Rome and made a lot of friends there, but suffered a strong homesickness.
Consequently, Victoria decided to return to Spain.
Thanks God, and thanks to a well-heeled neighbor from Madrid named Felipe, Victoria got a good job in Spain’s capital.
To put some light on this story, I’ll tell you that Victoria lived in a richer Spain than today’s Spain. In other words, I am referring to a time previous to the fall of Lehman Brothers …
Ok, now that everything is clear, let’s walk for a while through el Madrid de los Austrias and let’s meet some of the bohemian neighbors of Victoria …
This is the San Ginés’ Church:
It is a nice church with a long history and with some hidden surprises. Victoria liked this church very much.
Just behind the church there is a narrow alley called Pasadizo de San Ginés. In this alley there is a chocolatería called … San Ginés.
Chocolate con churros is an energetical breakfast, very typical in Madrid:
There is also an old book store in the very same alley. They sell very strange books. Perhaps, if you are lucky, you’ll find here a novel written by an imaginative neighbor named Miguel. Victoria was just one year younger than Miguel the writer. I don’t know if they were friends. Probably …
But let’s come back to San Ginés’ Church. Let me show you one of those hidden surprises that I mentioned before. Some time ago (remember: this is a time previous to the fall of Lehman Brothers) a Greek inmigrant came to this neighborhood in search for a job. He was a painter. He was 7 years older than Victoria. Like Victoria, he pretended to be hired by Felipe (the well-heeled neighbor), but was unsuccesful. His paintings were too odd, colourful and expresionistic for Felipe’s taste.
Fortunately for him, Doménico (the Greek inmigrant) found a job in Toledo (Spain, not Ohio).
And fortunately for me (I like his strange paintings very much) there is a painting by Doménico hidden (literaly speaking) in San Ginés’ Church. It was some kind of miracle that I could find it and take this photo for my happy few followers:
Let’s go on.
This neighborhood is very traditional.
This is an old barbershop:
I’ll tell you a secret. Do you see this discrete door (pic below)?
It belongs to a convent known as “Carboneras” (Corpus Christi Monastery). Its church is very nice, with a baroque retable made by Antón de Morales and a spectacular painting by Vicente Carducho (Carducci)
The secret is this one: ring the doorbell, go in (if the kind nuns want to open the door for you, because they are cloistered nuns) and ask for some pastries made by the nuns. Buy a box at the old “torno” (revolving pass-through similar to a lazy Susan). You’ll make an act of charity and you’ll get a box of delicious pastries, or almendrados, or naranjitos …
Let’s go on.
The restaurant you can see in the pic below is really old. To be precise, it is the oldest restaurant in the world, according to the Guinness Book of World Records. It is open since 1725.
This is Plaza Mayor:
Some people love taking relaxing cups of café con leche in Plaza Mayor …
El Madrid de los Austrias has some others interesting, tranquil plazas and gardens, like this one:
That (above) is the Prince of Anglona Garden, and this (here below) is Plaza de la Villa:
Now follow me. Let’s walk around the Palacio Real (Royal Palace):
In 1738 King Philip V ordered the construction of this impressive Royal Palace, which spanned 30 years. It replaced the previous palace (known as the “Royal Alcázar” ) which was destroyed by fire in 1734.
The Royal Palace is well worth a visit. It is full of paintings, sculptures, luxurious furniture and tourists. No pics allowed in its interior.
Just in front of the Royal Palace there is a big square named Plaza de Oriente.
In its center there is an awesome statue.
This statue is awesome because:
1.- The horse rears, and the entire weight of the sculpture balances on the two rear legs; a feat that had never before (1640) been attempted in a figure this size.
3.- It is awesome because its artistic design was made by Diego Velázquez (one of the greatest painters in history) and its scientific design (in order for the horse to withstand centuries in that tiring position) was made by the Italian Galileo Galilei (one of the greatest physicists in history).
In other words: teamwork at its best.
The guy riding the horse is King Philip IV of Spain. He ruled Spain between 1621 and 1665.
The sun burns. Let’s go on.
At the other side of Plaza de Oriente is the Teatro Real (Opera Theatre)
Victoria liked music very much, but I don’t know if opera was included …
I am hungry.
As I told you before, Diego Velázquez (1599-1660) was a great painter. Most of his works are in Madrid, in the Prado Museum.
I mention the great Velázquez because I am hungry. Velázquez painted a “Woman Frying Eggs” …
I like fried eggs very much.
There are lots of traditional restaurants in Victoria’s neighborhood.
The best place to eat such a simple and delicious dish as fryied eggs (or a variation with potatoes called “huevos rotos”) in Madrid …
… is Casa Lucio.
I’m fine now. Let’s go on. We are about to finish this story about Victoria in Madrid.
This is the Convent of Las Descalzas Reales:
The convent resides in the former palace of King Charles I of Spain and Isabel of Portugal. Their daughter, Princess Juana de Austria, founded this convent of nuns in 1559.
Throughout the 16th and 17th centuries, Las Descalzas Reales attracted young noblewomen and rich widows. Each lady brought with her an offering. Works of art and all kinds of treasures quickly piled up, and the convent became one of the richest convents in Europe.
The Dowager Empress María of Austria (Princess Juana’s sister) lived from 1583 in retreat in this convent.
On 26 February 1603, the Empress María of Austria died.
Victoria composed a Requiem for her …
On 27 August 1611, Victoria died. He was buried in the Convent of Las Descalzas Reales, although nobody knows exactly where.
End of the story
STARRING (in alphabetical order):
Doménico (the Greek immigrant): El Greco, born Doménikos Theotokópoulos (1541 – 1614). He was a painter, sculptor and architect of the Spanish Renaissance. “El Greco” (The Greek) was a nickname.
2014 marks the 400th anniversary of El Greco’s death. A host of celebratory events and exhibitions are being held across Spain this year, specially in Toledo, where El Greco spent most of his creative time. (Btw, did you read Covetotop’s A walk through the old Toledo and Lost in Toledo?)
The angelical musicians painted by El Greco in The Annunciation (The Prado Museum) are playing instruments from Victoria’s time.
Felipe (the well-heeled neighbor): Philip II (Felipe II in Spanish; 1527 – 1598) King of Spain. In that epoch (previous to the fall of Lehman Brothers, as I told you) Spain reached the height of its influence and power. The expression “The Empire on which the sun never sets” was coined during Felipe’s time to reflect the extent of his possessions. Juana of Austria and María of Austria were his sisters.
Miguel (the imaginative writer): Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra (1547 – 1616). He was a novelist, poet, and playwright. He wrote Don Quixote. My dear follower, did you read Covetotop’s Don Quixote and Don Miguel? No? What are you waiting for?
Teresa (the good and intelligent lady from Ávila): Saint Teresa of Jesus, also called Saint Teresa of Ávila (1515 – 1582).
In 2015 the world celebrates the 5th centenary of her birth. More info about said celebration (in English):
- Convent of Saint Teresa
- Spanish Government
- Official website for the Fifth Centenary of the Birth of St. Teresa of Jesus sponsored by the Discalced Carmelite Order in the United States
- The Carmelite Institute
She lived like a saint and wrote like an angel …
Victoria: Tomás Luis de Victoria (c. 1548 – 1611), scholar, mystic, priest, singer, organist and composer. The Spain’s finest Renaissance composer (“Victoria is the best Renaissance composer, period” – Harry Christophers) was also chapelmaster at the Convent of Las Descalzas Reales (Madrid) from 1587 to the end of his life in 1611. He was chaplain of King Philip II’s sister, the Dowager Empress Maria de Austria, widow of the Holy Roman Emperor Maximilian II.
The death certificate of Tomás Luis de Victoria can be found in the archives of the San Ginés’ Church. At the Church’s entrance, there is a commemorative plaque with the names of three of its glorious parishioners: Francisco de Quevedo, Félix Lope de Vega and Tomás Luis de Victoria.
The street that connects (roughly speaking) the Royal Convent of Las Descalzas Reales to the San Ginés’ Church is named “Maestro Victoria Street”.
That plaque is simply embarrassing: that caricature of a bald monk has nothing to do with any of the real portraits of Victoria that have survived up to our days. The birth and death dates are deathly wrong too. It is a pity to dedicate a street to such a great person and paying so little attention to him.
Some of the very best choirs of the world (which happen to be British) do pay a lot of attention to Tomás Luis de Victoria.
Harry Christophers (conductor) and The Sixteen (choir and period-instrument orchestra) are probably the best interpreters of Renaissance music in the world.
Paul McCreesh and the Gabrieli Consort & Players are very good too …
The Ensemble Plus Ultra like Victoria very much and celebrate his works very well under the direction of the Australian conductor Michael Noone (Their Victoria recordings won the Gramophone Award 2012)
The Spanish choirs Schola Antiqua and La Colombina recorded the wonderful version of Victoria’s Officium Hebdomadae Sanctae, which I am listening while I write this post …
I am realizing that this post about Victoria is getting too long.
If you have reached this far in this post, I sincerely thank you. You are a very loyal follower and a good digital friend –my few human friends have no interest at all in Renaissance music-.
Or perhaps you like Victoria’s music as much as I do.
Whatever the case, you deserve to watch a wonderful documentary made by the BBC named “God’s Composer”, dedicated to Victoria. Look for Tomás Luis de Victoria God’s Composer in YouTube and you’ll enjoy a superb production about this master, and you’ll see the amazing choir The Sixteen, conducted by Harry Christophers, playing (and commenting) his divine music.
And if you are really crazy, read this marvelous (and free) book: “Spanish cathedral music in the Golden Age” (Robert Murrell Stevenson. Berkeley, University of California Press, 1961). 1/3 part of this book is devoted to Victoria.
In 1605 Tomás Luis de Victoria published his Requiem (Officium Defunctorum, sex vocibus, in obitu et obsequiis sacrae imperatricis) and Miguel de Cervantes published his Don Quixote.
By 2014 the Spanish Golden Age is definitively over.