Basilica of San Francisco el Grande

Madrid, Spain

The Royal Basilica of San Francisco el Grande is a Roman Catholic church in central Madrid. The main façade faces the Plaza of San Francisco, at the intersection of Bailén, the Gran Vía de san Francisco, and the Carrera de san Francisco. It forms part of the convent of Jesús y María of the Franciscan order. The convent was founded in the 13th century at the site of a chapel.

The basilica was designed in a Neoclassic style between 1761 and 1768, based on a design by Francisco Cabezas, developed by Antonio Pló, and completed by Francesco Sabatini. The church contains paintings by Zurbarán and Francisco Goya. The temple once functioned as the National pantheon and enshrined the remains of famous artists and politicians.

The dome is 33 metres in diameter and 58 metres in height; its shape is very similar to the Pantheon's dome, having a more circular shape than the typical domes built in the 18th century.



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Founded: 1761-1768
Category: Religious sites in Spain


4.6/5 (based on Google user reviews)

User Reviews

Anneka Austin (2 years ago)
One of the most stunningly beautiful churches I have ever seen, completely worth the visit. A must see!
Lilia Subkhankulova (2 years ago)
Most beautiful church at a nominal entry price. Some really beautiful frescos and paintings. I am glad we went - just be aware of the opening times.
macedonboy (2 years ago)
This is without one of the finest churches in Spain. From the outside it's not much to look at. It's only when you get to the front facade that you see it's been built in the Neo-Classical style, albeit decorated simply. The simplicity of the exterior belies the exceptional interiors with it's walls decorated with some of the most stunning paintings I've ever seen. Like most large churches, there are dedications to the twelve apostles. Here in this church there are larger than life statues dedicated to each. The cupola and alter are exceptional in it's artistry and are worth the entrance fee alone. As befits a church dedicated to Saint Francis, the church also contains a very large and special collection of paintings dedicated to the saint and the Franciscan order. A must see if in the city and totally worth the entrance fee. As an added bonus, there are guided tours, the only downside is that the tours are in Spanish only.
Sharon Blackford (2 years ago)
Gorgeous paintings and side chapels in this domed basilica. If you understand Spanish, the guided tour is excellent.
Glenn A. Jaspart (2 years ago)
Impressive basilica. One of the most beautiful cupolas in Spain (more than 30m in diameter). When inside, you can't help but feel belittled by such grandeur. The entrance is free but access to the museum will cost you a few Euros. A must-see if you are interested in breathtaking architecture.
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The first part of the palace dates from the 13th century, and tradition holds that the building hosted Dante in his visit to Rome. The first documentary mention notes that the property hosted Cardinal Giovanni and Giacomo Colonna in the 13th century. It was also home to Cardinal Oddone Colonna before he ascended to the papacy as Martin V (1417–1431).

With his passing, the palace was sacked during feuds, and the main property passed into the hands of the Della Rovere family. It returned to the Colonna family when Marcantonio I Colonna married Lucrezia Gara Franciotti Della Rovere, the niece of pope Julius II. The Colonna"s alliance to the Habsburg power, likely protected the palace from looting during the Sack of Rome (1527).

Starting with Filippo Colonna (1578–1639) many changes have refurbished and create a unitary complex around a central garden. Architects including Girolamo Rainaldi and Paolo Marucelli labored on specific projects. Only in the 17th and 18th centuries were the main facades completed. Much of this design was completed by Antonio del Grande (including the grand gallery), and Girolamo Fontana (decoration of gallery). In the 18th century, the long low facade designed by Nicola Michetti with later additions by Paolo Posi with taller corner blocks (facing Piazza Apostoli) was constructed recalls earlier structures resembling a fortification.

The main gallery (completed 1703) and the masterful Colonna art collection was acquired after 1650 by both the cardinal Girolamo I Colonna and his nephew the Connestabile Lorenzo Onofrio Colonna and includes works by Lorenzo Monaco, Domenico Ghirlandaio, Palma the Elder, Salviati, Bronzino, Tintoretto, Pietro da Cortona, Annibale Carracci (painting of The Beaneater), Guercino, Francesco Albani, Muziano and Guido Reni. Ceiling frescoes by Filippo Gherardi, Giovanni Coli, Sebastiano Ricci, and Giuseppe Bartolomeo Chiari celebrate the role of Marcantonio II Colonna in the battle of Lepanto (1571). The gallery is open to the public on Saturday mornings.

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Along with the possessions of the Doria-Pamphilij and Pallavacini-Rospigliosi families, this is one of the largest private art collections in Rome.