Spain Day 1: Jerónimo and Real Deal

I’m in a city and country I’ve never visited.

Madrid, Spain.

We got in late so we only had a couple snacks.

This morning it was off to the Prado, by way of the nearby church San Jerónimo el Real.


A glimpse inside.

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I confess to sneaking a photo in the Prado.

Here’s a mighty fine Death of Lucretia by Rosales.   He was influential in the development of history paintings.


Given that this is the Year of Mercy… HERE is Mercy, friends.   This is what TRUTH did for us.

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The next point…

I know next to nothing about Madrid.

However, later in the week…. BULL FIGHT!

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. edm says:

    San Jeronimo el Real is beautiful, My cousin was married there many years ago. El Prado is incredible. I had my breath taken away the first time I walked into the room where Las Meninas is kept.
    Enjoy Madrid.

  2. tgarcia2 says:

    Try to visit Chocolatería San Gines, oldest churro shop in Spain (maybe the world), amazing stuff. Enjoy España!

  3. Elizabeth D says:

    It’s immoral to attend animal bloodsport fights.

  4. matthew2368 says:

    Bullfighting is neither a sport nor a fight- you’ll have a great time no doubt! Another place worth visiting (a bit off the tourist trail and out of town is the tomb of Franco and civil war memorial, the Valle de los Caídos. Quite an unusual place, doesn’t leave you feeling comfortable but the Basilica hewn into the Rock is unlike anything I’ve ever seen.

  5. Janol says:

    “BULL FIGHT!” Grief.

  6. Muv says:

    Congratulations on your first visit to Spain, Fr Z! God willing, it will not be your last.
    Try and visit the Museo Sorolla in Madrid and see the works of Joaquin Sorolla. Outstanding.
    Bullfights are best enjoyed on TV in bars, preferably while tucking in to a nice rare veal steak. That way you will get all the action replays.

    [Many sports are like that. However, at some point you have to go to a live event, get the whole thing so that when you see it on TV you have the rest of it too.]

  7. matthew2368 says:

    If you’re Buddhist :-)

  8. jbincj says:

    Restaurant recommendation: El Botin – for traditional Castilian cuisine. It’s near the Plaza Mayor, in the heart of the city – supposedly the oldest restaurant in the world according to Guinness Book of Records. Don’t know if you need a reservation these days. Not the cheapest, but very good!
    If you can take a day trip – I recommend Segovia – one of my favorite places in Spain!

  9. APX says:

    I know next to nothing about Madrid.

    You can get really nice realistic Spanish crucifixes there cheap, and watch out for scorpions.

  10. Spain. A wonderful country! I haven’t been since the peaceful Franco days, spending 7 weeks at the Escorial with Triumph magazine’s Summer Institute, and other trips.
    So much to see, like the aqueduct in Segovia and other Roman leftovers. Mary of Agreda’s convent. Avila. Pagan ruins.
    The El Grecos at the Prado cannot be missed. The man knew how to describe a personality powerfully and without reserve.
    Don’t miss paella, that provincial dish of rice and seafood that I dream about still.
    Hmmm. Bullfights and public hangings – I think they must serve a purpose for the spirit of man in spite of current squeamishness and pity.
    Hopefully you will have a chance to stay at a Paradore! These are rescued castles and mansions serving as hotels and restaurants – and cheap! Sleep in the bed of some nobleman, see beautiful old furniture, enjoy the generous magnificent architecture. Colonial Spain is gorgeous.
    The Spaniard has a grasp of deep mystical Catholicism that other ethnic groups do not always demonstrate. Hopefully you will catch a glimpse.
    I hope you will develop the love for Spain that it deserves.

  11. WmHesch says:

    Perhaps you might consider chaplain-ing a group of the readership on the Camino to Santiago de Compostela?

  12. acardnal says:

    I spent about a month in Spain on business and pleasure . . . Madrid and the Prado, Bilbao in Basque country on the northern coast. If you get a chance, visit Generalissimo Franco’s tomb where there is a huge cross, a basilica and a Benedictine Abbey!

  13. acardnal says:

    Oh! And enjoy the tapas bars! They’re free!

  14. JARay says:

    I echo the calls for you to visit Francisco Franco’s grave in the valley of the Fallen. When I was there he wasn’t in his grave! The Basilica there is simply stunning.

  15. mike cliffson says:

    So much to suggest
    if you have any ecclesiastical Strings pullable you can see parts of the escorial library tourists don’t see, I saw it with an English Archbishop.
    With a car very few hours to milenarian Silos monastery in Burgos province where they sing plainchant, only…..
    13 days is spendable in the,prado alone. Madrid,the original idea of a greenfield. Capital, as Washington, has more. Few folks these days visit the Crypt of the cathedral where I hope they still have acopy of a painting of our lady dedicated in the presence of. Madrid s reconquerors ten hundred years ago when it was a fort,a hamlet, and six sheep,the king of castile and Charlton Heston, I mean the Cid, which got rather neglected once the AlMudena statue of our Lady was discovered hidden in the city walls 3 centuries before to pre.vent despoiling by the Islamic invaders.
    Along with Lotser nosh.The modern name for olla podrida is cocido madrileño, a bit filling for summer.You need a local foodie but there’s plenty of choice, and if you go native and don’t go to bed till 4, and up again by 8 you can pack in a lot as your business. Madrid is ringed by short hops to Avila, Segovia, Escorial, Valle de los caídos, Toledo, Alcalá.
    If you are politically incorrect enough, good on you,for a bullfight, try 48 hrs to see the birthplace. Of the reconquest,in the Asturian mountains,Our lady of Covadonga…….. Folks at the.time gave Our lady the credit……

  16. Kathleen10 says:

    It would be a fight if the bull had a sword. Or if the matador wrestled him to the ground with his bare hands.

  17. Mike says:

    Yea, the bull doesn’t need a sword; he’s got horns and 1000 pounds of muscle.

  18. Montenegro says:

    I haven’t been to Madrid since the 1980s. I’m not the biggest fan of that city: hot and crowded. San Sebastian, however, is very much worth a visit!

  19. kiwiinamerica says:

    A bullfight?

    Let us know who wins.

  20. kurtmasur says:

    Given that Father Z is no vegetarian, and that Spain is itself a meat-eater’s paradise, I’m sure Father Z will be like a fish swimming in water. Actually, it’s quite a wonder you haven’t yet visited Spain, Father.

  21. Semper Gumby says:

    Paella and tapas and…Buen provecho.

    It’s a bit of a trip from Madrid, but you might be interested in the remarkable Seville Cathedral- Catedral de Santa Maria de la Sede. Both Columbus and Magellan departed from Seville.

  22. Giuseppe says:

    Go to the Mercado de San Miguel, who should be the patron saint of tapas and great glasses of wine. Can go at any time of the day and sample great cuisine.

  23. oh. oh. oh can I please tell a story about a trip to Spain?

    We went in the 70s. Mother figured out that 3 weeks in Spain driving around was cheaper than 3 weeks at home. Mother, already familiar with Latin and fluent in French, taught herself Spanish on the flight over. [okay, well the woman was a bit on the smart side]. We land in Madrid, get to the hotel. My brother and I were exhausted after a sleepless flight – oh no. My tireless mother yanked us up telling us we weren’t going to waste time sleeping. *whimper* We go to the Prado and all over Madrid. Then we set out in a rented car for the country, staying at Paradores throughout. Mom has heard of Mary of Agreda, so we stop at the convent in a dusty empty town. The porter whom we never saw from behind the turnstile, spins around 3 glasses of homemade lemonade. When the cloistered nun finds out we are from America and that Mother is a writer, tells Mother she must take the volumes of the story of Mary of Agreda to America to spread her story. Mother protests. The volumes are several and very heavy. And in Spanish. We leave. Since we are afraid to drink the water, we leave the glasses untouched. As the sister, spins the glasses back around and sees the untouched glasses, she gasps. To this day, I cringe at that refusal of the hospitality, struck my heart, and can still hear the hurt in her gasp, after 45 years.
    So we toodle on down the road toward the next Paradore. Ack! We don’t have our passports, necessary for check in!! They mercifully let us spend one night anyway. But we must go back, pass through Agreda, to the previous Paradore where the passports sit.
    At this, Mother realizes this is meant to be.
    We present ourselves again at the convent in Agreda. The porter is not surprised. [I’ll never forget that either!] She spins around on the wooden turnstile the volumes of Mary of Agreda, Ciudad de Dios, Spanish in all its untranslated glory. Mother sighs and takes the heavy volumes, wondering about fitting these into her suitcase. We retrace our path allllll the way back to the Paradores to retrieve our passports.
    Weeks later we are home. Mother reads the story of Mary of Agreda immediately, stretched out on the chaise long, reading lamp lit. She is driven and absorbed, frequently referring to the Spanish dictionary. The details are phenomenal – what is this?
    Back then Thomas Nelson was getting started with his TAN books apostolate and Mom communicated with Mr. Nelson – I remember a gigantic box of books from this guy with all these wonderful old reprints of Catholic classics. Mom was stunned by the generosity and so impressed. Mom never told me that the City of God appeared on the American market because of her, but eventually, translated volumes where published and presented by Thomas Nelson after our trip. so I dunno. But those nuns must have been praying really hard for Mary of Agreda’s story to finally be disseminated.

  24. Raymond says:

    I lived and worked in Madrid 2005-2007, visited last year, and got to know the people pretty well.

    Culturally the city and the country, like Italy, is still very Catholic. You not only see it in their heritage sites, but hear it in their expressions and notice that everyone greets each other on their respective Saint’s feast days as if it were their birthdays.

    On the practical side, however, the Spanish Catholic Church has really lost a lot of its prestige and influence over the past 30 years or so. Like in Northern Europe, church attendance has plummeted and many people openly express disdainful remarks about the Church in public. It was the 3rd country in the world to legalize so-called “gay marriage” back in 2005, after the Netherlands and Belgium.

    Not surprisingly, the majority of Spaniards lean “center-left” when it comes to politics. I often explain to my friends that what happened in Spain is the opposite of what happened in Poland. Both countries were traditionally very Catholic. But, while Poland was subjected to a Communist regime after WW2 and saw the Catholic Church persecuted; in Spain, the reactionary Franco regime emerged victorious after the Spanish Civil War with the support of the Church, which was persecuted under the left-wing Republic. When democracy was restored to both countries–1975 in Spain, 1991 in Poland–the political/religious pendulum swung back to the left in Spain and swung back to the right in Poland.

    Nonetheless, enjoy Madrid, Fr. Z! Try to eat the local regional (Castilian) specialties while you’re there–i.e. roast suckling pig, lamb stew, wild boar, quail/partridge, etc.

  25. SpanishCatholic says:

    Enjoy Madrid! A day excursion to Avila and Segovia are definitely worth it and if you can swing it take the high-speed train to Barcelona and stop at La Boqueria. You can’t leave Madrid without trying roast suckling pig, a chuleton de buey, and trip to Mercado San Miguel for some amazing tapas!!! If you do go to the Mercado try the port sangria it is amazing on a hot day. God Bless and have an amazing trip.

  26. un-ionized says:

    Tina, fascinating and wonderful. I am not up to travel and it’s that kind of story that speaks to me the most, more than travelogue type stories.

  27. TheDude05 says:

    From the Catholic Encyclopedia, “Moralists as a rule are of the opinion that bull-fighting as practised in Spain is not forbidden by the natural law, since the skill and dexterity of the athletes precludes immediate danger of death or of serious injury (cf. P.V, Casus conscientiae, Vromant, Brussels, 1895, 3d ed., I, 353, 354; Gury-Ferreres, Comp. Th. mor., Barcelona, 1906, I, n. 45). Even in Spain and Spanish America they have been forbidden to clergymen and religious, by Pius V, as well as by the Plenary Council for Spanish America (n. 650; cf. also C. prov., Vallisol., I, p. 5, tit. 1, n. 11). The Bishop of Ciudad Rodrigo received the same answer from the Penitentiaria (19 September, 1893).
    It is worthy of note that foreigners who have been present at bull-fights are not so harsh in their judgments as those who have formed an opinion from what they have heard about them from the societies for the prevention of cruelty to animals.”

  28. oldconvert says:

    I have heard a Spaniard say, that if it weren’t for all the non-Spaniards eagerly flocking to bullfights and bull runs, in order to say how disgusted they are and how barbaric the Spaniards are, this “sport” would have died a natural death long ago, along with other medieval practices like bear-baiting. Don’t come to Merrie England next, where badger-baiting and hare-coursing with dogs (the badger gets a better chance than the hares, who are literally torn to pieces while still alive, for the delectation of the spectators) have been made illegal by tree-hugging sentimentalists.

  29. anamaria says:

    Dear Father,

    Always asking you to come to Spain for a visit, and when you finally do come, you tell us the same day!! Not fair!

    Anyways, I’ll give out some advice:

    1. Stay away of restaurants for the . DO NOT TRY OUT ANY OF THEIR FOOD. I suppose you already know where to go, but in case you don’t, always ask a local. You can have an extraordinary culinary experience in Spain, or come out a disaster if you choose wrong.

    2. A must try: pierna de cordero asada (roast lamb), cochinillo asado (you’ll love it), jamon DE JABUGO, and patatas con alioli. A

    3. Bullfighting can last long and if it a hot day, you will get hot. Remember to take cover or bring a hat. The spanish abanico is not only for ladies to hide behind, it has a function.

    4. Always, always, ask for a bottle of Rioja or Ribera del Duero.

    Since you cannot come to Spain and be shy about expenses, I just cheaped in and made a donation for wine and jamon. I hope this counts as helping out Father Z’s blog. Wish you had told us in advance, we could have prepared some delightful surprises. Spaniards are generous people!!!

    Have fun, Ana

    [Thanks for the advice. And I am here for a few days, not just one. First, Madrid, then a couple days in Barcelona before heading back to the USA. I also note that you “chipped” in and there was nothing “cheap” about it. You have my gratitude. Thank! And tonight, if I can pull off the negotiations, Ribera del Duero it is!]

  30. mike cliffson says:

    When new in Spain: Stick to Riojas and Ribera del Duero?
    Myself, I would expand your can’t-go-wrong even in the worst cases palatable and enjoyable fullbodied, fruity, etc etc red wines above, to include the Jumillas .
    Are you uptodate as to what to turn down in Madrid these days ? I’m not.
    I hope Father is around at least one Basque priest,suspecting what his tastes in wine might be.
    ( I’ve never met a Basque priest t but that had an excellent knowledge of wine….. ,and there is so much much more within and beyond those wine areas above .Basque clergy arent the only clergy reliably into tipple and nosh , of course. My prejudice: often a link between doctrinal orthodoxy and quiet , secondary, good taste in food and drink. Father ,may we wish and pray for the best for you in Spanish brother priests in EVERY respect on this visit?)
    As you indicate, not just for Father Z not only in Spain can you pay for the locale rather than the contents in a Ye olde touriste trappe restaurant, pricey reheated” gourmet (?)” with expensive house wines . Starting half a century ago I’ ve seen brits and mercans, despite warnings , be shepherded in droves into quaintlooking joints in Avila and Toledo by guides and doormen. Some places in Madrid like the Mesones around Plaza mayor and Cava baja street used to be a bit of both, they ARE old ! Like anywhere else some Madrid fancy restaurants fully justify their stiffish prices , others not so much.

  31. Mary Jane says:

    Fr Z, just saw you mentioned you’ll be in Barcelona for a few days. Montserrat is a train ride away, and it’s worth seeing if you have the time (and if you’re not afraid of heights). I found Barcelona crowded, but I enjoyed La Sagrada Famila and Tibidabo (if I recall correctly they have had 24/7 adoration going on there for years…since the 80s I seem to recall).

  32. Orlando says:

    Father Z , two words Casa Botin. You won’t be disappointed . It’s the oldest restaurant in Spain that’s been continuously run by the same family. Founded in 1725. Try the “cochinillo asado “, roasted baby pig ( don’t tell the liberals) you won’t be disappointed . Put up one of those waving yellow flags, I’m sure your readers will help you out.

    Google map link below.

  33. Moro says:

    I see you will be in Barcelona. Montserrat for sure. Also nearby, if you go in a car, is Manresa which has the cave where St. Ignatius lived and wrote the spiritual exercises. I recommend a little out of the way place, but within the city. Take the L6 train to Reina Elisenda and visit the parish church of Sant Vinenç. In there is the tomb of Bl. Pere Tarres i Claret, a priest who was a doctor during the civil war when he was forced to help the communists. It was in this mess he found his vocation as a doctor of souls and later became a priest. There is also the Pedralbes Monastery just up the road from this church. Also nearby is the Oratorio de Nuestra Señora de Bonaigua, an Opus Dei oratory with the tomb of Ven. Montserrat Grases.

    And of course, the TLM church at Capilla de Nuestra Señora de la Merced y San Pedro Apóstol in the interesting Gracia neighborhood.

  34. crych says:

    You might want to look up the works of Roy Campell, the English poet who converted to Catholicism, lived in Spain during the civil war and, amongst many other publications, made a translation of the poems of S. John of the Cross.

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