"Alcala de Henares", Blog English, Country, Spain

Parish of Saint Mary the Great, Alcalá de Henares, Spain

On Libreros Street in Alcalá de Henares, Madrid, Spain, is located the parish of Santa María La Mayor, which was adapted from the old chapel of the Colegio Máximo de la Compañía de Jesús. It was converted into the new parish of Santa María la Mayor, after the expulsion of the Jesuits and the fire of 1936 of the old Church of Santa María, in the Plaza Cervantes. The church is annexed to the Chapel of the Holy Forms, open day and night for Perpetual Eucharistic Adoration.

Its granite façade is attributed to Juan Gómez de Mora. In 1624 four sculptures by the Portuguese sculptor Manuel Pereira were placed on it. The works represent the figures of St. Peter and St. Paul, St. Ignatius of Loyola and St. Francis Xavier.

The link with the Mendoza family is evident by the presence of its heraldic coat of arms. Although the construction of the building began in 1567, it was thanks to the economic donations of this family that the temple was able to continue its construction in 1602, finishing in 1620. After the expulsion of the Jesuits from Spain in 1767, it became the auditorium of the University of Alcalá, that is, the hall of the university that was used for public events. Later, it was the military that used the building as a barracks.

The architects who worked on the construction were first Bartolomé de Bustamante and later Francisco de Mora. Its style is the conventional one of the Jesuit churches of Italian influence. The temple, of Latin cross with communicating lateral chapels, has a dome with lantern. The church was consecrated in 1620.

In the interior of the parish of Santa María La Mayor, its main altarpiece, of baroque style, stands out. It is the work of the Jesuit Francisco Bautista, begun in 1618. The original paintings of the altarpiece, by Angelo Nardi, were destroyed in 1936 during the Spanish Civil War. They were replaced after the war by copies from the Prado Museum and by canvases painted by the priest Manuel Palero.

We found its interior, although simpler than other churches visited in Spain, very elegant. Its dome in the High Altar with geometric motifs painted in pastel tones, between ochre and green, evoke architectural elements that it does not have in reality, but that to the eye it would seem that they are present.

We could not miss the photos of the stork nests on the facade of the Parish of Santa María La Mayor, so popular in Alcalá de Henares.