Among the many visits to churches that the duke, moved not only by his artistic interest, but especially by his pious nature, has the opportunity to visit during the long month of his stay in Madrid, stands out as especially curious that of the church of San Antonio of the Portuguese. This is described by Magalotti’s chronicle: “Church not very large, but beautiful because of the strange architecture, with an oval plan, like the dome, all frescoed. This church has the misfortune of being frequented on holidays, at late hour, by all the doxy girls in Madrid. There can be seen, therefore, at such time a great contest of freedom.” It is remarkable that the educated Florentine considered strange the oval plant for a church. It is true that in Florence he could not have seen any, but we could expect from such an indefatigable traveller to know the novelties of Roman architecture, especially San Andrea al Quirinale, by Bernini, in which the design of the Madrilenian church could be inspired, let alone the much more daring Borromini plants.

This church, on the other hand, was about to change its name because that same year ended the War of Restoration of Portugal, for which this country regained its independence. The Portuguese community in Madrid, which until then had had its parish here, virtually disappeared, so that Queen Mariana handed over its use to her compatriots, the Germans settled in the capital. Although the dedication to the Portuguese saint, San Antonio de Padua, was maintained, the church is still known as Saint Anthony of the Germans.

As for the peculiar concurrence that, according to the chronicle of Magalotti, frequented the surroundings of this church in the holidays, it is possible to say that it astonishes how little the customs of Madrid have changed for more than three centuries.

Saint Anthony of the Portuguese

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