The Capilla del Obispo (Bishop’s Chapel) in Plaza de la Paja, Madrid, is a vertiable gem of Gothic art that has survived over the centuries. Now, after some years of restoration work and an investment of some 2 million Euros, visitors can finally view this small oratory, which forms part of the Church of San Andrés and the chapel of San Isidro.
The history of the chapel is closely linked with the life of San Isidro, the patron saint of Madrid, and with the Vargas family, one of the most powerful in the city and Isidro’s employers. It was this family which commissioned the building of the chapel in 1520, to act as the final resting-place for the saint. However, a few years later it was the church of San Andrés which took over custody of the saint’s remains and the chapel became the personal crypt of the Vargas: to either side of the presbytery the tombs of Francisco de Vargas and Inés de Carvajal can still be seen.
The bishop referred to in the chapel’s name is Guiterre de Carvajal, bishop of Plasencia and a member of the Vargas family. He supervised work here and commissioned the Valladolid-born sculptor Francisco Giralte to produce the magnificent retable in painted wood and the alabaster cenotaphs.
This truly is a magnificent place to see and I do encourage you to pay a visit should you ever be in Madrid. The imagery and beauty will stay with you long after you leave.
(Adapted in part from Secret Madrid by Verónica Ramírez Muro)