If ever you are in Madrid, there is one place that you must, if you can, take a tour of, and that is the magnificent Sacristía de los Caballeros (Sacristy of the Knights) in Las Commendadoras de Santiago convent (built between 1584 and 1697).
In this magnificent Sacristy, men would prepare themselves before being appointed a knight of the Order of St James. The ceremony itself took place in the adjacent church. This large Baroque salon was painted in the three colours of the sisters of the convent: green to represent laurels; yellow for the conquered lands; and red for the blood split by the martyrs.
It took months of restoration to rediscover these three original colours, as the walls had entirely been covered in grey and whilte, firstly because of the stubbornness of an architect who believed all colours were the work of the devil, but mainly because of the plague. Indeed, one of the layers removed carried the following inscription: “I, a painter from Cordoba, in 1914, whitewashed the walls to disinfect them from the plague.”
The sacristy of the knights, the work of Francisco de Moradillo, was built between 1746 and 1753, during the reign of Ferdinand VI. The murals evoke some of the secrets of the time. For example, it is said that the roses in the vases are Louis XVI roses and that they came to decorate the sacristy in the same year that they were cultivated for the very first time.
In one corner of the sacristy you will also find the beautiful Fuente do los Tritones (Fountain of the Tritons), where the future knights bather before being called by the bell that invited them to move to the next room. There, the nuns passed the knights a light meal through a hatch so as not to be seen.The bell and hatch have also been restored.
The Sacristy is only open on the first Monday of the month at 4pm and to take a tour you must ring to make a booking.
(Adapted from Secret Madrid by Veronica Rameriez Muro, published by JonGlez)