Fallen angels, gigantic monuments and an open-air sculpture museum

Madrid is home to the only statue in the world dedicated to Lucifer, the fallen angel who is believed to become the devil. It’s well worth a detour to see, especially since it’s in beautiful Retiro Park. Sculpted by Ricardo Bellver, a Madrid sculptor living in Rome in 1877, it caused a great deal of controversy when the Duke of Fernán Núñez purchased the statue to be placed in this popular crossroads in the Retiro. Especially to religious folks, it was unthinkable to have a monument dedicated to Lucifer in a public park, but the Duke explained that it was a work of incredible artistic workmanship and a metaphor of the fate that may arise for those who show excessive pride.

Possibly the most curious fact about this statue is that it’s location is exactly 666 meters above sea level, interpreted by some as the number of the Anti-Christ.

It depicts Lucifer as a winged youth being dragged to the netherworld by a large seven-headed serpent entwined around his legs. It was inspired by John Milton’s poem Paradise Lost: “…his pride had cast him out from Heaven, with all his host of rebel angels… round he throws his baleful eyes that witnessed huge affliction and dismay mixed with obdurate pride and steadfast hate”. The symbolism of the statue is complicated because the Romans believed that Lucifer carried the light that could save humanity even though he was bound to his destiny, and also the serpent that entwines him may represent wisdom.

The pedestal was designed by José Urioste with eight gargoyle-like heads spouting water, and the statue was unveiled in its current location in 1885, undoubtedly becoming the talk of the town.

Walking along Calle Mayor you will come into view of another fallen angel statue, but this one is called Accidente Aereo, a sculpture by Miguel Ángel Ruiz in 2006. In the artist’s words: “Ni Ícaro, ni el diablo. Es un aviador distraído”. He describes it as a Being who has flown around the Peninsula for thousands of years and when he unexpectedly comes into contact with the high-rises of Madrid he crashes into one of them.

Moving on to non-angel related sights, strolling up Calle Serrano just North of Puerta de Alcalá will bring you face to face with gigantic monuments dedicated to the discovery of America. This is Monumento de Descrubrimiento, erected in 1970, and is adjacent to Plaza de Colón (which has a great statue of Christopher Columbus in the center of the rotary) and the Archaeological Museum (still not open because of remodeling, but it’s anticipated to be one of the best museums in Madrid once it opens it’s doors again). Also, the garden next to the monument has the most gigantic Spanish flag on earth.

Walking just a little farther North on Calle Serrano will take you to a fascinating open-air sculpture museum, Museo de la Escultura Abstracta, located underneath the overpass of Paseo de Eduardo Dato. There are 17 abstract sculptures here including works by Joan Miró, Eduardo Chillida, and Alberto Sánchez. My favorite one is the giant concrete block suspended in mid-air by cables hanging from the bridge. It looks like it could have been made by the engineers of the bridge, with the same materials and pragmatism, so well integrated into the environment that it would be easy to walk right by it. But then there’s that moment you realize, no wait, why would they have put that here? That’s art.

Eduardo Chillida

Published by Elizabeth Pizzuti

Design, art, and cats mostly

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