I'm in Madrid today, acclimatizing before going off to the Congreso next week. Today I went to the Prado to see the new 19th century paintings galleries, and I also went into the church of San Jeronimo el Real, located behind it. Part of the old cloister of San Jeronimo has actually been taken over by the Prado for use as a temporary exhibits gallery and a place for the display of sculpture.
As you can see, work is being done on the exterior. The church was built in the 16th century, and has been added to over the years. It has been used for the swearing in on the Principe de Asturias, the Crown Prince, since the time of Felipe II, and is still used for various royal functions. It's a very popular church for weddings, and in fact there was a small wedding going on while I was there.
Over the door, we have a lovely little (well, not so little) Nativity. The position of the Virgin in the bed reminded me very much of the position of the Virgin in Greek and Russian iconography.
This is a scene that features St Joseph making himself useful: here he seems to be folding swaddling clothes, with the assistance of either a servant or an angel.
The interior is quite colorful, with many side altars and shrines.
One of the shrines was devoted to Our Lady of Guadalupe...Guadalupe, Spain, that is. The figure is a black Virgin (that is, dark skinned), one of three such black Virgins in Spain, and is holding the Child. This is unlike the Mexican version, in which the Virgin is pregnant. The statue was hidden by a priest fleeing from the Moors in Extremadura and miraculously found again in the 14th century. She is credited with helping in the recovery of Spain from the Muslim invaders and is the patroness of Extremadura. Cortez, who conquered much of Mexico, was from Extremadura, hence the connection.
The Jeronimos (Hieronymites) were entrusted with her devotion, which is why there is a shrine to her in this church in Madrid.