With only 24 hours to spend as a tourist in Madrid, I chose to bypass all of the hottest tourist attractions, and I researched and found some unique things in the city that would give me a richer appreciation for the city itself.
I had heard about the Lucifer fountain several years ago, and that was definitely going to be on the list of odd things to find in the city. The monument is located in the popular Retiro Park in the middle of the city.
Built in 1877 by Spanish sculptor Ricardo Bellver, The Fallen Angel is one of the most controversial monuments in Spain, and arguably the only public statue in the world dedicated to the devil himself.
Inspired by John Milton’s epic poem Paradise Lost, the very dramatic work of art depicts Lucifer as he is cast out of heaven and fallen to Earth and tormented by snakes.
Th’ infernal Serpent; he it was, whose guile
Stird up with Envy and Revenge, deceiv’d
The Mother of Mankind, what time his Pride
Had cast him out from Heav’n, with all his Host
Of Rebel Angels, by whose aid aspiring
To set himself in Glory above his Peers,
He trusted to have equal’d the most High,
If he oppos’d; and with ambitious aim
Against the Throne and Monarchy of God
Rais’d impious War in Heav’n and Battel proud
With vain attempt. Him the Almighty Power
Hurl’d headlong flaming from th’ Ethereal Skie
With hideous ruine and combustion down
To bottomless perdition, there to dwell
In Adamantine Chains and penal Fire,
Who durst defie th’ Omnipotent to Arms.
Milton’s Paradise Lost is a curious work. An epic poem written in blank verse, it describes how Satan, having been cast out of Heaven after a battle with God, travels on an arduous journey to the Garden of Eden on a quest to tempt Adam and Eve to defy God’s Will and eat from the Tree of Knowledge, thereby precipitating mankind’s fall from Grace and Satan’s own retreat into perdition. It is a heavy going poem in parts, but it is certainly a rewarding read, and it has given the English language some of it’s more memorable and quotable lines, such as: “All is not lost” and “Better to reign in Hell, than serve in Heaven.”
Ricardo Bellver had been commissioned by the Duke of Fernán Núñez to create this one-of-a-kind statue, and although it sparked a big scandal at that time, the dramatic sculpture proved to be a great success, obtaining the First Medal at the Spanish National Fine Arts Exhibition in 1878.
The same year, Bellver’s Fallen Angel was cast in bronze for the grand Exposition Universelle, better known as the third Paris World’s Fair, and a couple of years later the Prado Museum released it to The City of Madrid.
Today, the statue of The Fallen Angel is displayed in the beautiful Parque del Buen Retiro in Madrid, where it stands on a beautiful pedestal flanked by gargoyles spouting water in a lovely fountain, unsurprisingly called Fountain of the Fallen Angel.
When I got home and started looking at the photos, it occurred to me that this statue actually presents a paradox in the biblical story timeline. The problem: it was a snake in which Satan later possessed to tempt Eve, resulting in God cursing the snakes and removing their legs so they would forever have to slither on their bellies. However, in the statue, the snakes are already legless. Hmmm…
The black splatters of paint seemed perfect on a monument dedicated to the prince of evil, and I wondered if it was vandalism or part of the actual design.
An eerie coincidence is also the fact that this statue sits on an elevation exactly 666 meters above sea level.
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