Well, it exists. I knew that already, but I just needed to get inside. The Casa de los Origines (The Mseum of Origins) is located in the La Latina neighborhood and it was once and still is sometimes called the Casa de San Isidro (House of Saint Isidro) though it never was his house, nor is there a full-fledged confirmation that he ever lived there. Tradition has it. But Tradition has a lot of things, believe you me. The building belonged to the Vargas family where it was thought that Saint Isidro and his wife Saint Mary de la Cabeza, lived shortly having their son Illán, which apparently is a variation of Julian. Are you still with me?
Illán was the little boy who fell out of Maria’s arms and into the depths of the well in the home. After minutes of immense tension and prayer, the water level rose to the top and the boy appeared unharmed (evening smiling according to some, though I doubt we have any reliable eyewitness reports). One story goes that as a result of the miracle the couple moved apart and lived in different homes for spiritual reasons (or possibly because they didn’t know how to tell the kid the truth). It goes on to say that the boy died before reaching adulthood.
Not so! Say other sources. Just last week I mentioned that this couple stood out in the annals of holiness for being a rare case in which both members of the married couple ended up becoming Saints. Normally in real life, it is just one of the spouses. This extraordinary situation did not end there. Their son went on to be a saint too, which should not come as a surprise considering his upbringing. My question is: is there anything this family did wrong?
Now if digging up good facts about San Isidro is a near impossibility, and even less can be found about Maria de la Cabeza, you can forget San Illán. We already know that there’s a chance he didn’t survive his youth, but assuming that he did, quite possibly he was never even canonized. He wouldn’t have been the first. But that doesn’t mean that he is not venerated. There is a town in Toledo called Cebolla (which translates as Onion), where there is a hermitage. A hermitage is a church outside a town. There used to be a small village surrounding it too but the last resident left years ago. The hermitage is dedicated to San Illán. Several miracles are attributed to him.
I didn’t enter the museum to find out about San Illán. I didn’t even expect to find out what I did. On the inside it has a modern-looking set-up which can be divided into two parts. The first floor centers on San Isidro and Santa María de la Cabeza. You can see a small chapel, several facsimiles of the codex which recounts his life, historical objects and several magnificent models of some of Madrid’s oldest churches. They made me jealous. You see, in addition to wanting to be a solo-guitarist for Lynyrd Skynyrd, a painter, an owner of a fine country restaurant and a Zamboni driver, I have always wanted to make a living building models and I envy those who do to such a degree that, if I were ever to meet one, I could not guarantee their safety.
The highlight of the first floor is the site of the well where the miracle was said to have taken place. Whether to believe or not, it is still a nice old well to look at, water and all, but no baby.
Upstairs takes through the ages of this city from prehistoric times, meaning we get to see real mammoth tusks and all. One of the earliest human remains is there too. It’s a molar. And it is on display. I like a museum which displays molars. It says they have character.
The different rooms take you through the different periods of the city all they way up to the 17th Century (with some more models that tantalize you) and then it abruptly ends. Some of the rooms were roped off, so I am sure there is more. I will have to return.
The good points are that it is small, manageable and free. But it helps to have some knowledge of the history of Madrid and a decent level of Spanish since none of the information comes in English. Give it a shot.