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A Different Kind of Flock: Inside Madrid’s Duck Church

Step into the whimsical world of the Duck Church in Madrid with its duck-themed decor and unorthodox ideology. This spot is a delightful blend of comedy and eccentricity, offering a quirky stop in the heart of the city.

A Different Kind of Flock: Inside Madrid’s Duck Church

by Rachel Blaylock

23 de sept de 2023

Nestled amidst the charming streets of Madrid’s Lavapiés neighborhood, an area renowned for its bohemian atmosphere and artistic spirit, lies an unconventional treasure- the Iglesia Patolica, or Duck Church. It’s a one-of-a-kind space where unconventional art, humor and spirituality come together, creating an atmosphere that defies the traditional norms and expectations.

In a country associated with catholic cathedrals and religious rites, coming upon this unexpected little shrine filled me with a sense of humor and whimsy. The interior of the chapel struck me as something like a fun-house mirror of Spain’s usual houses of prayer; the walls and ceilings were completely covered in gilded iconography, stained glass and other typical adornments. But in place of wooden pews, there were velvet theater seats. Where usually you would see the faces of Jesus or the saints, instead I found the smiling beaks of hundreds- maybe even thousands- of colorful rubber ducks.

There were big ducks and small ducks. There were ducks in costume. A duck was on fire. Lights were ducks. There were duck dioramas. There was a Soviet duck. I cannot properly describe just how many ducks there were, and in what variety. The Ducks were Legion.

While the ducks definitely dominated the decor, I also noticed a common theme of clowns. In fact the entrance to the Duck Church, with cartoonish signs and giant lights, gave the impression of a circus rather than chapel. These big top references made more sense when I realized that they reflect the history and character of Iglesia Patolica’s founder, Leo Bassi.

large colorful toys and elements that look circus-like

Two of the many duck displays found inside

Our Father, Who Quacks in Heaven..

Leo Bassi, founder and head priest of the Duck Church, is a professionally trained clown whose parents were both professional clowns, and whose family history in the circus goes back over 150 years. It goes without saying that he’s a natural performer. His love of the eccentric and creative is what inspired him to trade a tent for a temple, and to breathe new life into an abandoned building in Lavapiés, transforming it into the whimsical sanctuary where you can find Leo performing every Sunday at Mass.

It may come as a surprise for a self-described atheist church, but you can indeed attend a Duck Mass! It is every Sunday at 1pm. It was at Mass that I heard Leo Bassi, Duck Pope, share some of his 10 commandments during the unconventional hominy; they include “Thou shalt not covet other people's jokes” and “thou shalt not kill, except with laughter.” I found the show entertaining, as I’d expected to, but I was surprised to also find myself feeling quite moved by the message. Just like all the best satire, all the best art; the Duck Church isn’t being silly for no reason. It’s living, and encouraging us all to live, by one of its first commandments; “Don’t take yourself too seriously”. The Duck Church’s art and atheism- its silliness and spirituality- they managed to inspire me in ways that more traditional sermons of the past had failed to. Looking around the room, I could tell that it was not an unshared sentiment.

..Mallard be thy Name

The Duck Church is also open Friday and Saturday afternoons, which I recommend for exploring the small, eccentric space more thoroughly (Sunday Mass can get crowded). Photos are allowed and encouraged! Also, If you go through a door in the back you’ll find a small sanctuary where a short video is playing; it’s a 120-year-old video of Leo Bassi’s great-great-grandfather performing. In fact, I noticed tributes to the Bassi ancestors scattered throughout the be-ducked halls; photographs and other references to an impressive lineage.

If you decide to see this place for yourself, th hours for Iglesia Patolica are Friday and Saturday from 6 to 8 pm. The Sunday Mass starts at 1 and lasts about an hour. Please note that the Church closes for vacation during the month of August. There is no entry fee, but donations are encouraged to keep the space up and running (and it wouldn’t be a real church without a tithe anyway). The nearest Metro station is Lavapiés, and here is the street address: Travesia Primavera 3. Because this art space is supported by volunteers, I suggest you keep an eye on their Instagram account for any last minute changes.

A sign saying: I love oranges and a quote on a wall outdoors

The rubber duck that started it all

¡Cuac! ¡Cuac! Amen.”

La Iglesia Patolica stands as a testament to Madrid’s creative spirit and its ability to surprise and delight. As I stepped out of that unconventional place of artistic worship, I thought about how the Duck Church isn’t just about ducks or clowns or poking fun at tradition; it’s a celebration of creativity, humor and the power of art to transform the ordinary to the extraordinary. If you find yourself in Madrid, venture into the delightful neighborhood of Lavapiés and pay homage to the Duck Church- a place where the spirit of quirkiness and artistic expression come together in a joyful harmony, inviting you to embrace its unique charm and celebrate the boundless creativity of the human spirit. What you see there is so much more than what it promises on its sign:

“Weird Stuff. Cool Duck.”

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