Just outside the historic district of Malaga, the Basilica of Santa Maria de la Victoria houses an extraordinary little crypt, decorated top to bottom with playfully macabre figures of skeletons and cherubs.
Built on the site where King Ferdinand re-captured the city in 1487, the building we see dates to the late 17th century. Also known as the Pantheon of the Counts of Buenavista, the walls of the crypt are decorated in an usually dramatic white-on-black baroque plasterwork style, giving the room an intense sense of the dramatic.
The tower representing heaven is impressive in just how ornate it is. It has a rare depiction of a heavily pregnant Madonna. Note that the crypt and tower can only be visited as part of a very interesting tour where you’ll learn about how the monks designed the crypt to remind people that the important stuff is on the inside. Just like their heavenly tower, from the outside the church does not look impressive but hiding inside is a gem that will take your breath away.
Also open in the same hours is the cloister which is not part of the tour and can be accessed freely. Walk to the left of the building and you will come to a corridor which leads to a stunning courtyard.
Update June 2019: The crypts are now closed as a public attraction. However, it’s still worth visiting the basilica to see the altarpiece.
Know Before You Go
The entrance is at the Garden Side of the Sanctuary. Guided tours (the only way to visit the Crypt and the Heavenly Tower) are from Monday to Friday, from 10:00 to 1:00, being subject to some exceptions depending on church celebrations such as baptisms, first communions, weddings, etc. Days celebrating special dates, like the Day of the Immaculate conception, Maundy Thursday or Good Friday, etc. are also excluded.