El Escorial

El Escorial

Overview
The Royal Seat of San Lorenzo de El Escorial is a historical residence of the king of Spain, in the town of San Lorenzo de El Escorial, about 45 kilometres 45 kilometres (28 mi) northwest of the capital, Madrid
Madrid
Madrid is the capital and largest city of Spain. The population of the city is roughly 3.3 million and the entire population of the Madrid metropolitan area is calculated to be 6.271 million. It is the third largest city in the European Union, after London and Berlin, and its metropolitan...

, in Spain
Spain
Spain , officially the Kingdom of Spain languages]] under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. In each of these, Spain's official name is as follows:;;;;;;), is a country and member state of the European Union located in southwestern Europe on the Iberian Peninsula...

. It is one of the Spanish royal sites
Spanish royal sites
The royal sites are a set of palaces, monasteries, and convents built for and under the patronage of the Spanish monarchy. They are administered by Patrimonio Nacional , a Spanish state agency; most are open to the public, at least in part, except when they are needed for state or official...

 and functions as a monastery, royal palace, museum, and school. It is also known shorthand as El Escorial or the Escorial.

The Escorial comprises two architectural complexes of great historical and cultural significance: the royal monastery itself and La Granjilla de La Fresneda
La Granjilla de La Fresneda de El Escorial, Madrid
La Fresneda is a park in El Escorial, Community of Madrid, Spain. Built between 1561 ad 1569, it was the prívate Royal Park of Philip II in the surroundings of the Monastery of El Escorial.-History:To symbolize the union and centralization of political power of the Hispanic Monarchy, in 1561...

, a royal hunting lodge and monastic retreat about five kilometres away.
Discussion
Ask a question about 'El Escorial'
Start a new discussion about 'El Escorial'
Answer questions from other users
Full Discussion Forum
 
Unanswered Questions
Encyclopedia
The Royal Seat of San Lorenzo de El Escorial is a historical residence of the king of Spain, in the town of San Lorenzo de El Escorial, about 45 kilometres 45 kilometres (28 mi) northwest of the capital, Madrid
Madrid
Madrid is the capital and largest city of Spain. The population of the city is roughly 3.3 million and the entire population of the Madrid metropolitan area is calculated to be 6.271 million. It is the third largest city in the European Union, after London and Berlin, and its metropolitan...

, in Spain
Spain
Spain , officially the Kingdom of Spain languages]] under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. In each of these, Spain's official name is as follows:;;;;;;), is a country and member state of the European Union located in southwestern Europe on the Iberian Peninsula...

. It is one of the Spanish royal sites
Spanish royal sites
The royal sites are a set of palaces, monasteries, and convents built for and under the patronage of the Spanish monarchy. They are administered by Patrimonio Nacional , a Spanish state agency; most are open to the public, at least in part, except when they are needed for state or official...

 and functions as a monastery, royal palace, museum, and school. It is also known shorthand as El Escorial or the Escorial.

The Escorial comprises two architectural complexes of great historical and cultural significance: the royal monastery itself and La Granjilla de La Fresneda
La Granjilla de La Fresneda de El Escorial, Madrid
La Fresneda is a park in El Escorial, Community of Madrid, Spain. Built between 1561 ad 1569, it was the prívate Royal Park of Philip II in the surroundings of the Monastery of El Escorial.-History:To symbolize the union and centralization of political power of the Hispanic Monarchy, in 1561...

, a royal hunting lodge and monastic retreat about five kilometres away. These sites have a dual nature; that is to say, during the 16th and 17th centuries, they were places in which the temporal power of the Spanish monarchy and the ecclesiastical predominance of the Roman Catholic
Roman Catholic Church
The Catholic Church, also known as the Roman Catholic Church, is the world's largest Christian church, with over a billion members. Led by the Pope, it defines its mission as spreading the gospel of Jesus Christ, administering the sacraments and exercising charity...

 religion in Spain found a common architectural manifestation. El Escorial was, at once, a monastery and a Spanish royal palace. Originally a property of the Hieronymite monks, it is now a monastery of the Order of Saint Augustine
Order of Saint Augustine
The Order of St. Augustine —historically Ordo Eremitarum Sancti Augustini", O.E.S.A.), generally called Augustinians is a Catholic Religious Order, which, although more ancient, was formally created in the thirteenth century and combined of several previous Augustinian eremetical Orders into one...

.

Philip II of Spain
Philip II of Spain
Philip II was King of Spain, Portugal, Naples, Sicily, and, while married to Mary I, King of England and Ireland. He was lord of the Seventeen Provinces from 1556 until 1581, holding various titles for the individual territories such as duke or count....

, reacting to the Protestant Reformation
Protestant Reformation
The Protestant Reformation was a 16th-century split within Western Christianity initiated by Martin Luther, John Calvin and other early Protestants. The efforts of the self-described "reformers", who objected to the doctrines, rituals and ecclesiastical structure of the Roman Catholic Church, led...

 sweeping through Europe during the 16th century, devoted much of his lengthy reign (1556–1598) and much of his seemingly inexhaustible supply of New World
New World
The New World is one of the names used for the Western Hemisphere, specifically America and sometimes Oceania . The term originated in the late 15th century, when America had been recently discovered by European explorers, expanding the geographical horizon of the people of the European middle...

 gold to stemming the Protestant tide. His protracted efforts were, in the long run, partly successful; however, the same counter-reformational impulse had a much more benign expression thirty years earlier in Philip's decision to build the complex at El Escorial.

Philip engaged the Spanish architect, Juan Bautista de Toledo
Juan Bautista de Toledo
Juan Bautista de Toledo. Spanish architect educated in Italy, in the Italian High Renaissance. As many Italian renaissance architects, he had experience in both architecture and military and civil public works. Born, either in Toledo or in Madrid around 1515. Died May 19, 1567 in Madrid...

, to be his collaborator in the design of El Escorial. Juan Bautista had spent the greater part of his career in Rome, where he had worked on the basilica of St. Peter's
St. Peter's Basilica
The Papal Basilica of Saint Peter , officially known in Italian as ' and commonly known as Saint Peter's Basilica, is a Late Renaissance church located within the Vatican City. Saint Peter's Basilica has the largest interior of any Christian church in the world...

, and in Naples
Naples
Naples is a city in Southern Italy, situated on the country's west coast by the Gulf of Naples. Lying between two notable volcanic regions, Mount Vesuvius and the Phlegraean Fields, it is the capital of the region of Campania and of the province of Naples...

, where he had served the king's viceroy, whose recommendation brought him to the king's attention. Philip appointed him architect-royal in 1559, and together they designed El Escorial as a monument to Spain's role as a center of the Christian world.

On November 2, 1984, UNESCO
UNESCO
The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization is a specialized agency of the United Nations...

 declared The Royal Site of San Lorenzo of El Escorial a World Heritage Site
World Heritage Site
A UNESCO World Heritage Site is a place that is listed by the UNESCO as of special cultural or physical significance...

. It is an extremely popular tourist attraction, often visited by day-tripper
Day-tripper
A day-tripper is a person who visits a tourist destination or visitor attraction from his/her home and returns home on the same day.- Definition :In other words, this excursion does not involve a night away from home such as experienced on a holiday...

s from Madrid - more than 500,000 visitors come to El Escorial every year.

Design and conception


El Escorial is situated at the foot of Mt. Abantos in the Sierra de Guadarrama
Sierra de Guadarrama
The Sierra de Guadarrama is a mountain range forming the main eastern section of the Sistema Central, the system of mountain ranges at the centre of the Iberian Peninsula. It is located between the Sierra de Gredos in the province of Ávila, and Sierra de Ayllón in the province of Guadalajara...

. It is a bleak, semi-forested, wind-swept place that owes its name to nearby piles of slag
Slag
Slag is a partially vitreous by-product of smelting ore to separate the metal fraction from the unwanted fraction. It can usually be considered to be a mixture of metal oxides and silicon dioxide. However, slags can contain metal sulfides and metal atoms in the elemental form...

 or tailings
Tailings
Tailings, also called mine dumps, slimes, tails, leach residue, or slickens, are the materials left over after the process of separating the valuable fraction from the uneconomic fraction of an ore...

, called scoria
Scoria
Scoria is a volcanic rock containing many holes or vesicles. It is most generally dark in color , and basaltic or andesitic in composition. Scoria is relatively low in mass as a result of its numerous macroscopic ellipsoidal vesicles, but in contrast to pumice, all scoria has a specific gravity...

, the detritus of long-played-out iron mines in the Guadarrama.

This austere location, hardly an obvious choice for the site of a royal palace, was chosen by King Philip II of Spain, and it was he who ordained the building of a grand edifice here to commemorate the 1557 Spanish victory at the Battle of St. Quentin
Battle of St. Quentin (1557)
The Battle of Saint-Quentin of 1557 was fought during the Franco-Habsburg War . The Spanish, who had regained the support of the English, won a significant victory over the French at Saint-Quentin, in northern France.- Battle :...

 in Picardy against Henry II
Henry II of France
Henry II was King of France from 31 March 1547 until his death in 1559.-Early years:Henry was born in the royal Château de Saint-Germain-en-Laye, near Paris, the son of Francis I and Claude, Duchess of Brittany .His father was captured at the Battle of Pavia in 1525 by his sworn enemy,...

, king of France. He also intended the complex to serve as a necropolis
Necropolis
A necropolis is a large cemetery or burial ground, usually including structural tombs. The word comes from the Greek νεκρόπολις - nekropolis, literally meaning "city of the dead"...

 for the interment of the remains of his parents, Charles I and Isabella of Portugal
Isabella of Portugal
Isabella of Portugal was a Portuguese Princess and Holy Roman Empress, Duchess of Burgundy, and a Queen Regent/Consort of Spain. She was the daughter of Manuel I of Portugal and Maria of Aragon. By her marriage to Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor, Isabella was also Holy Roman Empress and Queen...

, himself, and his descendants. In addition, Philip envisioned El Escorial as a center for studies in aid of the Counter-Reformation
Counter-Reformation
The Counter-Reformation was the period of Catholic revival beginning with the Council of Trent and ending at the close of the Thirty Years' War, 1648 as a response to the Protestant Reformation.The Counter-Reformation was a comprehensive effort, composed of four major elements:#Ecclesiastical or...

 cause.

The building's cornerstone was laid on April 23, 1563. The design and construction were overseen by Juan Bautista de Toledo
Juan Bautista de Toledo
Juan Bautista de Toledo. Spanish architect educated in Italy, in the Italian High Renaissance. As many Italian renaissance architects, he had experience in both architecture and military and civil public works. Born, either in Toledo or in Madrid around 1515. Died May 19, 1567 in Madrid...

, who did not live to see the completion of the project. With Toledo's death in 1567, direction passed to his apprentice, Juan de Herrera
Juan de Herrera
Juan de Herrera was a Spanish architect, mathematician and geometrician.One of the most outstanding Spanish architects in the 16th century, Herrera represents the peak of the Renaissance in Spain. His sober style was fully developed in buildings like the Monastery of San Lorenzo de El Escorial...

, under whom the building was completed in 1584, in less than 21 years.

Since then, El Escorial has been the burial site for most of the Spanish kings of the last five centuries, Bourbons
House of Bourbon
The House of Bourbon is a European royal house, a branch of the Capetian dynasty . Bourbon kings first ruled Navarre and France in the 16th century. By the 18th century, members of the Bourbon dynasty also held thrones in Spain, Naples, Sicily, and Parma...

 as well as Habsburgs. The Royal Pantheon contains the tombs of the Holy Roman Emperor, Charles V
Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor
Charles V was ruler of the Holy Roman Empire from 1519 and, as Charles I, of the Spanish Empire from 1516 until his voluntary retirement and abdication in favor of his younger brother Ferdinand I and his son Philip II in 1556.As...

 (who ruled Spain as King Charles I), Philip II
Philip II of Spain
Philip II was King of Spain, Portugal, Naples, Sicily, and, while married to Mary I, King of England and Ireland. He was lord of the Seventeen Provinces from 1556 until 1581, holding various titles for the individual territories such as duke or count....

, Philip III
Philip III of Spain
Philip III , also known as Philip the Pious, was the King of Spain and King of Portugal and the Algarves, where he ruled as Philip II , from 1598 until his death...

, Philip IV
Philip IV of Spain
Philip IV was King of Spain between 1621 and 1665, sovereign of the Spanish Netherlands, and King of Portugal until 1640...

, Charles II
Charles II of Spain
Charles II was the last Habsburg King of Spain and the ruler of large parts of Italy, the Spanish territories in the Southern Low Countries, and Spain's overseas Empire, stretching from the Americas to the Spanish East Indies...

, Louis I
Louis of Spain
Louis I was reigned as King of Spain from 15 January 1724 until his death in August the same year...

, Charles III
Charles III of Spain
Charles III was the King of Spain and the Spanish Indies from 1759 to 1788. He was the eldest son of Philip V of Spain and his second wife, the Princess Elisabeth Farnese...

, Charles IV
Charles IV of Spain
Charles IV was King of Spain from 14 December 1788 until his abdication on 19 March 1808.-Early life:...

, Ferdinand VII, Isabella II
Isabella II of Spain
Isabella II was the only female monarch of Spain in modern times. She came to the throne as an infant, but her succession was disputed by the Carlists, who refused to recognise a female sovereign, leading to the Carlist Wars. After a troubled reign, she was deposed in the Glorious Revolution of...

, Alfonso XII
Alfonso XII of Spain
Alfonso XII was king of Spain, reigning from 1874 to 1885, after a coup d'état restored the monarchy and ended the ephemeral First Spanish Republic.-Early life and paternity:Alfonso was the son of Queen Isabella II of Spain, and...

, and Alfonso XIII
Alfonso XIII of Spain
Alfonso XIII was King of Spain from 1886 until 1931. His mother, Maria Christina of Austria, was appointed regent during his minority...

. Two Bourbon kings, Philip V
Philip V of Spain
Philip V was King of Spain from 15 November 1700 to 15 January 1724, when he abdicated in favor of his son Louis, and from 6 September 1724, when he assumed the throne again upon his son's death, to his death.Before his reign, Philip occupied an exalted place in the royal family of France as a...

 (who reigned from 1700 to 1746) and Ferdinand VI
Ferdinand VI of Spain
Ferdinand VI , called the Learnt, was King of Spain from 9 July 1746 until his death. He was the fourth son of the previous monarch Philip V and his first wife Maria Luisa of Savoy...

 (1746–1759), as well as King Amadeus
Amadeo I of Spain
Amadeo I was the only King of Spain from the House of Savoy...

 (1870–1873), are not buried in the monastery.

The floor plan of the building is in the form of a gridiron. The traditional belief is that this design was chosen in honor of St. Lawrence
Saint Lawrence
Lawrence of Rome was one of the seven deacons of ancient Rome who were martyred during the persecution of Valerian in 258.- Holy Chalice :...

, who, in the third century AD, was martyred by being roasted to death on a grill. St. Lawrence’s feast day is August 10, the same date as the 1557 Battle of St. Quentin.

In fact, however, the origin of the building's layout is quite controversial. The grill-like shape, which did not fully emerge until Herrera eliminated from the original conception the six interior towers of the facade, was, by no means, unique to El Escorial. Other buildings had been constructed with interior courtyards fronting on churches or chapels; King's College, Cambridge
King's College, Cambridge
King's College is a constituent college of the University of Cambridge, England. The college's full name is "The King's College of our Lady and Saint Nicholas in Cambridge", but it is usually referred to simply as "King's" within the University....

, dating from 1441, is one such example; the old Ospedale Maggiore
Ospedale Maggiore
The Ospedale Maggiore, traditionally named Ca' Granda , is a building in the center of Milan, northern Italy, constructed to house one of the first community hospitals, the largest such undertaking of the fifteenth century...

, Milan
Milan
Milan is the second-largest city in Italy and the capital city of the region of Lombardy and of the province of Milan. The city proper has a population of about 1.3 million, while its urban area, roughly coinciding with its administrative province and the bordering Province of Monza and Brianza ,...

's first hospital, begun in 1456 by Antonio Filarete, is another grid-like building with interior courtyards. In fact, palaces of this approximate design were commonplace in the Byzantine and Arab world. Strikingly similar to El Escorial is the layout of the Alcázar of Seville
Alcázar of Seville
thumb|right|250px|Baths of Lady María de PadillaThe Alcázar of Seville is a royal palace in Seville, Spain, originally a Moorish fort....

 and the design of the Alhambra
Alhambra
The Alhambra , the complete form of which was Calat Alhambra , is a palace and fortress complex located in the Granada, Andalusia, Spain...

 at Granada
Granada
Granada is a city and the capital of the province of Granada, in the autonomous community of Andalusia, Spain. Granada is located at the foot of the Sierra Nevada mountains, at the confluence of three rivers, the Beiro, the Darro and the Genil. It sits at an elevation of 738 metres above sea...

 where, as at El Escorial, two courtyards in succession separate the main portal of the complex from a fully enclosed place of worship.


Nonetheless, the most persuasive theory for the origin of the floor plan is that it is based on descriptions
Replicas of the Jewish Temple
Replicas of the Jewish Temple are scale models or authentic buildings that attempt to replicate the Temple of Solomon, Second Temple and Herod's Temple in Jerusalem.-Scale models:...

 of the Temple of Solomon by the Judeo-Roman historian, Flavius Josephus: a portico followed by a courtyard open to the sky, followed by a second portico and a second courtyard, all flanked by arcades and enclosed passageways, leading to the "holy of holies". Statues of David
David
David was the second king of the united Kingdom of Israel according to the Hebrew Bible and, according to the Gospels of Matthew and Luke, an ancestor of Jesus Christ through both Saint Joseph and Mary...

 and Solomon
Solomon
Solomon , according to the Book of Kings and the Book of Chronicles, a King of Israel and according to the Talmud one of the 48 prophets, is identified as the son of David, also called Jedidiah in 2 Samuel 12:25, and is described as the third king of the United Monarchy, and the final king before...

 on either side of the entrance to the basilica
Basilica
The Latin word basilica , was originally used to describe a Roman public building, usually located in the forum of a Roman town. Public basilicas began to appear in Hellenistic cities in the 2nd century BC.The term was also applied to buildings used for religious purposes...

 of El Escorial lend further weight to the theory that this is the true origin of the design. A more personal connection can be drawn between the David-warrior figure, representing Charles V
Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor
Charles V was ruler of the Holy Roman Empire from 1519 and, as Charles I, of the Spanish Empire from 1516 until his voluntary retirement and abdication in favor of his younger brother Ferdinand I and his son Philip II in 1556.As...

, and his son, the stolid and solomonically prudent Philip II. Echoing the same theme, a fresco in the center of El Escorial's library, a reminder of Solomon’s legendary wisdom, affirms Philip's preoccupation with the great Jewish king, his thoughtful and logical character, and his extraordinary monumental temple.

The Temple-of-Solomon design, if indeed it was the basis for El Escorial, was extensively modified to accommodate the additional functions and purposes Philip II intended the building to serve. Beyond being a monastery, El Escorial is also a pantheon, a basilica, a convent, a school, a library, and a royal palace. All these functional demands resulted in a doubling of the building's size from the time of its original conception.

Built primarily from locally quarried gray granite, square and sparsely ornamented, El Escorial is austere, even forbidding, in its outward appearance, seemingly more like a fortress than a monastery or palace. It takes the form of a gigantic quadrangle, approximately 224 m by 153 m, which encloses a series of intersecting passageways and courtyards and chambers. At each of the four corners is a square tower surmounted by a spire, and, near the center of the complex (and taller than the rest) rise the pointed belfries and round dome of the basilica. Philip's instructions to Toledo were simple and clear, directing that the architects should produce "simplicity in the construction, severity in the whole, nobility without arrogance, majesty without ostentation."

Aside from its explicit purposes, the complex is also an enormous storehouse of art. It displays masterworks by Titian
Titian
Tiziano Vecelli or Tiziano Vecellio Tiziano Vecelli or Tiziano Vecellio Tiziano Vecelli or Tiziano Vecellio (c. 1488/1490 – 27 August 1576 better known as Titian was an Italian painter, the most important member of the 16th-century Venetian school. He was born in Pieve di Cadore, near...

, Tintoretto
Tintoretto
Tintoretto , real name Jacopo Comin, was a Venetian painter and a notable exponent of the Renaissance school. For his phenomenal energy in painting he was termed Il Furioso...

, El Greco
El Greco
El Greco was a painter, sculptor and architect of the Spanish Renaissance. "El Greco" was a nickname, a reference to his ethnic Greek origin, and the artist normally signed his paintings with his full birth name in Greek letters, Δομήνικος Θεοτοκόπουλος .El Greco was born on Crete, which was at...

, Velázquez
Diego Velázquez
Diego Rodríguez de Silva y Velázquez was a Spanish painter who was the leading artist in the court of King Philip IV. He was an individualistic artist of the contemporary Baroque period, important as a portrait artist...

, Roger van der Weyden
Roger van der Weyden
Rogier van der Weyden or Rogier de le Pasture was an Early Flemish painter. His surviving works consist mainly of religious triptychs, altarpieces and commissioned single and diptych portraits. Although his life was generally uneventful, he was highly successful and internationally famous in his...

, Paolo Veronese
Paolo Veronese
Paolo Veronese was an Italian painter of the Renaissance in Venice, famous for paintings such as The Wedding at Cana and The Feast in the House of Levi...

, Alonso Cano
Alonzo Cano
Alonzo Cano or Alonso Cano was a Spanish painter, architect and sculptor born in Granada. He learned architecture from his father, Miguel Cano; painting in the academy of Juan del Castillo, and from Francisco Pacheco the teacher of Velázquez; and sculpture from Juan Martínez Montañés...

, José de Ribera, Claudio Coello
Claudio Coello
Claudio Coello was a Spanish Baroque painter. Influenced by many other artists, including Diego Velázquez who was also of Portuguese descent, Coello is considered the last great Spanish painter of the 17th century....

 and others. The library contains thousands of priceless manuscript
Manuscript
A manuscript or handwrite is written information that has been manually created by someone or some people, such as a hand-written letter, as opposed to being printed or reproduced some other way...

s; for example, the collection of the sultan, Zidan Abu Maali
Zidan Abu Maali
Mawlay Zidan Abu Maali, sultan of Morocco of the Saadi Dynasty , son of Ahmad al-Mansur, residing in Marrakech.-Civil war:...

, who ruled Morocco from 1603 to 1627, is housed at El Escorial. Giambattista Castello designed the magnificent main staircase.

Sections of the building


In order to describe the parts of the great building in a coherent fashion, it may be useful to undertake an imaginary walking tour, beginning with the main entrance at the center of the western facade:

Courtyard of the Kings



The first thing you find upon arriving to El Escorial is the main Façade. This has three doors: the middle one leads to the Courtyard of the Kings (Patio de los Reyes) and the side ones lead to a school and the other to a monastery. On the façade there is a niche where the image of a saint has been placed. The courtyard is an enclosure that owes its name to the statues of the Kings of Judah that adorn the façade of the Basílica, located at the back, from which you can access from the courtyard. This spectacular basilica has a floor in the shape of a Greek cross and an enormous cupola inspired by St. Peter's Basilica in Rome. The naves are covered with canyon vaults decorated with frescoes by Lucas Jordán
Luca Giordano
Luca Giordano was an Italian late Baroque painter and printmaker in etching. Fluent and decorative, he worked successfully in Naples and Rome, Florence and Venice, before spending a decade in Spain....

. The large chapel is one of the highlights in the basilica, presided by steps of red marble. Its main altarpiece is 30 meters high and divided in compartments of different sizes where are find bronze sculptures and canvas authored by Tibaldi, Zuccari or Leoni. In the Capitulary and the Sacristy Rooms, painting such as Joseph's Coat by Velázquez, The Last Supper by Titian, or The Adoration of the Sacred Host by Charles II by Claudio Coello are on exhibit.

Under the royal chapel of the Basilica is the Royal Pantheon. This is the place of burial for the kings of Spain. It is an octagonal Baroque mausoleum made of marble where all of the Spanish monarchs since Charles I have been buried, with the exception of Philip V, Ferdinand of Savoy, and Amadeus of Savoy. The remains of Juan de Borbon, father of King Juan Carlos I of Spain
Juan Carlos I of Spain
Juan Carlos I |Italy]]) is the reigning King of Spain.On 22 November 1975, two days after the death of General Francisco Franco, Juan Carlos was designated king according to the law of succession promulgated by Franco. Spain had no monarch for 38 years in 1969 when Franco named Juan Carlos as the...

, also rest in this pantheon despite the fact that he never became king himself. The enclosure is presided over by an altar of veined marble, and the sarcaphogi are bronze and marble. also find the Pantheon of the Princes, where the bodies of the queens who did not have a crowned succession and the princes and princesses were laid to rest. This part was built in the nineteenth century.

After the basilica is the Courtyard of the Evangelists. This is a gardened patio in whose center rises a magnificent pavilion by Juan de Herrera in which you can find sculptures of the Evangelists. Around the courtyard are the galleries of the main cloister, decorated with frescoes in which scenes from the history of the Redemption are represented. In the East gallery, you find the splendid main stair case with a fresco-decorated vaulted ceiling depicting The glory of the Spanish monarchy.

Next is the Palace of the Austrians (Palacio de los Austrias), also known as the House of the King (Casa del Rey), which is found behind the presbytery of the basilica. The outbuildings of this palace are distributed around the Courtyard of the Fountainheads (patio de los Mascarones), of Italian style. Inside the House of the King are the Sala de las Batallas (Hall of Battles), which contains frescoes of the battles of San Quintín and Higueruela, among others. The next building contains the rooms of Philip II and of the Infanta Isabel Clara Eugenia. Another outbuilding is that of Alcoba del Rey, housing the bed in which Philip II died.

The basilica



The basilica of San Lorenzo el Real, the central building in the El Escorial complex, was originally designed, like most of the late Gothic cathedrals of western Europe, to take the form of a Latin cross. As such, it has a long nave
Nave
In Romanesque and Gothic Christian abbey, cathedral basilica and church architecture, the nave is the central approach to the high altar, the main body of the church. "Nave" was probably suggested by the keel shape of its vaulting...

 on the west-east axis intersected by a pair of shorter transepts, one to the north and one directly opposite, to the south, about three-quarters of the way between the west entrance and the high altar. This plan was modified by Juan de Herrera to that of a Greek cross, a form with all four arms of equal length. Coincident with this shift in approach, the bell towers at the western end of the church were somewhat reduced in size and the small half-dome intended to stand over the altar was replaced with a full circular dome over the center of the church, where the four arms of the Greek cross meet.

Clearly Juan Bautista de Toledo's experience with the dome of St. Peter's basilica in Rome influenced the design of the dome of San Lorenzo el Real at El Escorial. However, the Roman dome is supported by ranks of tapered Corinthian
Corinthian order
The Corinthian order is one of the three principal classical orders of ancient Greek and Roman architecture. The other two are the Doric and Ionic. When classical architecture was revived during the Renaissance, two more orders were added to the canon, the Tuscan order and the Composite order...

 columns, with their extravagant capitals of acanthus leaves and their elaborately fluted shafts, while the dome at El Escorial, soaring nearly one hundred metres into the air, is supported by four heavy granite piers connected by simple Romanesque arches and decorated by simple Doric
Doric order
The Doric order was one of the three orders or organizational systems of ancient Greek or classical architecture; the other two canonical orders were the Ionic and the Corinthian.-History:...

 pilasters, plain, solid, and largely unprepossessing. It would not be a flight of fancy to interpret St. Peter's as the quintessential expression of Baroque
Baroque
The Baroque is a period and the style that used exaggerated motion and clear, easily interpreted detail to produce drama, tension, exuberance, and grandeur in sculpture, painting, literature, dance, and music...

 sensuality and the basilica at El Escorial as a statement of the stark rigidity and grim purposefulness of the Inquisition
Spanish Inquisition
The Tribunal of the Holy Office of the Inquisition , commonly known as the Spanish Inquisition , was a tribunal established in 1480 by Catholic Monarchs Ferdinand II of Aragon and Isabella I of Castile. It was intended to maintain Catholic orthodoxy in their kingdoms, and to replace the Medieval...

, the two sides of the Counter-Reformation
Counter-Reformation
The Counter-Reformation was the period of Catholic revival beginning with the Council of Trent and ending at the close of the Thirty Years' War, 1648 as a response to the Protestant Reformation.The Counter-Reformation was a comprehensive effort, composed of four major elements:#Ecclesiastical or...

.

The most highly decorated part of the church is the area surrounding the high altar. Behind the altar is a three-tiered reredos
Reredos
thumb|300px|right|An altar and reredos from [[St. Josaphat's Roman Catholic Church|St. Josaphat Catholic Church]] in [[Detroit]], [[Michigan]]. This would be called a [[retable]] in many other languages and countries....

, made of red granite and jasper
Jasper
Jasper, a form of chalcedony, is an opaque, impure variety of silica, usually red, yellow, brown or green in color; and rarely blue. This mineral breaks with a smooth surface, and is used for ornamentation or as a gemstone. It can be highly polished and is used for vases, seals, and at one time for...

, nearly twenty-eight metres tall, adorned with gilded bronze statuary by Leone Leoni
Leone Leoni
Leone Leoni was an Italian sculptor of international outlook who travelled in Italy, Germany, Austria, France, the Spanish Netherlands and Spain. Leoni is regarded as the finest of the Cinquecento medallists. He made his reputation in commissions he received from the Habsburg monarchs Charles V,...

, and three sets of religious paintings commissioned by Philip II. To either side are gilded life-size bronzes of the kneeling family groups of Charles and Philip, also by Leoni with help from his son Pompeo. In a shallow niche at the center of the lowest level is a repository for the physical elements of the communion ceremony, a so-called "House of the Sacrament", designed by Juan de Herrera in jasper
Jasper
Jasper, a form of chalcedony, is an opaque, impure variety of silica, usually red, yellow, brown or green in color; and rarely blue. This mineral breaks with a smooth surface, and is used for ornamentation or as a gemstone. It can be highly polished and is used for vases, seals, and at one time for...

 and bronze
Bronze
Bronze is a metal alloy consisting primarily of copper, usually with tin as the main additive. It is hard and brittle, and it was particularly significant in antiquity, so much so that the Bronze Age was named after the metal...

.

To decorate the reredos, or altar screens, the king's preferences were Michelangelo
Michelangelo
Michelangelo di Lodovico Buonarroti Simoni , commonly known as Michelangelo, was an Italian Renaissance painter, sculptor, architect, poet, and engineer who exerted an unparalleled influence on the development of Western art...

 or Titian
Titian
Tiziano Vecelli or Tiziano Vecellio Tiziano Vecelli or Tiziano Vecellio Tiziano Vecelli or Tiziano Vecellio (c. 1488/1490 – 27 August 1576 better known as Titian was an Italian painter, the most important member of the 16th-century Venetian school. He was born in Pieve di Cadore, near...

, but both of these giants were already more than eighty years old and in frail health. Consequently, Philip consulted his foreign ambassadors for recommendations, and the result was a lengthy parade of the lesser European artists of that time, all swanning through the construction site at El Escorial seeking the king's favor.

Palace of Philip II


Situated next to the main altar of the Basilica, the residence of King Philip II is made up of a series of austerely decorated rooms. It features a window from which the king could observe mass
Mass (liturgy)
"Mass" is one of the names by which the sacrament of the Eucharist is called in the Roman Catholic Church: others are "Eucharist", the "Lord's Supper", the "Breaking of Bread", the "Eucharistic assembly ", the "memorial of the Lord's Passion and Resurrection", the "Holy Sacrifice", the "Holy and...

 from his bed when incapacitated by the gout
Gout
Gout is a medical condition usually characterized by recurrent attacks of acute inflammatory arthritis—a red, tender, hot, swollen joint. The metatarsal-phalangeal joint at the base of the big toe is the most commonly affected . However, it may also present as tophi, kidney stones, or urate...

 that afflicted him.

Hall of Battles


Fresco paintings here depict the most important Spanish military victories. These include a medieval victory over the Moors, as well as several of Philip's campaigns against the French.

Pantheon of the Kings


This consists of twenty-six marble sepulchers containing the remains of the kings and queens regnant (the only queen regnant since Philip II being Isabella II
Isabella II of Spain
Isabella II was the only female monarch of Spain in modern times. She came to the throne as an infant, but her succession was disputed by the Carlists, who refused to recognise a female sovereign, leading to the Carlist Wars. After a troubled reign, she was deposed in the Glorious Revolution of...

), of the Habsburg
Habsburg Spain
Habsburg Spain refers to the history of Spain over the 16th and 17th centuries , when Spain was ruled by the major branch of the Habsburg dynasty...

 and Bourbon
House of Bourbon
The House of Bourbon is a European royal house, a branch of the Capetian dynasty . Bourbon kings first ruled Navarre and France in the 16th century. By the 18th century, members of the Bourbon dynasty also held thrones in Spain, Naples, Sicily, and Parma...

 dynasties from Charles I
Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor
Charles V was ruler of the Holy Roman Empire from 1519 and, as Charles I, of the Spanish Empire from 1516 until his voluntary retirement and abdication in favor of his younger brother Ferdinand I and his son Philip II in 1556.As...

 to the present, except for Philip V
Philip V of Spain
Philip V was King of Spain from 15 November 1700 to 15 January 1724, when he abdicated in favor of his son Louis, and from 6 September 1724, when he assumed the throne again upon his son's death, to his death.Before his reign, Philip occupied an exalted place in the royal family of France as a...

 and Ferdinand VI
Ferdinand VI of Spain
Ferdinand VI , called the Learnt, was King of Spain from 9 July 1746 until his death. He was the fourth son of the previous monarch Philip V and his first wife Maria Luisa of Savoy...

.

The sepulchers also contain the remains of royal consorts who were parents of monarchs. The only king consort is Francis of Asis de Bourbon, husband of queen Isabella II.
The most recent remains in the sepulcher are those of King Alfonso XIII
Alfonso XIII of Spain
Alfonso XIII was King of Spain from 1886 until 1931. His mother, Maria Christina of Austria, was appointed regent during his minority...

. Those of his wife, as well as his son Juan, Count of Barcelona, and daughter-in-law Maria de las Mercedes
Maria Mercedes of Bourbon-Two Sicilies
Princess María Mercedes of Bourbon-Two Sicilies was the mother of current King Juan Carlos I of Spain.- Biography :María was born in Madrid, daughter of Prince Carlos of Bourbon-Two...

 (the parents of the current king, Juan Carlos I
Juan Carlos I of Spain
Juan Carlos I |Italy]]) is the reigning King of Spain.On 22 November 1975, two days after the death of General Francisco Franco, Juan Carlos was designated king according to the law of succession promulgated by Franco. Spain had no monarch for 38 years in 1969 when Franco named Juan Carlos as the...

), lie at a prepared place called a pudridero, or decaying chamber.

There are two pudrideros at El Escorial, one for the Pantheon of the Kings and the other for that of the Princes, which can only be visited by monks from the Monastery. In these rooms, the remains of the deceased are placed in a small leaden urn, which in turn will be placed in the marble sepulchers of the pantheon after the passage of fifty years, the estimated time necessary for the complete decomposition of the bodies.

When the remains of the Count and Countess of Barcelona are deposited in the Royal Pantheon, they will, in a sense, constitute exceptions to tradition. First, the Count of Barcelona was never able to reign, due to the institution of the Second Republic and the exile of Alfonso XIII and his entire family, though they are the parents of a King, and their remains are in the Pantheon. Second, the Pantheon also contains the remains of Victoria Eugenie of Battenberg, who, although the wife of a King, was never the mother of a king in the strict sense. Some, however, do consider the Count of Barcelona to have been de jure King of Spain, which in turn would make Queen Victoria Eugenia the mother of a king. With the interment of the Count and Countess' remains, all the sepulchers in the Royal Pantheon will be filled; no decision has yet been announced as to the final resting place of the currently living members of the Royal Family.

There has already been one exception to this old tradition: Elisabeth of Bourbon is for the moment the only queen in the pantheon who has not been mother to a King. That is because her only son, the presumed Heir to the Throne, died after her.

The walls of polished Toledo
Toledo, Spain
Toledo's Alcázar became renowned in the 19th and 20th centuries as a military academy. At the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War in 1936 its garrison was famously besieged by Republican forces.-Economy:...

 marble are ornamented in gold-plated bronze.

All of the wood used in El Escorial comes from the ancient forests of Sagua La Grande
Sagua La Grande
Sagua La Grande is a municipality and city located on the north coast of the province of Villa Clara in central Cuba, on the Sagua la Grande River. The city is close to Mogotes de Jumagua, limestone cliffs...

, on the so-called Golden Coast of Cuba.

Pantheon of the Princes


Completed in 1888, this is the final resting place of princes, princesses and queens who were not mothers of kings. With floors and ceiling of white marble, the tomb of Prince John of Austria is especially notable. Currently, thirty-seven of the sixty available niches are filled.

Art Gallery


Consists of works of the German
German art
German art has a long and distinguished tradition in the visual arts, from the earliest known work of figurative art to its current output of contemporary art....

, Flemish
Early Netherlandish painting
Early Netherlandish painting refers to the work of artists active in the Low Countries during the 15th- and early 16th-century Northern renaissance, especially in the flourishing Burgundian cities of Bruges and Ghent...

, Venetian
Republic of Venice
The Republic of Venice or Venetian Republic was a state originating from the city of Venice in Northeastern Italy. It existed for over a millennium, from the late 7th century until 1797. It was formally known as the Most Serene Republic of Venice and is often referred to as La Serenissima, in...

, Lombard
Lombardy
Lombardy is one of the 20 regions of Italy. The capital is Milan. One-sixth of Italy's population lives in Lombardy and about one fifth of Italy's GDP is produced in this region, making it the most populous and richest region in the country and one of the richest in the whole of Europe...

, Liguria
Liguria
Liguria is a coastal region of north-western Italy, the third smallest of the Italian regions. Its capital is Genoa. It is a popular region with tourists for its beautiful beaches, picturesque little towns, and good food.-Geography:...

n and more Italian and Spanish
Spanish art
Spanish art is the visual art of Spain, and that of Spanish artists worldwide. Whilst an important contributor to Western art and producing many famous and influential artists Spanish art has often had distinctive characteristics and been assessed...

 schools from the fifteenth, sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.

Architectural Museum


Its eleven rooms showcase the tools, cranes and other materials used in the construction of the edifice, as well as reproductions of blueprints and documents related to the project, containing some very interesting facts.

Gardens of the Friars


Constructed at the order of Philip II, a great lover of nature, these constitute an ideal place for repose and meditation. Manuel Azaña
Manuel Azaña
Manuel Azaña Díaz was a Spanish politician. He was the first Prime Minister of the Second Spanish Republic , and later served again as Prime Minister , and then as the second and last President of the Republic . The Spanish Civil War broke out while he was President...

, who studied in the monastery's Augustinian
Order of Saint Augustine
The Order of St. Augustine —historically Ordo Eremitarum Sancti Augustini", O.E.S.A.), generally called Augustinians is a Catholic Religious Order, which, although more ancient, was formally created in the thirteenth century and combined of several previous Augustinian eremetical Orders into one...

-run school, mentions them in his Memorias (Memoirs) and his play El jardín de los frailes (The Garden of the Friars). Students at the school still use it today to study and pass the time.

Library


Philip II donated his personal collection of documents to the building, and also undertook the acquisition of the finest libraries and works of Spain and foreign countries. It was planned by Juan de Herrera
Juan de Herrera
Juan de Herrera was a Spanish architect, mathematician and geometrician.One of the most outstanding Spanish architects in the 16th century, Herrera represents the peak of the Renaissance in Spain. His sober style was fully developed in buildings like the Monastery of San Lorenzo de El Escorial...

, who also designed the library’s shelves; the frescoes on the vaulted ceilings were painted by Pellegrino Tibaldi
Pellegrino Tibaldi
Pellegrino Tibaldi , also known as Pellegrino di Tibaldo de Pellegrini, was an Italian mannerist architect, sculptor, and mural painter.-Biography:...

. The library’s collection consists of more than 40,000 volumes, located in a great hall fifty-four meters in length, nine meters wide and ten meters tall with marble floors and beautifully carved wood shelves.

Benito Arias Montano
Benito Arias Montano
Benito Arias Montano , Spanish orientalist and editor of the Antwerp Polyglot, was born at Fregenal de la Sierra, in Extremadura, in 1527. After studying at the universities of Seville and Alcalá, he took orders about the year 1559. He became a clerical member of the Military Order of St...

 produced the initial catalog for the library, selecting many of the most important volumes. In 1616 he was granted the privilege of receiving a copy of every published work, though there is no evidence that he ever took advantage of this right.

The vault of the library's ceiling is decorated with frescoes depicting the seven liberal arts
Liberal arts
The term liberal arts refers to those subjects which in classical antiquity were considered essential for a free citizen to study. Grammar, Rhetoric and Logic were the core liberal arts. In medieval times these subjects were extended to include mathematics, geometry, music and astronomy...

: Rhetoric
Rhetoric
Rhetoric is the art of discourse, an art that aims to improve the facility of speakers or writers who attempt to inform, persuade, or motivate particular audiences in specific situations. As a subject of formal study and a productive civic practice, rhetoric has played a central role in the Western...

, Dialectic
Dialectic
Dialectic is a method of argument for resolving disagreement that has been central to Indic and European philosophy since antiquity. The word dialectic originated in Ancient Greece, and was made popular by Plato in the Socratic dialogues...

, Music
Music
Music is an art form whose medium is sound and silence. Its common elements are pitch , rhythm , dynamics, and the sonic qualities of timbre and texture...

, Grammar
Grammar
In linguistics, grammar is the set of structural rules that govern the composition of clauses, phrases, and words in any given natural language. The term refers also to the study of such rules, and this field includes morphology, syntax, and phonology, often complemented by phonetics, semantics,...

, Arithmetic
Arithmetic
Arithmetic or arithmetics is the oldest and most elementary branch of mathematics, used by almost everyone, for tasks ranging from simple day-to-day counting to advanced science and business calculations. It involves the study of quantity, especially as the result of combining numbers...

, Geometry
Geometry
Geometry arose as the field of knowledge dealing with spatial relationships. Geometry was one of the two fields of pre-modern mathematics, the other being the study of numbers ....

 and Astronomy
Astronomy
Astronomy is a natural science that deals with the study of celestial objects and phenomena that originate outside the atmosphere of Earth...

.

The reliquaries


Following a rule approved by the Council of Trent
Council of Trent
The Council of Trent was the 16th-century Ecumenical Council of the Roman Catholic Church. It is considered to be one of the Church's most important councils. It convened in Trent between December 13, 1545, and December 4, 1563 in twenty-five sessions for three periods...

 dealing with the veneration of saints, Philip II donated to the monastery one of the largest reliquaries
Reliquary
A reliquary is a container for relics. These may be the physical remains of saints, such as bones, pieces of clothing, or some object associated with saints or other religious figures...

 in all of Catholicism. The collection consists of some 7500 relics, which are stored in 570 sculpted reliquaries designed by Juan de Herrera
Juan de Herrera
Juan de Herrera was a Spanish architect, mathematician and geometrician.One of the most outstanding Spanish architects in the 16th century, Herrera represents the peak of the Renaissance in Spain. His sober style was fully developed in buildings like the Monastery of San Lorenzo de El Escorial...

. Most of them were constructed by the artisan, Juan de Arfe Villafañe. These reliquaries are found in highly varied forms (heads, arms, pyramidal cases, coffer
Coffer
A coffer in architecture, is a sunken panel in the shape of a square, rectangle, or octagon in a ceiling, soffit or vault...

s, etc.) and are distributed throughout the monastery, with the most important being concentrated in the basilica.

Adjacent buildings


Juan de Herrera
Juan de Herrera
Juan de Herrera was a Spanish architect, mathematician and geometrician.One of the most outstanding Spanish architects in the 16th century, Herrera represents the peak of the Renaissance in Spain. His sober style was fully developed in buildings like the Monastery of San Lorenzo de El Escorial...

 also designed the Casas de Oficios or Official Buildings opposite the monastery's north façade, and his successor, Francisco de Mora
Francisco de Mora
Francisco de Mora was a Spanish Renaissance architect. He was uncle to the architect Juan Gómez de Mora and to the humanist Baltasar Porreño...

, designed the Casa de la Compaña (Company Quarters).

See also

  • Philip II of Spain
    Philip II of Spain
    Philip II was King of Spain, Portugal, Naples, Sicily, and, while married to Mary I, King of England and Ireland. He was lord of the Seventeen Provinces from 1556 until 1581, holding various titles for the individual territories such as duke or count....

  • La Granjilla de La Fresneda de El Escorial
  • Juan Bautista de Toledo
    Juan Bautista de Toledo
    Juan Bautista de Toledo. Spanish architect educated in Italy, in the Italian High Renaissance. As many Italian renaissance architects, he had experience in both architecture and military and civil public works. Born, either in Toledo or in Madrid around 1515. Died May 19, 1567 in Madrid...

  • Juan de Herrera
    Juan de Herrera
    Juan de Herrera was a Spanish architect, mathematician and geometrician.One of the most outstanding Spanish architects in the 16th century, Herrera represents the peak of the Renaissance in Spain. His sober style was fully developed in buildings like the Monastery of San Lorenzo de El Escorial...

  • Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor
    Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor
    Charles V was ruler of the Holy Roman Empire from 1519 and, as Charles I, of the Spanish Empire from 1516 until his voluntary retirement and abdication in favor of his younger brother Ferdinand I and his son Philip II in 1556.As...

  • Town of El Escorial
    El Escorial, Madrid
    El Escorial is a municipality in the Autonomous Community of Madrid, located 45 km northwest of the Spanish capital Madrid. Its population in 2009 was 14,979.The territory of El Escorial is home to the park of La Granjilla de la Fresneda...

  • San Lorenzo de El Escorial, Madrid
    San Lorenzo de El Escorial, Madrid
    San Lorenzo de El Escorial, also known as El Escorial de Arriba is a town and municipality in the Community of Madrid, Spain, located to the northwest of the region in the southeastern side of the Sierra de Guadarrama, at the foot of Mount Abantos and Las Machotas, from Madrid. It is head of the...

  • List of early modern universities in Europe
  • List of World Heritage Sites in Spain
  • Valle de los Caídos
  • Golden Age
    Golden Age
    The term Golden Age comes from Greek mythology and legend and refers to the first in a sequence of four or five Ages of Man, in which the Golden Age is first, followed in sequence, by the Silver, Bronze, and Iron Ages, and then the present, a period of decline...

  • Renaissance
    Renaissance
    The Renaissance was a cultural movement that spanned roughly the 14th to the 17th century, beginning in Italy in the Late Middle Ages and later spreading to the rest of Europe. The term is also used more loosely to refer to the historical era, but since the changes of the Renaissance were not...

  • Replicas of the Jewish Temple
    Replicas of the Jewish Temple
    Replicas of the Jewish Temple are scale models or authentic buildings that attempt to replicate the Temple of Solomon, Second Temple and Herod's Temple in Jerusalem.-Scale models:...


External links