The Royal Site of San Lorenzo de El Escorial, commonly known as El Escorial, is a historical residence of the King of Spain.
It is located in the town of San Lorenzo de El Escorial, about 45 kilometres (28 miles) northwest of the
capital, Madrid, in Spain.
El Escorial functions as a monastery, basilica, royal palace, pantheon, library, museum, university and hospital.
El Escorial was ordered to be built by Philip II in the 16th century to commemorate the Battle of San Quintín.
Philip engaged the Spanish architect, Juan Bautista de Toledo, to be his collaborator in the design of El Escorial.
The building’s cornerstone was laid on 23 April 1563. With Toledo’s death in 1567, direction passed to his apprentice, Juan de Herrera, under whom the building was completed in 1584, in less than 21 years.
The Escurial Monastery stands in an exceptionally beautiful site at the foothills of the Sierra de Guadarrama.
Originally a property of the Hieronymite monks, it is now a monastery of the Order of Saint Augustine.
El Escorial is the 29th largest palace in the World!
The enormous complex is 224 meters (735 feet) wide and 153 meters (502 feet) deep; it has an area of more than 30,500 square meters (330,000 square feet).
This complex contains 16 inner courtyards, 4,000 rooms, 1,200 doors 2,675 windows, 24 kilometers (15 miles) of passageways, 86 staircases, 73 sculptures and 88 fountains.
The bBasilica 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 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.
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 from his bed when incapacitated by the gout that afflicted him.
Pantheon of the Kings 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), of the Habsburg and Bourbon dynasties from Charles I to the present, except for Philip V and Ferdinand VI.
The Hall of Battles at El Escorial depicts not only victories the Spanish had during the reign of Philip II but also other historic military victories – both ornate and fascinating, the frescos stretch unending along the length of the hall wall.
El Escorial library, founded by Philip II, houses a rare collection of more than 4,700 manuscripts, many of them illuminated, and 40,000 printed books. It was planned by Juan de Herrera, who also designed the library’s shelves; the frescoes on the vaulted ceilings were painted by Pellegrino Tibaldi.
El Escorial is also an enormous storehouse of art. It displays masterworks by Titian, Tintoretto, El Greco, Velázquez, Rogier van der Weyden, Paolo Veronese, Alonso Cano, José de Ribera, Claudio Coello and others.
Located in the basement, the Museum of Architecture displays the different materials, machinery, tools, cranes, and plans used in the construction of the Monastery as well as scale models.
The Garden of the friars located at the foot of the monastery, not only is that better retains its original appearance, but also the leading exponent of the concept that the King had gardening, which should provide visual beauty, as well as allowing the cultivation of vegetables and fruits.
Philip II donated to the monastery one of the largest reliquaries in all of Catholicism. The collection consists of some 7500 relics, which are stored in 570 sculpted reliquaries designed by Juan de Herrera. Most of them were constructed by the artisan, Juan de Arfe Villafañe. These reliquaries are found in highly varied forms (heads, arms, pyramidal cases, coffers, etc.) and are distributed throughout the monastery, with the most important being concentrated in the basilica.
On 2 November 1984, UNESCO declared The Royal Seat of San Lorenzo of El Escorial a World Heritage Site.
It is a popular tourist attraction – more than 500,000 visitors come to El Escorial every year.