The Royal Site of San Lorenzo de El Escorial, commonly known as El Escorial, is a historical residence of the King of Spain about 45 kilometres northwest of Madrid. It is one of the Spanish royal sites and has functioned as a monastery, basilica, royal palace, pantheon, library, museum, university and hospital.

El Escorial comprises two architectural complexes of great historical and cultural significance: the royal monastery itself and La Granjilla de La Fresneda, 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 power of the Spanish monarchy and the ecclesiastical predominance of the Roman Catholic 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. It is also a boarding school.

Philip II of Spain, reacting to the changes of the 16th century, dedicated much of his lengthy reign (1556–1598) and much of his seemingly inexhaustible supply of New World gold to stemming the tide. His protracted efforts were, in the long run, partly successful; however, the same 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, 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, and in 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.

In 1984 UNESCO declared The Royal Seat of San Lorenzo of El Escorial a World Heritage Site. It is a popular tourist attraction, often visited by day-trippers from Madrid – more than 500,000 visitors come to El Escorial every year.

Buildings

The royal site includes the monastery, a stone complex of extraordinary dimensions surrounded by formal gardens and the monks’ gardens, the House of Trades, and the Company Quarters where the palace and monastery services were accommodated. In the 18th century, the new Houses of Trades were built, completing the Lonja (the stone esplanade), and, consequently, a small town arose around the monastery, becoming a model of the Enlightenment, accommodating the court as well as the two country villas for Charles III’s sons.

Within the monastery’s massive volume, there is an ensemble of different buildings: the monastery, the church, the royal palace, the school, the seminary, and the royal library, brilliantly organised around eleven main courtyards and three service courtyards. Some say, the design is similar to that of the grill, the instrument used for St Lawrence’s martyrdom. Its austere architecture, a sparsely ornate style, known as herreriano, was a break with previous styles, and had a deep influence on Spanish architecture for more than half a century. Notwithstanding, several rooms do have a very rich and sublime decoration. Contemporary writers praised it as one of greatest paradigms of the arts.

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Founded: 1563
Category: Religious sites in Spain

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User Reviews

Jason Drzewucki (2 years ago)
Absolutely amazing architecture set in a quite town by the mountains. Entry price was very reasonable for the amount you get to see. Stunning frescoes, and ornate palace apartments.
Muhammad Imran (2 years ago)
Very good system and I am strongly satisfied with the way the Staff met with me and behaved. I strongly Happy with Director who came to door with me. Strongly Happy with their help and assistance. Happy with the respect they shown with me from Security guard up to the Librarian. The construction is too much fantastic and amazing represents the European old constructions. I appreciate the King Philip who has recovered the lost Intellectual legacy of Andalusian time.
Norm Bour (2 years ago)
It's a beautiful diversion from the hustle and bustle of Madrid. For less than 5E one way via bus, you can be in a whole new world. The palace is beautiful, though as some others have said, maybe not as impressive as others palaces in Spain.
Valina Tsikala (2 years ago)
It's a place you have to visit, one of the most important palaces of Spain, in a really nice region. A few kilometres from Madrid, you will have to go by car or bus. The good thing is that there are not big waiting lines, although your visit to the palace and village will probably take the whole day. There are many nice restaurants close to the palace, where Spanish people go to eat. The whole place is ideal for a one day escape for madrilenean people.
Marvin J (2 years ago)
Maybe not as visually impressive as some other cathedrals but still very awe inspiring people in n you stand in front of it. The sheer size combined with the short building time make it very impressive. I also highly recommend doing a guided tour inside and taking a stroll through the gardens. Overall definitely worth a visit if you're in the area. If you're not, youd probably have to be pretty interested in architecture or history to make it worth a longer trip.
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