Monastery and Site of the Escurial, Madrid (1984)
Spain

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Spain 1988. El Escorial Spanish World Heritage.

Built at the end of the 16th century on a plan in the form of a grill, the instrument of the martyrdom of St Lawrence, the Escurial Monastery stands in an exceptionally beautiful site in Castile. Its austere architecture, a break with previous styles, had a considerable influence on Spanish architecture for more than half a century. It was the retreat of a mystic king and became, in the last years of Philip II's reign, the centre of the greatest political power of the time. 
  • Spain 1988. El Escorial World Heritage. Through the transparent letters one has a view of the monastery. 

El Escorial consists of two parts, the palace and the town, both with the same name. 

The palace
El Escorial is the royal palace 43 km (27 mi) northwest of Madrid, founded in the 16th century by Philip II of Spain. It incorporates a cathedralesque church, a monastery, a school, and a famous library, and reflects the deeply pious outlook of its founder. 

The vast complex, said to contain 160 km (100 mi) of corridors, was constructed between 1563 and 1584. Philip's intention was to build a royal burial place for the monarchs of Spain in accordance with the wishes of his father, Emperor Charles V, and to honor a vow he had made to build a church dedicated to Saint Lawrence. After the death of Spaniard Juan Bautista de Toledo, the first architect of the palace, in 1567, the work was completed by another Spanish architect, Juan de Herrera. Philip lived at El Escorial for 14 years and died there in 1598. 
  • Spain 1979. King Philipp II, of the Habsburg Line, founder of El Escorial. 
Spain 1979. King Philipp II, founder of El Escorial.

Spain 1961. Panoramic view of the St. Lawrence Monastery, El Escorial.

Spain 1961. El Escorial, southern façade and the garden of the monks.

As approached from the west, its main entrance, the palace resembles a fortress. 

Its architectural forms, based principally on classical Roman sources, convey monumental grandeur, combined with a simplicity of decoration that borders on severity. 

Within, the royal apartments are relatively modest, since Philip's religious convictions led him to live in considerable austerity. In contrast, the church (1578-1581) is vast and elaborately decorated. 

  • Spain 1961. Panoramic view of the St. Lawrence (San Lorenzo) Monastery, El Escorial. 
  • Spain 1961. El Escorial, southern façade and the garden of the monks. 
 

The royal burial vault (Panteón de los Reyes), constructed after Philip's own death, contains the bodies of Charles V (brought there in 1634), of Philip himself, and of many subsequent Spanish monarchs. 

  • Spain 1961. El Escorial. The monastery church and the Royal Courtyard, "Patio de los Reyes". 
  • Spain 1961. El Escorial. The main altar in the monastery church. 

Spain 1961. El Escorial. The monastery church and the Royal Courtyard "Patio de los Reyes".

Spain 1961. El Escorial. The main altar in the monastery church.

Spain 1961. El Escorial. The inner courtyard "Patio de los Evangelistas".

Spain 1961. El Escorial. The vast staircase in the West Gallery.

South of the church is the Patio de los Evangelistas (Courtyard of the Evangelists), the heart of the monastery. 

The library (Biblioteca de Impresos), located on the first floor of the northwest wing, is rich in early printed books and manuscripts. Its painted ceiling was executed between 1590 and 1592 by the Italian artist Pellegrino Tibaldi. 

  • Spain 1961. El Escorial. The inner courtyard, "Patio de los Evangelistas". 
  • Spain 1961. El Escorial. The vast staircase in the West Gallery.

El Escorial was relatively little used by Philip's successors. Charles IV, who disliked its severity, built the nearby Casita del Principe in the 1770s and El Escorial ceased to be a royal residence in 1861. 

Spain 1989. The Royal Site of the Monastery of San Lorenzo de El Escorial..

  • Spain 1989. The Royal Site of the Monastery of San Lorenzo de El Escorial. The stamp is part of the souvenir sheet on the right. 

Spain 1989. Souvenir sheet containing four stamps, one of which is the El Escorial.

 

The town
El Escorial (town), town in central Spain, in the province of Madrid, 50 km (30 mi) northwest of the city of Madrid. El Escorial is located in the historic province of New Castile, at the foot of the Sierra de Guadarrama on the western border of a rolling plateau. It is famous as the site of a royal palace, also known as El Escorial, that was founded by Philip II of Spain, who ruled from 1556 to 1598. 

The town of El Escorial consists of two villages 1.6 km (1 mi) apart, El Escorial de Abajo and El Escorial de Arriba. The first is at an elevation of 920 m (3,030 ft) above sea level, and the other lies 1,030 m (3,370 ft) above sea level. The world-famous, monumental palace is adjacent to the upper village, and its extensive gardens stretch eastward down to the lower village. 

A few miles northeast of El Escorial is Valle de los Caidos (Valley of the Fallen), a monument to the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939) built by General Francisco Franco. The monument consists of a huge cross, nearly 150 m (500 ft) high, erected on a hill of granite. Population 10,828 (1996).

Sources and links:

Other World Heritage Sites in Spain (on this site). Please refer to the UNESCO-listing, Spain-section, for further information on the individual properties. 

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Revised 19 jul 2007  
Copyright © 1999 Heindorffhus 
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