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 Essential Architecture-  Madrid

The Escorial


Juan Bautista de Toledo, Juan de Herrera


near Madrid


1562 to 1584


Spanish Renaissance




El Escorial

A distant view of El Escorial.San Lorenzo de El Escorial redirects here. For the municipalities, see San Lorenzo de El Escorial, Madrid and El Escorial, Madrid.
The Royal Monastery of San Lorenzo de El Escorial (in Spanish, Real Monasterio de San Lorenzo de El Escorial) is an immense palace, Augustinian monastery, museum, and library complex located at San Lorenzo de El Escorial (also San Lorenzo del Escorial), a town 45 kilometres (28 miles) northwest of Madrid in the autonomous community of Madrid in Spain.

At the foot of the Sierra de Guadarrama mountain range, the complex was commanded by King Philip II of Spain as a necropolis for the Spanish monarchs and the seat of studies in aid of the Counter-Reformation. It was designed by the architects Juan Bautista de Toledo and Juan de Herrera in an austere classical style, and built from 1563 to 1584. It is shaped as a grid in memory of the martyrdom of Saint Lawrence. It is said that during the battle of Saint Quentin (1557), the Spanish troops destroyed a small hermitage devoted to Lawrence. The King Philip II of Spain decided to dedicate the monastery to the saint in thanks for his victory.

The facade of the chapel, in the Baroque style of Jesuit churches, is integrated with the palatial facade
El EscorialThe complex has an enormous store of art, including masterworks by Titian, Tintoretto, El Greco, Velázquez, Roger van der Weyden, Paolo Veronese, Alonso Cano, José de Ribera, Claudio Coello and others. Also at the complex is a library containing thousands of priceless ancient manuscripts. Giambattista Castello designed the main staircase.

It is the burial site for most Spanish kings in the last five centuries, from the houses of Habsburg and Bourbon. The Royal Pantheon contains the tombs of the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V (King Charles I of Spain), Philip II, Philip III, Philip IV, Charles II, Louis I, Charles III, Charles IV, Ferdinand VII, Isabel II, Alfonso XII and Alfonso XIII. The two first Bourbon kings, Philip V and Ferdinand VI, as well as King Amadeo of Savoy (1870-1873), are not buried in the Monastery.

The complex is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is an extremely popular tourist attraction, often visited as a day trip from Madrid.

The surrounding town of San Lorenzo de El Escorial (Madrid) is also home for the popular summer courses of Universidad Complutense. A downhill neighbour town also named El Escorial has a likenamed RENFE station.

Near El Escorial there is the Monumento Nacional de Santa Cruz del Valle de los Caidos with the tallest memorial cross in the world.