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El Escorial - Historical Building Madrid - Spain

Located about 30 kilometers away from Madrid, El Escorial (full name: The Royal Monastery of San Lorenzo el Real) is a majestic royal palace and monastery. This is, in part, what makes it unique: very few buildings in Europe feature the presence of both Church and royalty in the same structure.

El Escorial was begun in 1563 to commemorate the 1557 Spanish victory over the French at the battle of St. Quentin. It was designed by Phillip II as a palace-tomb, where his parents, Charles I and Isabella of Portugal, would be laid to rest along with himself and his descendants.
In fact, several kings and queens are buried there. It was also designed with the counter-reformation in mind: the mighty building is supposed to reflect the unswerving Catholicism of the Spanish monarchy. It also served as a place of counter-reformation thought and study.

Amazingly, despite the incredible scale of the project, the harsh weather in the selected location and the fact that the original architect (Juan de Batista) passed away early in its construction, the palace was completed in 1584, only 21 years after the first stones were laid.

The Escorial remains austere and forbidding: other palaces in Europe even seem lived-in or cozy by comparison. The entrance to the palace is a basilica, modeled on St. Peter’s in Rome. It is topped by a magnificent dome held up by pillars. The palace of Philip II is a series of Spartan rooms which included a window of sorts through which Philip II could observe mass while afflicted by gout. The majestic Hall of Battles is lined with scenes of Spanish military glory over the ages.

The Pantheon of Kings is a very memorable section of the palace. This majestic structure contains the remains of twenty-six kings and queens, and includes every king of Spain since the time of Philip II except for three. The remains of princes and princesses who never reigned are located in the nearby Pantheon of the Princes, which was added in the 1880’s.

The library is also well wroth a visit: Philip II donated his personal collection to the library and it is the only place in the world to find original copies of some extremely rare books. The library is also a very attractive room, panelled in fine woods from around the Spanish Empire. The vaulted ceilings were painted by Italian master Pellegrino Tibaldi, an act which took him several years.

Parts of El Escorial are off-limits, as it is still a monastery. There are many paintings spread out around the palace complex: be sure to pay attention or you might miss something!


Juan de Borbón y Battemberg

Madrid, Spain

Historical Building

Getting There

By Bus: take line 661 or 664 from the Moncloa Terminal

By car: Take the A-VI highway from Madrid and turn off at the M-505 or M-600 exit. There are signs everywhere.

There is a train from Madrid to El Escorial as well.

Price Description:

General Admission: €8, with reduced rates for Spanish people, youths, seniors and handicapped. There are some promotional prices to see this along with Valle de los Caídos.

Relative price: Mid-Range

Open Hours from:10:00

Open Hours to:5:00 (6:00 in summer months)

Days Closed:Monday

Contact Information:
Zip: San Lorenzo de el Escorial
Phone: (+34)918 907 818.

By Christopher Minster
I am a writer and editor at V!VA Travel guides here in Quito, where I specialize in adding quality content to the site and also in spooky things like...
08 Aug 2011

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