El Escorial

I imagined El Escorial, the historical residence of the King of Spain, to be a bright, cheerful and opulent place. Then, I was not familiar with the personality of Phillip 11. There was bright sunlight the day I visited the Royal Seat of San Lorenzo de Escorial, forty five kilometres from Madrid, but it was bitterly cold, the Sierra de Guadarrama landscape bleak and the sprawling complex grey, austere and despite its World Heritage status, looking miserable. Phillip 11, who bitterly opposed the Protestant Reformation, collaborated with the Spanish architect Juan Bautista De Toledo to design Escorial ( did he really copy the floor plan of Solomon’s Temple?) not only as a Palace Residence, but monastery, library, art gallery and basilica. Philip built his austere private rooms next to the basilica so that he could watch mass from his bed as his forty two year reign drew to a close.
The brightest structure in the complex is the Royal Pantheon with walls of polished Toledo marble decorated with gold-plated bronze, where most of the Spanish kings of the past five centuries are buried.
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(Photography is not permitted in Escorial.)

One thought on “El Escorial

  1. Pingback: Spain – El Escorial and Barcelona (2009) | Purple Wanderlust

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