El Escorial

“The king had wanted a monument that would glorify God, train the disciples in his teachings, offer a spiritual refuge, and house the remains of his forebears – especially his father – and successors.” Mary Crawford

“Built at the end of the 16th century on a plan in the form of a grill, the instrument of the martyrdom of San Lorenzo, the Escorial 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 Felipe II’s reign, the centre of the greatest political power of the time.”



List of Historic Humans of España relevant to España: Ida y Vuelta


“Located near Madrid, San Lorenzo de El Escorial is an imposing architectural complex that is arguably the most ambitious monument constructed during the Renaissance in Spain. Construction started in 1563 after King Felipe II of Spain decided to commission a funerary monument for his father, the Holy Roman Emperor, Charles V. But Felipe II desired an even more complicated structure that would also function as a palace and monastery. By the time construction ended in 1584, the complex included not only these, but a church and college as well. A library was also added in 1592. The project was so complex that it took more than a decade to complete, and approximately a thousand people worked on it during its peak construction period.” https://www.khanacademy.org/humanities/renaissance-reformation/xa6688040:spain-portugal-15th-16th-century/xa6688040:16th-century-spain/a/el-escorial-spain

The architectural layout and recurring symbol throughout El Escorial is the grill upon which San Lorenzo was cooked alive.

El Escorial is a Renaissance structure built in the context of the Counter-Reformation under the direction of Felipe II. Felipe II wanted to be perceived as the leader of the Catholic world, converting indigenous people in the Americas, fighting Muslims in the Mediterranean, and,most importantly, expelling Protestants in Northern Europe. Above all else, the Palace/Monastery/School of El Escorial is an expression of a political will.

Kings of the Habsburg and Bourbon line are buried in the Pantheon of El Escorial. Only queens that gave birth to kings are buried in Pantheon.

Felipe II had a seat (silla) carved into a boulder high above San Lorenzo de El Escorial so he could admire what he ordered to be built.


Ham, Anthony; Quintero, Josephine. Lonely Planet Madrid (Travel Guide). Lonely Planet Global Limited, 2021.

Phillips, Jr, William D.; Rahn Phillips, Carla. A Concise History of Spain (Cambridge Concise Histories). Cambridge University Press, 2017.

Shields, Graham. Madrid (World Bibliographical Series). ABC-CLIO, 1996.

Steves, Rick. Rick Steves Spain (Travel Guide). Avalon Travel, 2016.

Unesco website on El Escorial

John William Bailly 19 June 2022

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