El Escorial Palace

Spain is known foremost for its voyages of conquest and discovery, its literary heroes such as Don Quixote as well as its famous cuisine that has influenced today’s eating habits worldwide. It is also famous for its famous historical sites that have earned the denomination of World Heritage Sites from UNESCO. One such site is the Escorial Palace in northwestern Spain.

The Escorial

The Escorial palace or El Real Monasterio de El Escorial to give it its official name is situated in the arid plains of the Guadarrama mountains, about 28 miles from Madrid, the capital of Spain. Completed in 1584, it was built on the orders of Philip II. It is a vast complex housing a monastery, royal palace, museum, school as well as mausoleum for over 26 Spanish kings and queens since Charles I, the father of Philip II.

The Library

In order to obtain a better idea of the complex, it can be divided into five areas. First, there is the Library built by Charles, the first to house his excellent collection of manuscripts. Succeeding monarchs have added greatly to the collection and now it boasts a total of over 40000 manuscripts.

The Basilica is a marvelous creation of red marble, frescoes, sculptures and works by Velazquez (Joseph’s Tunic) as well as The Last Supper by Titian, all covered by a cupola inspired by that of Saint Peter’s in Rome.

The Pantheon

The Pantheon is the burial place of kings. Most Spanish monarchs are buried here with a few exceptions. Recently, in the nineteenth century, an extension known as the Pantheon of the Princes was added where the bodies of the sons and daughters of Spanish kings were interred. With the exception of the Pudridero where the bodies of kings and princes are left to decompose, most of the buildings can be visited by the general public.

La Casa Del Rey

The Palace, also known as the House of the King, is an elaborately decorated building with frescoes of famous battles in Spanish history. Also on display are the rooms where Philip II lived and the bed in which he died.

The Reliquaries

The Reliquaries contain a collection of over 7500 relics of Catholic saints. It is the largest such collection available. They are housed in the specially constructed reliquaries that are placed mainly in the Basilica.

A visit to El Escorial can give the visitor a good idea of the splendor and magnificence of the middle ages when kings ruled over vast dominions and built magnificent monuments to mark their stay on earth and to house their remains when they departed this life.

The Palace is closed every Monday and on all Christian Feast Days as well as on January 1, May 1 and on all Spanish National Holidays such as October 12 and December 6.

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