The Monastery of San Lorenzo de El Escorial2021-06-04T09:56:41+00:00

The Monastery of San Lorenzo de El Escorial

The Monastery of San Lorenzo de El Escorial is the monument that best summarizes the ideological and cultural aspirations of the Spanish “Golden Age”, expressed here through an original synthesis of Italian and Flemish artistic forms at the impulse of Felipe II.

Grouping in a building several functions, San Lorenzo el Real was born as a monastery of monks of the order of San Jerónimo, whose church served as the pantheon of Emperor Carlos V and his wife, Isabel de Portugal, as well as his son Felipe II, their relatives and successors, and where the friars prayed

uninterruptedly for the salvation of real people. It also has a palace to house the king, as patron of the foundation, and his entourage. The college and the seminary complete the religious function of the Monastery, and the Library is established for these three centers. This scheme remains, in a way, today. The figure of Carlos V is decisive in the founding of this Royal Site because of how much it influenced the spirit of his son, for the example of his last years among the Hieronymite monks of Yuste and for the need to provide him with a dignified burial.

Once decided to found the Monastery, Felipe II began in 1558 to look for its location, which was fixed at the end of 1562, beginning the work according to the project or “universal plan” of Juan Bautista de Toledo. In 1571 the part of the convent was already more or less completed; in 1572 the “king’s house” began and in 1574 the Basilica, completed in 1586 and consecrated in 1595, a date that can be considered the end of the Work, although the last stone was placed in 1584 and the decorative task lasted some years. The king carefully supervised all construction.

The Monastery was isolated in the middle of the field, with only a few service buildings for the palace and the monastery: the two houses of trades and the Compaña. But Carlos III ordered the creation of a small court city whose architect was Juan de Villanueva, who assimilated into his Italian classicist training the nationalist spirit that El Escorial acquired for the culture of the Spanish Enlightenment. Among his works, the Casa de Infantes and that of the Minister of State stand out.



Two sides of the Monastery –North and West- are flanked by the Lonja, and the other two by the terraced gardens, in the Italian style, with rectilinear lines of boxwood pruned in squares. Along the southern façade and part of the eastern façade, under the windows of the monastic cells, the garden of the friars extends. Beyond this, on a lower level, is the garden that was also organized by rectilinear streets.


It is a room with enormous symbolic value and in the time of King Felipe II, visitors and embassies who visited him had to previously pass through this large room. On the walls are represented the great military triumphs of the Habsburgs and their predecessors.


Although the project of Felipe II was not concluded until the reign of his grandson Felipe IV, the Spanish Kings have been buried in the Royal Pantheon since Carlos V, except Felipe and Fernando VI who were buried in the Collegiate Church of the Royal Palace of La Granja and in the Royal Salesas respectively.


It is the place where it is best understood that the Monastery is built in honor of the Monarchy, the Faith, the sciences and the arts. The 54 meter long vault painted by Pelllegrino Tibaldi stands out in the Library, in which the seven liberal arts, Theology and Philosophy are represented.


Considered the nerve center of the building, it constitutes a masterpiece of Spanish architecture of the Spanish Renaissance. It is built in granite ashlar masonry and its Greek cross plan forms a square 50 meters on each side.

The royal cenotaphs of Carlos V and Felipe II stand out on both sides of the altar made by Pompeo Leoni in gilt bronze.


It was the main door of the building and receives this name because it is presided over by the six kings of the tribe of Judah chosen for their participation in the construction of the Temple in Jerusalem. The promoter of this temple was King Solomon considered the alter ego of Philip II in the Renaissance.

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