Almost directly underneath the main altar of the Basilica is the Pantheon. Completed in 1654, the pantheon is a fairly sombre thing, though far more ornate than a lot of the rest of the Escorial. Kings are on the left of the altar, queens are on the right. There up to 8 pantheons, showing the spouses, children and family of royalty.
There is a separate area behind the crypt where the remains are set to break down after death. In spanish its called El pudridero (a place to rot). After a time in this area the remains are placed in the crypt as a final resting place.
Its part of the basic tour, but not anything special in my opinion. One thing that is interesting though, is that the Pantheon houses the remains of Spain's royals, regardless of what dynasty they came from. This is one of few such things, El Escorial, for example, fell into disuse with the coming of the Bourbon Dynasty as the palatial styles and residential tastes of the French Bourbons were quite different from the Austrian Hapbsburgs.
The Royal Apartments were surprising in that they were so austere. Normally, most palaces you visit will show how amazingly wealthy the occupant was, Phillips personal quarters were almost the opposite.
There are many contradictions about Phillip, at once he was a very wealthy monarch with all the riches from the New World while at the same time he is often considered a religious fanatic, a man of deep piety and simplicity. Somehow if look at the rest of the Escorial you don't normally think of simplicity or austerity.
The design choices at the Escorial are indicative of these paradoxes. The Royal Apartments adjoin the Basilica. Phillip wanted to be close to the Basilica, he wanted to be able to hear the monks sing, he wanted to hear Mass or say his prayers and devotions. Particularly at the end of his life, where he was barely able to move at all, it is perhaps fortunate that he had designed the Escorial as he did, it wasn't far at all to get to the Basilica. Phillip could, in fact, see the High Alter from his bed.
Though of a man of deep faith, Phillip also married 4 times. The Spanish Habsburgs tended to marry within the extended family, so often the wives were cousins, often second cousins but at times closer than that. This was at least partly responsible for the health problems that many of the Habsburg monarchs of Spain developed.
Phillip II had gout (as did his father Carlos I) and died a very painful death according to historical accounts. At the end of his life he could barely be moved due to the agonizing pain. He died at El Escorial on on September 13,1598.
There is a room, the Sala de Retratos, which shows paintings of the Habsburg Kings of Spain and their families. As paintings go this was a pretty ordinary thing, just the usual portraits of royalty. Adjoining that was a something called the Salon de Paseos which was fascinating for its superior tilework and the high quality maps. In this area there were also lots of paintings celebrating Spain's victories in battle.
El Escorial was built by Phillip II, the second Habsburg King of Spain. He was the son of Carlos V, King of Spain and Holy Roman Emperor, and Isabella of Portugal. Unlike his father, however, Phillip grew up in Spain and was happy living in Spain.
Spain had suddenly gone from being a collection of warring principalities to a united kingdom under Ferdinand of Aragon and Isabella of Castille (the Reyes Catolicos). Their daughter, Juana la Loca (Joanna the Mad) married Phillip of Burgundy (Felipe el Hermoso). Carlos V was their son and he inherited not merely Spain, but also Naples, Sicily and the Netherlands. As Holy Roman emperor he also had much of what is now Germany and large parts of Central Europe. So in a very short time Spain had become a major power in Europe. At the same time, in 1492 Columbus sailed under the sponsorship of the Reyes Catolicos and discovered the New World. By the time of Phillip II, Spain was the center of an enormously rich empire.
With the wealth flowing in from the New World, this was the Golden Age of Spain- a flourishing of painting, arts and music. From the outside, El Escorial takes on the appearance of its builder- sombre, austere. On the inside you can see the Escorial as a reflection of its time with some amazing artwork and decoration. It should be noted that much of the featured painting and sculpture in the Escorial was made by Italians rather than Spaniards. It seems odd that some of the court's favored artists, among others Titian, El Greco, played a relatively limited role in El Escorial. However, you will also notice the large influence of painters/paintings from the Netherlands-both in El Escorial as well as in the Spanish Royal Family's collections.
There are many different characterizations of Phillip II as a tyrant, religious fanatic. Yes, true, Phillip was very religious and The Spanish Inquisition was in full swing (though it started under Ferdinand and Isabella. He was known to be very intelligent, very austere and hard working.
Seen within this overview, it is not hard to see how El Escorial is a product of its builder, Phillip II
El Escorial was built by Phillip II as a monastery/mausoleum/palace. Construction went from 1563-1584 and it is often pointed out the Escorial was at one time the largest building in the world! The Complex consists of a monastery, basilica, a seminary, a school, the kings palace and the mausoleum.
The art in this site is just magnificent! The public tour lasts about 2-3 hours, but if you have time you will want to go back and take a longer look, it is well worth it. Bear in mind that photography is not allowed on the inside and the staff is very strict about that.
The original idea was to construct a fitting tribute to the Nationalist side, the victors in the Spanish Civil War. Later on, under pressure, Franco changed the intent, saying that it honored all the fallen in the Spanish Civil War.
This gigantic structure is located 13 km (8 miles) north of El Escorial and is visible from a good ways away.
The most impressive thing about this site is the basilica, carved into the Rock.
Spaniards differ on the value of Valle de los Caidos. Some see it as a fitting tribute. However, many Spaniards refuse to come here, for many it only honors the dictatorship and brings back awful memories. Still a divisive place.
Entry- 5 euro (free for EU citizens)
Funicular- 1.50 euro
October -March 10:00- 17:00
April- September 10:00-18:00
Visible from everywhere in the valley, the Cross at Valle de los Caidos is 150m (490 ft) high. Directly under the cross the basilica is carved into the Rock of Nava. The basilica is carved 250 m (820 ft) into the mountainside.
Construction was completed in 20 years and was performed in part by prisoners of war. I remember reading in several places that some of these prisoners may have perished during the construction of this site. (amazing, no?)
For those who haven't seen Mafra, in Portugal, the size of the monastery impresses at first sight. Funny, the similarities between these two churches: Huge, some kilometers out of the capital, totally dominating their home towns, however, they differ in style and history.
Well, accept my challenge and read about it in Escorial , for instance, in my Mafra VT page, in Mafra History or, better then that, try to find a translation of Nobel awarded Saramago's best work - Memorial do Convento.
There are a couple of walks you can do through the town. One takes you through the architecture of the 18th century which was a result of Carlos III decision to create a leisure and recreational area of the city for visiting royalty.
The other walk takes you through the architecture of the 16th century including the monastery during the time of Felipe II. Tours begin in front of the Tourist Office.
The tourism office is opposite the side of El Escorial Monastery at Calle Grimaldi. The have all kinds of interactive information about the town and surrounding areas as well as maps on walks you can do. They are open everyday. Mon-Thurs 11.00am-6.00pm, Fri-Sun 10.00am-7.00pm.
Just as you come into (or on the way out) is a small grassy area on the side of the road with what appears as some tin sculptures. On further searching I managed to explain myself enough to the tourist office there to get some explanation of what it was all about. It seems that these characters depict a protest which was suppressed by Napoleonic troops, to executions of May 2, 1808 in Madrid at the beginning of the war of the Spanish independence. Something about the political situation generated after Aranjuez’s riot. (I think I got the interpretation right)…
Mount Abantos is part of the Sierra de Guadarrama and has an altitude of 1,752 metres. Its name comes from Abanto which is a species of Egyptian Vulture. The Mountain was also known as ‘Good Bear Mountain’ because of the amount of bears found there.
The Basilica was a combined effort between Juan Bautista de Toledo and Juan de Herrera and is actually made up of two churches – one is the Royal and Monastic church and the other is for the public. The feature of the basilica is an amazing altarpiece which was designed by de Herrera and is a combination of paintings and bronze sculptures including the marble sculpture of Cellini’s crucifixion. Open Tues-Sun 10.00am – 5.00pm and until 6.00pm during Spring/Summer.
Underneath the altar down a long staircase lays the Royal Pantheon which houses the marble funerary urns of past Spanish monarchs after Charles V as well as their wives who gave birth to future Kings. There is also the Infante’s Pantheon. Words cannot do justice to these amazing rooms, and again, it is a shame no photos can be taken.
The El Escorial complex houses a huge vaulted ceiling library which houses around 40,000 books including Felipe II’s personal collection and precious manuscripts and documents making it one of the best stocked libraries in the world. There is also a Museum featuring art by Spanish, Italian and Flemish painters including ‘The Calvary’ by Rogier van der Weyden is on the first floor.
I cannot begin to tell you what an amazing place this is. On our tour we were told we were not able to take any photos and there were guards station around to ensure this, and of course we complied, but such a shame especially since I have seen many photos on other travellers websites.
Felipe II was responsible for creating this amazing combination of fortress, palaces, monastery and mausoleum. It was constructed between 1563 and 1584 in St Lawrence’s honour. The design was a fairly plain but enormous quadrangle made from granite and slate and covering 33,327 square metres. Incorporated within the complex are two palaces (Felipe II’s and the Bourbons) and a monastery which has four towers clearly marking it out. The main entrances is on the North side. Closed Mondays.