Monastery of San Lorenzo

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Calle de Juan de Borbon y Battemberg, San Lorenzo de El Escorial, Spain

Monastery of San Lorenzo San Lorenzo de El Escorial Reviews

javier1 javier1
17 reviews
The 8th wonder of the word Mar 20, 2012
The Escorial t is one of the great monuments of Spanish architecture and one of the great treasure houses of Spanish art. Philip built the Escorial to honour the wishes of his father, Emperor Charles V (d 1558), who in his will had specified the creation of a religious foundation in which he was to be buried alongside his wife, Isabella of Portugal (d 1539). In addition to this function as a royal mausoleum (almost every Spanish monarch from Charles V onwards has been buried there), the Escorial was built as a palace, a monastery, and a seminary, all centred on an imposing domed church. The huge complex was begun in 1563, with Juan Bautista de Toledo as architect; he died in 1567 and was succeeded by Juan de Herrera, under whom it was officially completed in 1584 (although construction went on for some time after this).

Externally the Escorial is built of grey granite and is overpoweringly austere, with forms of almost geometric clarity and virtually no ornament. Internally, however, it contains an extraordinary wealth of decoration (including vast areas of wall and ceiling frescos), which engaged teams of artists long after Philip's death.

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Vlindeke Vlindeke
142 reviews
El Escorial Feb 28, 2010
The huge complex of El Escorial was built between 1563 and 1584 (commissioned by Felipe II as a mausoleum for the tomb of his father, Carlos I).

Highlights are the Basilica, the King’s Apartments, Pantheon of the Kings, Chapter Houses, Library, Gallery of Battles, Main Staircase, Strolling Gallery, Courtyard of the Kings and the Architecture Museum.

Impressive to see, very worth visiting!!

Some practical information about El Escorial (Feb. 2010):

• Opening hours: in winter (Oct. – March) from 10 am – 5 pm, in summer (April- Sept.) from 10 am – 6.00 pm

• Closed on quite a few Holidays (see the website)

• Closed on Mondays

• Admission € 8 (free on Wednesdays for EU citizens), guided tour € 10

• Audio tour € 3

• Garden: free entrance

Unfortunately it is not allowed to take photos inside the monastery. See my Madrid blog for more (outside of the building) photos.

More information at: (partly in English, mostly in Spanish).
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Vlindeke says:
Sarah, you're right. The monastery is very interesting (I loved the paintings and frescoes), as is the garden, the view and the town!
Posted on: Mar 14, 2010
sarahsan says:
I was there in 1990. Your review brought back old memories! It´s absolutely worth visiting!
Posted on: Mar 13, 2010
jteddyb jteddyb
8 reviews
May 16, 2007
San Lorenzo de El Escorial is still a working monastery today, but it has historically been much more. King Philip II ordered it constructed in the 16th century as a mausoleum for his parents, the Emperor Charles V (a.k.a. Carlos I of Spain) and Isabel of Portugal. Ever since then, it has been the favored burial site of nearly all members of Spain's royal family, all the way up to Juan de Borbon, father of the current king. The resting place of the Spanish royals, the Panteon de los Reyes (Pantheon of Kings), is part of the complex open to tourists.

Inseparable from the mausoleum and monastery was Philip II's personal palace. Since so much of El Escorial was envisioned by Philip II, the complex gives great insight into the life of this ruler. The rooms of the palace are simple and austere, as fit Philip's attitude toward his office. He had no crown and refused to be called "your majesty." Although there is a nice collection of paintings from Philip II's time, there are no great Renaissance marvels here, nor are there any Baroque flights of fancy. All the decoration was reserved for the church buildings.

For me, the most memorable room of the palace was the map room, indicative of Philip II's character. The classical image of Philip II was of a man dressed in black, sitting at a desk (preserved here), poring over information gathered from all over his empire, which included not only Spain, but also Italy, Mexico, Peru, and the Philippines. Seeing the walls of this room covered with highly detailed, 16th-century maps of places like Japan might be surprising at first, but it's important to remember that Philip ruled a global empire, and was prone to micro-management.

San Lorenzo de El Escorial is a magnificent memorial to Spain's golden age. From its globe-spanning empire to its internalized religiosity, this impressive complex is a capsule of the time when Spain was the world's greatest power, and a portrait in stone of one man who ruled it.
jteddyb says:
They were named for him!
Posted on: Nov 29, 2007

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photo by: Jeroenadmiraal