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El Escorial Palace, Spain

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El Escorial Palace, Spain

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Date Posted:July 30th, 2005
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Description: El Escorial is an immense palace, monastery, museum, and library complex located at San Lorenzo de El Escorial (also San Lorenzo del Escorial), a town 45 kilometres (28 miles) northwest of Madrid.

The facade of the chapel, in the Baroque style of Jesuit churches, is integrated with the palatial facade. Right at the foot of the Sierra de Guadarrama mountain range, the complex was commanded by King Philip II of Spain as a necropolis for the Spanish monarchs and the seat of studies in aid of the Counter-Reformation. It was designed by the architects Juan Bautista de Toledo, Giambattista Castello, and Juan de Herrera in an austere classical style, and built from 1563 to 1584. It is shaped as a grid in memory of the martyrdom of Saint Lawrence. It is said that during the battle of Saint Quentin, the Spanish troops destroyed a small hermitage devoted to Lawrence. The King decided to dedicate the monastery to the saint in thanks for his victory.

The complex has an enormous store of art, including masterworks by Titian, Tintoretto, El Greco, Velázquez, Roger van der Weyden, Paolo Veronese, Alonso Cano, José de Ribera, Claudio Coello and others. Also at the complex is a library containing thousands of priceless ancient manuscripts.

It is the burial site for most Spanish kings of the last five centuries, from the houses of Habsburg and Bourbon. The Royal Pantheon contains the tombs of the Roman Emperor Charles V (King Charles I of Spain), Philip II, Philip III, Philip IV, Charles II, Louis I, Charles III, Charles IV, Ferdinand VII, Isabel II, Alfonso XII and Alfonso XIII. The first two Bourbon kings, Philip V and Ferdinand VI, as well as King Amadeo de Saboya (1870-1873), are not buried in the Monastery.

The complex is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and it is known internationally as the eighth wonder of the world.

The surrounding town of San Lorenzo de El Escorial (Madrid) is also home for the popular summer courses of Universidad Complutense. A downhill neighbour town also named El Escorial has an eponymous RENFE station.

Near El Escorial is the Monumento Nacional de Santa Cruz del Valle de los Caidos, with the tallest memorial cross in the world.

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