Felipe II’s imposing grey palace of San Lorenzo de El Escorial stands out towards the foothills of the Sierra de Guadarrama to the northwest of Madrid. It was constructed between 1563 and 1584 in honor of St. Lawrence, and its unornamented severity set a brand new architectural style that grew to become probably the most influential in Spain. The inside was conceived as a mausoleum and contemplative retreat relatively than a splendid residence. The palace’s creative wealth, which incorporates a few of the most vital artistic endeavors within the royal Habsburg collections, is concentrated within the museums, chapter houses, church, royal pantheon, and library. In distinction, the royal residences are remarkably modest.
Established by Felipe II, this was Spain’s first public library. In 1619, a decree was issued demanding that a copy of every new publication within the empire be sent right here. At its zenith, it contained some 40,000 books and manuscripts. The lengthy Print Room has a marble ground and an excellent vaulted ceiling. The ceiling frescoes depict Philosophy, Grammar, Rhetoric, Dialectics, Music, Geometry, Astrology, and Theology.
Directly beneath the high altar of the basilica is the Royal Pantheon, the place nearly all Spanish monarchs since Carlos I have been laid to rest. Adorned with black marble, crimson jasper, and Italian gilt bronze decorations, it was finished in 1654. Kings lie on the left of the altar and queens on the right.
Traditionally, only the aristocracy have been permitted to enter the basilica, and the townspeople have been confined to the vestibule on the entrance. The basilica contains forty five altars. Amongst its highlights is the beautiful statue of Christ Crucified in Carrara marble by the ltalian sculptor Benvenuto Cellini. It’s found within the chapel to the left of the doorway, with steps leading up to it. On both side of the tall altar, above the doorways leading to the Royal Flats, are wonderful gilded bronze cenotaphs of Charles V and Felipe II worshiping with their families.