The seat of San Lorenzo de El Escorial is the historical residence of the Spanish King.
First founded by Hieronymite monks, it is now partially in the hands of the Order Of The Saint Augustine monks.
Anyone visiting Madrid ought to take the short trip of 45 kilometres northwest of the city and spend at least half of a day to see the several sections of this monumental architectural wonder consisting of a monastery, the royal palace, a museum of Spanish heritage, and school.
The connection of a Catholic monastery and Spanish kings’ residence is the result of times. In teh 16th century the Roman Catholic Church and Spanish kings maintained a very cordial and symbiotic relationship.
Philip II engaged architect Juan Bautista in 1559, instructing him to design a complex of buildings to showcase Spain’s role in the Christian world. At the time, Spain’s treasury was overflowing with plundered gold and riches obtained by Spanish conquistadors in South America.
This impressive complex of buildings is based on descriptions of Solomon’s Temple including a courtyard of the kings and Basilica, the Palace of Philip II, Hall of Battles, Pantheon of Kings, Art Gallery, Architectural Museum, Gardens of the Friars, a library, and reliquaries.
Juan Bautista was involved with Vatican’s Saint Peter’s basilica project and spent much of his career in Rome, except for important state architectural plans like the Escorial. Architect Juan de Herrera completed (1580) Escorial after the death of Juan Bautista.
Escroial impresses visitors by its huge size, lavish execution of details, and multiplicity of different designs within.
Anyone who has visited the Escorial will never forget how 16th century Spanish kings lived and could affords to spend fortunes to impress other kings and nobility in Europe with ill gotten gold from South American kingdoms.