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San Lorenzo de El Escorial: a town around a monastery

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www: El Escorial Council page
www: Royal Seat of San Lorenzo of El Escorial
www: see how to get there (timetables, prices) from the official transport website
www: Benedictine Abbey of Santa Cruz del Valle de los Caídos

49 km from Madrid.
Segovia: 54 Km.

Particularly close to Madrid, and among the most interesting of nearby sites, San Lorenzo del Escorial (El Escorial in short) is certainly worth a visit. Among other attractions is a huge monastery built in the herreriano style by order of king Philip II. Inside a sumptuously decorated chamber of the monastry are buried many of Spain's past monarchs. The surrounding landscape is pleasant, and during summer the moderate climate provides an escape from Madrid's sometimes stifling temperatures. Other interesting monuments are: the Casita del Infante or Casita de arriba and the Casita del Príncipe or Casita de abajo, both by Juan de Villanueva. Inside there are a good colletions of pictures by Lucas Jordán and Giaquinto; the Real Coliseo de Carlos III and the famous Silla de Felipe II, or Piedra de la Herrería where Phillip II watched the progress of the works.

However, the best in this trip are the superb views and impressive panorama of this landscape.

The Pantheon of the Kings is situated in a circular chapel directly beneath the chancel of the Basilica. It contains the remains of monarchs and of queens who were mothers of monarchs, from the Emperor Charles V to modern times. The exceptions are King Philip V and King Ferdinand VI, who are buried in their respective foundations of La Granja de San Ildefonso and Las Salesas Reales (the Church of Santa Bárbara in Madrid). The remains of other members of the Royal Family are buried in the Pantheon of Infantes. Both the Monastery and the areas of the complex used as a palace were decorated by Italian painters summoned by Philip II to El Escorial. They include Zuccaro, Tibaldi and Cambiaso, who painted the frescoes in some of the most prominent spaces, such as the library, the sacristy, the chapter houses, the lower cloister, the main staircase and the gallery of the battles. Among the pieces of sculpture at El Escorial are a number by Monegro. There are also several bronze figures of Christ on the cross, by major Italian artists of the 16th and 17th centuries, including one by Bernini. The most celebrated crucified Christ is the figure in white marble by Cellini. King Charles II added the redos in the sacristy, dominated by a masterpiece of Claudio Coello, The Adoration of the Sacred Form. Also dating from the same reign is the magnificent series of frescoes on the ceilings of the Basilica and the main staircase, by Luca Giordano.

El Escorial is most easily reached by Cercanías trains. Departures are hourly from both the Atocha and Chamartín stations. Buses to El Escorial can be taken from Herranz Buses departing from the bus station at Moncloa. By car, one should take the N-VI (Carretara de la Coruña).

 
How to get there: www

Festivals:
San Lorenzo: august, 10.

Nearby:

Valle de los Caídos
12 Km. from El Escorial.
Road Guadarrama/El Escorial
Valle de Cuelgamuros (municipality)
www: Benedictine Abbey of Santa Cruz del Valle de los Caídos

Dictator Franco's mausoleum and burrial site. With tombs of some other figures of the fascist regime that ruled Spain from 1939 to 1975, this site was build by war and political prisoners that where enslaved to produce this bizarre construction, carved deep into a rocky mountain. A massive stone cross set on the top of the site makes it visible from miles away. Only recently has Spain started removing the monuments to the fascist regime of dictator Francisco Franco. The future of this site remains unclear but there is a growing outcry to get it demolished.

Transport From San Lorenzo de El Escorial: www