The Escorial


Datos principales

San Lorenzo de El Escorial, Madrid


The Escorial monastery was constructed between 1563 and 1584 at the request of [Philip II#PERSONAS#25] to commemorate his victory at Saint Quentin on Saint Lorenzo's day in 1557, to whom the building is dedicated. It was built in a privileged setting in the Guadarrama mountains near Madrid, the new capital of the kingdom. The architects involved in its design and construction were Juan Bautista de Toledo, the real architect of the complex, Juan Bautista Castelló and Juan de Herrera, responsible for circulating the final image. The building was a royal pantheon, a Hieronymite monastery, a royal residence, a library and a museum. The Royal Monastery of the Escorial clearly brings together the king's artistic tastes. It has an Italian ground plan with four large patios, French gardens and Flemish style roofs and chimneys. The cultured king filled the rooms with works of art, showing a distinct preference for Flemish and Italian painting. Today many of these paintings make up the Museo del Prado's collections in Madrid. Philip II was interested in both religious and portrait painting and commissioned works to such distinguished painters as Ribera and [Juan Fernández Navarrete the Mute#PINTOR#2849], who did the two large decorative paintings of the Adoration of the Shepherds and the Martyrdom of St. Lorenzo. Work by foreign artists is also present in the monastery, such as Zuccaro's great altarpiece. With regard to portrait painters, the king brought together an excellent chamber group who established an official portrait style: Antonio Moro, Alonso Sánchez Coello and Juan Pantoja de la Cruz. El Greco was also summoned to work in the Escorial but he fell out of favour with the king with his painting, the Martyrdom of St. Maurice. Today the monastery is still an enclosed convent of monks, but the palace part is open to visitors. It houses an important art gallery with works by Titian, Veronese, Guido Reni, Ribera, El Greco and Velázquez.

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