El Escorial – the largest Renaissance building in the world

El Escorial, or the Royal Site of San Lorenzo de El Escorial, or Monasterio del Escorial, is a historical residence of the King of Spain located in the town of San Lorenzo de El Escorial in Spain (the Community of Madrid), 2 km from the town of El Escorial and about 45 kilometres northwest of the Spanish capital Madrid.

Built between 1563 and 1584 by order of King Philip II (who reigned 1556–1598), El Escorial is the largest Renaissance building in the world. It is one of the Spanish royal sites and functions as a monastery, basilica, royal palace, pantheon, library, museum, university, school, and hospital.

On 2 November 1984, UNESCO declared The Royal Seat of San Lorenzo of El Escorial a World Heritage Site. It is a popular tourist attraction, often visited by day-trippers from Madrid – more than 500,000 visitors come to El Escorial every year.

Arranged within a quadrangle, the buildings include:

the church (1582);
the monastery, royal palace, and college (1584);
and the library (1592).

The interior of the Escorial was decorated by many notable Spanish and Italian artists of the 16th and 17th centuries.

Pellegrino Tibaldi and Federico Zuccaro were among the earliest painters to execute frescoes there.

Other masters who painted works for the Escorial were El Greco, Luca Giordano, and Claudio Coello.

An important collection of paintings by Renaissance and baroque artists donated by the crown is among the many artistic treasures housed in the complex.

The decoration of El Escorial was carefully coordinated with the architecture to create a unified artistic effect. The sober statue of San Lorenzo on the main façade and the six statues of Old Testament kings on the façade of the basilica prepare the way for a splendid display of saints and kings inside the basilica.

How to get to?

Address: Av Juan de Borbón y Battemberg, s/n, 28200 San Lorenzo de El Escorial, Madrid, Spain

From Madrid 54 min (57.8 km) via A-6

GPS coordinates: 40°34′54″N 4°07′35″W

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The prices start from 15 euro. Kids under 5 – free entrance.

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