The site for El Escorial was selected in 1562. Construction began in 1563, and it took twenty-two years to build.
The general plan is a parallelogram with a perimeter of 3,000 feet; its area is about 500,000 square feet.
There are four facades, the finest external aspect being on the southern side.
The western or principal front is 744 feet long and 72 feet high, while the towers at each end rise about 200 feet.
The enormous complex measures 200 m by 180 m (744 feet wide by 520 feet deep). The ground plan of the building is estimated to occupy an area of 30,000 square m.
El Escorial contains 9 towers, 300 rooms, 86 sets of stairs, 1,200 windows, 2,673 doors, 88 fountains, 73 statues and 9 organs.
The Escorial is a mammoth building, with intended reminders of the Temple of Solomon, as described in the Bible. The building is austere in appearance, grey in colour and with minimal visible features.
King Philip II
had strong religious sentimenmts, and wanted El Escorial to be built as a monastery (convento
) as well as a royal palace.
It was thus sparsely decorated, and showed only a little of the wealthy appearance seen in other palaces.
The enormous stretch of the severely plain wall is broken by only three entrances. The corners have large square towers.
(Continued on the next page.)