Imitations of various parts of it have been incorporated in the design of churches, monasteries and palaces in other countries.
The most famous of these is the Palace of Versailles, near Paris, which was begun in 1669. Even so, the ostentation of Louis XIV of France created at Versailles a style of decoration far different from the austerity of Philip II.
Called "the eighth marvel of the world", the building gives an overall impression of grand design and austerity that has never been equalled.
As part of the national patrimony of Spain the building is open to public tours on most days of the year. The Augustinian community areas are closed to the public.
History of the building.
The Escorial is situated 1,100 metres above sea level, on the slopes of the Sierra de Guadarrama (mountain range), and thus within the borders of the geographical Province of Madrid and the Kingdom of New Castile.
This complex was built during the Spanish "Golden Age" when Spain was a major power in the world.
As well as control over much of the "New World," the Spanish king Philip II, was also King of Naples, Sicily, and Milan in 1554, and also King of the Netherlands a year later.
Philip II raised the idea of such a building in 1558. The building commemorates his first military victory, when he defeated the army of France at Saint-Quentin in the year 1557 on 10th August - the feast day of San Lorenzo (Saint Laurence).
Its location was arranged in 1562. Construction began in 1563.
The complex is the design of two architects: Juan Bautista de Toledo who drew the plans for the monastery, and, after his death, Juan de Herrera, who is credited with faithfully completing the project as planned.
In addition, the severely rectangular complex, with numerous internal courtyards (cortillas), is said to have been modelled on the grill on which San Lorenzo was martyred (roasted to death). If so, the grill has been modified, and other notable palaces in Europe have a similar layout.
The enormous stretch of the severely plain wall is broken by only three entrances. The corners have large square towers. The building gives an overall impression of grand design and austerity that has never been equalled.
Not just content with building the "eighth marvel of the world", Philip also took over large tracts of land in its surroundings to build the Royal Woods of San Lorenzo, in the clearings of which smaller magnificent buildings were constructed.
(Continued on the next page.)
Photos and Drawings (at right)
The exterior of the Escorial. In succession, the three drawings show the stages of construction: firstly the church and monastery, secondly the royal section, and finally the completion of the front wall by the filling in of the courtyard in front of the church.
For over eighty photographs of the ministry of Order of Saint Augustine in the Escorial, choose the photo gallery named Spain: Escorial after you click here.