If you’re hankering for a lazy day visiting a cultural treasure and checking how royalty lived, died, and were buried then, take a day trip to the Royal Seat of San Lorenzo de El Escorial. Simply called El Escorial, you can make a stopover here on your way to Avila or Segovia. Or you can simply do El Escorial, just 45 kilometers or less than an hour’s drive from the capital of Madrid, along with Valle de Los Caidos not too far from the palace cum monastery.







It may be true that the edifice was inspired by the Temple of Solomon. The 2 statues of David and Solomon guarding the entrance to the basilica bolster this theory. For sure though, the structure integrated many architectural alterations. Far beyond being a royal residence and monastery, El Escorial is also a school, convent, library, and for the last 500 years, the royal burial site for most of Spain’s monarchs. King Philip II originally intended the place as necropolis for his parents King Carlos I and Queen Isabella of Portugal, as well as for his own family and descendants. The Royal Pantheon, creepy in all its marble goodness, reunite the Spanish Royal Family after life. It is aptly placed right beneath the royal chapel.







Declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1984, this 16th century royal site is likewise a treasure trove for great pieces of art from Spanish, Flemish, Italian masters from the 15th through the 17th century. From Titian to Velasquez to El Greco and many other collections. Too bad no photos to share, folks. Photography not allowed within much of the complex. I heard Mass inside the Basilica and took photos after the service. I was gently reminded by the guards with a simple, potent “No…..” before I could snap a photo of the dome which was inspired by the great church in the Vatican. Not surprising as the royal architect — Juan Bautista de Toledo — likewise worked in Saint Peter’s Basilica. Next to the basilica is King Philip’s royal quarters where a window allowed him to observe Mass even when his gout gave him problems. How about that?







My personal favorite is the Library. The vaulted ceiling’s frescoes reminded me of the Sistine Chapel, albeit on a less grand scale. The Spanish Monarchs and scholars must have spent a great deal of time here. More so as King Philip II intended El Escorial as a center of studies to counter Protestant Reformation then sweeping Europe, in keeping with Spain’s role as center of Catholicism during his reign.







It would take many day trips to El Escorial to fully appreciate its grandeur and view the entire horde of art treasures. My hands found a nice reproduction in watercolor in the monastery’s “tienda” but decided against buying it as I agonizingly peeled myself away to get back on my bus and join my tour group. The tour guide then pulled out a surprise by raffling off the same piece my fat fingers gently traced just a while back. You guessed right. I won that watercolor reproduction. It’s a beautiful day! Life is a celebration 😍😍😍