His name was Felipe II and he had four wives (our tour guide at El Escorial wanted to make sure we knew that). One of those wives was Bloody Mary just in case you were wondering, but the Spanish don’t really think much of her since she never came to Spain. Anywho, he decided to build a “summer palace” about 30 miles away from Madrid.But this wasn’t going to be any palace, it needed to show the power of the king and of God, so it needed to be a monastery as well. It was also built in commemoration of San Lorenzo, a martyr from the 3rd Century who was burned to death on a grill. This was important because the king thought that it was significant that they had a victorious battle against the French on the same day as this saint’s celebration day, August 10. Therefore, the building was constructed in the form of a grill. This majestic palace was built in just 21 years, under the direction of 2 architects, and it is still a functional monastery, basilica, burial ground, and boarding school.
The place where Felipe resided was a small room which was able to open up to the basilica so that he could watch the services without leaving his room. He was very old and could walk very far. In fact, for his last visit, people had to carry him for seven days to reach the palace. Other room was built for his eldest daughter since all of his wives had all passed away. He had many rooms to meet in and long hallways with beautiful paintings and 16th century maps (those were incredible). There were lots of frescos and ceiling paintings to match those of the Sistine Chapel. Astounding!
Felipe actually died in El Escorial and was buried in a pantheon he had built directly under the altarpiece in the basilica. His father, mother, and almost every other king and queen mother are buried there in this underground rotunda made of Spanish marble and decorated with gilded bronze. It is absolutely fantastic. Gross side note: the bodies were left to rot in separate rooms (we passed by the doors) for 20-25 years before the bones were placed in the already prepared coffins. And that is the story of El Escorial. The end.
We ate lunch outside the monastery in the gardens which were beautiful. Then, some of our group went on this fairly long hike up the to the top of a “mountain” opposite El Escorial where we were able to have this incredible view of the palace and all the surrounding cities. Se llama La Silla de Felipe II or the Seat of Philip II. It was kind of hard, but it didn’t rain on us and the view was unforgettable. The pictures just don’t do it justice (sorry). Miraculously we made it to the bus on time afterwards, and we were actually able to eat dinner at a reasonable hour. Good day!
Hasta luego and Happy Mother’s Day (we get to talk to Josh tomorrow)!!!
PS This Philip II was the one the Philippines were named after. Cool story, I know.