El Escorial, a monastery, a palace, a college, a library, a hospital, a pantheon and most of all a Fortress of Knowledge
A soft rain was falling the day I arrived at EL Escorial. I didn`t mind much because that cloudy day was perfect for me. There is a little more drama in a picture taken on a cloudy day. I was at 1000m and at the foot of a mountain but the clouds were covering the peaks. Looking around, I could understand why Philip ll choose this location as a place of refuge from everything. Before getting there, I knew I was going to see a royal monastery but I was surprised to see a fortress. Looked so much like Toledo`s Alcazar, only bigger. It is sober, with straight lines, so bluntly symmetrical and a tad ugly. By now, when you are reading this you are thinking “Wow! But if it is ugly, why are you writing about it?“. The answer is pretty simple, it is a fascinating building. Despite its appearance holds real treasures. It looks heavy but I believe that precisely this aspect holds the clues for its purpose.
It was built in the 16th century having as an architect Juan Bautista de Toledo. He spent many years in Rome where he worked also at Basilica di San Pietro. Some say that the grid type layout of the building it is based on the descriptions of Solomon`s Temple by the historian Flavius Josephus. Seen from above the construction does look like a fortress mean to protect the church placed in the middle.
Sadly they do not allow visitors to take photos inside the building. So to really see its treasures you have to go inside. I was pleasantly surprised by the painted ceilings and by the collection of paintings they have. A “WOW“ came out of my mouth when I stepped into the library. If you asked me, I think the real treasure it is between the pages of those books. There are 40000. volumes comprising ancient manuscripts and some 1800 Arabic titles preserving also some forbidden books as well. But the library was out of Inquisition‘s reach so many books that were found in the Arab libraries after Reconquista were kept here.
Garden of the Friars, El Escorial, Spain by Mirela Felicia CatalinoiuI walked along the corridors and stepped into big cold rooms beautifully decorated. I was wondering how life must have been to live in those rooms. A bit too cold and could not wait to go and see the surrounding garden.
The access to the Friars Garden is free and of course, I could finally take pictures. The camellias, my favourite, were in bloom and suddenly the soft rain that was so stubbornly falling, become full of colour. Despite being so formal it had a certain charm a bit enhanced by the rain or it was the presence of the mountains which made me think that this garden it is in itself a piece of heaven.
Would I go there again?..Of course! I do have the feeling I haven’t seen everything.
Would I recommend others to go there? ..Definitely!!!! It is impressive and inspiring. It is the perfect spot to run from a big city or if you are tired of having too many tourists around you. It is 45 from Madrid and besides, El Escorial represents the Spanish spirit after Reconquista.
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