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El Escorial

Enjoying a suitably majestic setting in the southern foothills of the Sierra de Guadarrama, the Royal Monastery of San Lorenzo de El Escorial was commissioned by Felipe II as a mausoleum for the tomb of his father, Carlos I. The name commemorates the victory over the French at St Quentin on the Feast of St Laurence, in 1557. Building began in 1563 and, from the outset, the king took a keen interest in the smallest details of the project, even down to the choice of site. The complex was finally completed in 1595 and comprised a basilica, a royal palace, a monastery, a seminary and a library. This stupendous granite monument to the king’s personal aspirations and to the ideals of the Catholic Counter Reformation still inspires awe, if ...

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