Our next stop was the massive monument and Palace of El Escorial, located in the Guadarrama Mountains. El Escorial was built by Philip II, who personally chose the site of its construction. It was begun in 1563 and finished in 1584. The vast building is a rough gridiron, approximately 224 metres by 153 metres. Contained within the compound are a monastery, a Palace, and a college. The entire building is made out of locally quarried granite, and is so large that it ranks as the second-largest stone structure in the world behind the Giza Pyramid.
This is one of the original tools used to construct El Escorial. The architect who headed the project, Juan Bautista de Toledo had worked on various other famous projects, such as St. Peter's in Rome.
The shape of El Escorial is like a gridiron, dedicated to St. Lawrence, hence the gridiron motif on many items inside the castle, including these original trowels.
Part of the gardens inside the monastery courtyard.
This chair belonged to Philip II.
And this was the room where he used to go walking, watching the mountains, enjoying the view.
Down in the crypt there are many tombs, including this one of Don Juan of Austria, hero of Lepanto. Unfortunately we didn't get to visit the tombs of the kings though.
This is the hall leading from the palace to the monastery.
And this is the monastery church.
Here we have the courtyard right outside the church.
And then a view looking backwards, at the double towers flanking the entrance to the church.
In this close up picture you can see the gold brick of the spire (the one with the ball on top, to the right of the center of the church) which was the last brick laid of El Escorial.
Here we have the Royal Library. This contains nearly 45,000 books, along with 5,000 manuscripts in Arabic, Latin, and Greek.
One of the halls leading outside.
And a view outside in the garden of Andrew, Julian and Alex, with the Guadarramas in the background.
From this photo you can see a large section of El Escorial, and some of its 2,673 windows.