San Lorenzo de El Escorial Monastery

10 Curious facts about the Monastery of San Lorenzo del Escorial

The Monastery of San Lorenzo del Escorial is an historic complex that was built by King Phillip II. It is a very important building in Spanish history which was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1984. There are many legends and curious facts about the monastery. Below we have compiled ten of the most interesting ones.

Monastery of San Lorenzo de El Escorial - Panoramic view

  1. The Monastery of San Lorenzo del Escorial was built between 1563 and 1584, It was during this time that the expression came into being  ‘It is taking as long as the building of El Escorial’.

  2. Throughout the time spent on completing the whole complex, there were rumours about the capacity of the king to pay for it all. People doubted if he would be able to finish the construction. However, Phillip ordered some gold bricks to be inserted into the towers to demonstrate that he could. In reality, these are not gold bricks but bronze boxes, with some relics inside,  covered in a gold layer.

  3. From the late sixteenth century, the whole complex was known as “the 8th Wonder of the World” because of its impressive dimensions and great symbolic value.

  4. According to the legend, Philip II chose this location to seal off a door to Hell, which lay just beneath the basilica.

  5. Seen from above, the Monastery looks like a grill. Traditionally, people think that this was a tribute to Saint Lawrence who was burnt to death on a grill. However, historians describe this as just a coincidence and they prefer to compare it to the Temple of Solomon.

  6. Throughout history, the complex has been used as a basilica, a Royal Pantheon, a library, a seminar, a school, a hospital, a convent,and a royal palace.

  7. Before the bodies of the monarchs can be buried in the Royal Pantheon, they must spend around 30 years in a chamber for dead bodies until the bodies get small enough to fit into the small Pantheon chests.

  8. The beautiful library is reminiscent of the Sistine Chapel. More than 75,000 old books are stored there, including some dealing with Dark Science and Esotericism.

  9. The monastery also stores one of the most complete and important reliquaries in the world, with skeletons, heads, and thousands of bones. Every Saints’ Day the reliquary is open to the public.

  10. The whole complex has approximately 4,000 rooms, more than 1,200 doors,(some of them fake for the sake of symmetry) and a total of 2,675 windows.

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Author Info

Adrián Lago

I am a journalist and a Spanish teacher. I am passionate about travelling and learning other languages and I always try to relay this to my students.

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