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A History of Art for Beginners and Students

The Escurial is a marvellous place


The

cathedrals of Granada, Jaen, and Valladolid, and the churches of Malaga and Segovia, with many other ecclesiastical edifices, are among the chief monuments of Spanish Renaissance Architecture, but we shall pass on to a little later period and speak of but one great achievement, the famous Escurial, which is of much historic interest.

This combination of basilica, palace, monastery, and college was begun in 1563 by Philip II., in accordance with a vow which he made to St. Lawrence at the battle of St. Quentin. This battle was fought in 1557 under the walls of the French town of St. Quentin, by the French and the Spaniards, and the latter were completely victorious.

This cut gives an idea of how grand and impressive this collection of walls, towers, courts, and edifices must be, all crowned with the dome of the basilica. It is almost like a city by itself, and all who visit it agree that it is a gloomy and depressing place in spite of its grandeur (Fig. 108).

[Illustration: FIG. 108.--THE ESCURIAL. _Near Madrid._]

The front has three imposing entrances, with towers at the corner angles. Within the inclosure are a college, monastery, palace with state apartments, the church, numerous courts, gardens, and fountains. The front is injured by the great number of small windows, which divide it into such numberless sections as to become very tiresome

to the eye, while they take away the noble elegance of larger spaces and the air of repose which such spaces give. The angle towers are not as rich in effect as they should be, and the side walls have been compared to those of a Manchester cotton-mill; thus the exterior, which is effective from its size and general air, has not the beauty of detail which satisfies a close observer.

The effect of the interior, as one goes in by the central entrance, is all that can be desired. The court leads directly to the square before the church; as one passes to it he has the college on one side, the monastery on the other, farther on the palace, with the whole culminating in the grand state apartments and the basilica. The various courts are striking in their arrangement, and the church with its dome and towers gives a supreme glory to the whole. Gardens, fountains, and many other fine objects add their effect to the richness and beauty of the whole; but all are insignificant beside the basilica, which merits a place in the foremost rank of the churches of the Renaissance. Indeed, the Escurial is a marvellous place, and is often called "the eighth wonder of the world." The richest marbles, splendid pictures, and many magnificent objects help to make it one of the grandest works of modern architecture.

It is also true that it is one of the gloomiest places visited by travellers, and I shall quote a few lines from De Amicis to show the depressing effect which it has upon those who go there.

"The first feeling is that of sadness; the whole building is of dirt-colored stone, and striped with white between the stones; the roofs are covered with strips of lead. It looks like an edifice built of earth. The


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