El Escorial

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El Escorial


El Escorial, royal palace 43 km (27 mi) northwest of Madrid, founded in the 16th century by Philip II of Spain. It incorporates a cathedralesque church, a monastery, a school, and a famous library, and reflects the deeply pious outlook of its founder. The vast complex, said to contain 160 km (100 mi) of corridors, was constructed between 1563 and 1584.


inside fireplace with painting of the palace

Philip's intention was to build a royal burial place for the monarchs of Spain in accordance with the wishes of his father, Emperor Charles V, and to honor a vow he had made to build a church dedicated to Saint Lawrence. After the death of Spaniard Juan Bautista de Toledo, the first architect of the palace, in 1567, the work was completed by another Spanish architect, Juan de Herrera. Philip lived at El Escorial for 14 years and died there in 1598.


As approached from the west, its main entrance, the palace resembles a fortress. Its architectural forms, based principally on classical Roman sources (see Classic, Classical and Classicism), convey monumental grandeur, combined with a simplicity of decoration that borders on severity. Within, the royal apartments are relatively modest, since Philip's religious convictions led him to live in considerable austerity.


 In contrast, the church (1578-1581) is vast and elaborately decorated. The royal burial vault (Panteón de los Reyes), constructed after Philip's own death, contains the bodies of Charles V (brought there in 1634), of Philip himself, and of many subsequent Spanish monarchs. South of the church is the Patio de los Evangelistas (Courtyard of the Evangelists), the heart of the monastery. The library (Biblioteca de Impresos), located on the first floor of the northwest wing, is rich in early printed books and manuscripts. Its painted ceiling was executed between 1590 and 1592 by Italian artist Pellegrino Tibaldi.

El Escorial was relatively little used by Philip's successors. Charles IV, who disliked its severity, built the nearby Casita del Principe in the 1770s and El Escorial ceased to be a royal residence in 1861.

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Valley of the Fallen


A few miles away stands a gigantic civil war memorial built by General Franco. Known as the Valle de los Caidos (Valley of the Fallen), it took more than 15 years to complete. It consists of a concrete cross nearly 150 m (nearly 500 ft) high, built on top of a huge crypt tunneled out of solid granite inside the mountain itself.


 A monument to Franco’s victory in the civil war, and constructed with the forced labor of prisoners of war, it is no longer a very popular place for Spaniards to visit.


Franco's Grave site inside the tunnel

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Córdoba (Spain) (English Cordova), city in southern Spain, capital of Córdoba Province, in Andalucía, and one of Spain's most famous cities.


 Located on the Guadalquivir River, it retains in its older sections the whitewashed walls, narrow streets, and colorful patios of a Moorish city. Córdoba is a trade center for the olives and citrus fruit produced nearby and also has many manufacturing industries. Products include processed food, beer, textiles, machinery, and refined copper. A variety of handcrafted items, especially silver and leather goods, are also produced, chiefly to be sold to the many tourists who visit the city.


Cordova Cathedral

The city's most noteworthy building is its great cathedral, which originally was constructed (8th-10th century) as a Moorish mosque on the site of a Roman temple and later of a Visigothic church.


Moorish arches in cathedral

 Córdoba's mosque was noted as Europe's largest and most beautiful Muslim holy building before its conversion into a Christian church in 1236. 


Another notable structure is the Alcázar, a former Moorish palace erected on the site of Roman buildings and used in later centuries as the seat of the Inquisition; it is now largely in ruins. A bridge of 16 arches, built by the Romans and reconstructed by the Moors, connects the central city with Campo de la Verdad, a section across the Guadalquivir; near the bridge is Calahorra Castle. The city is the seat of the University of Córdoba (1972).


Córdoba was an important city as early as Phoenician and Carthaginian times. It flourished as a major Roman settlement from the 1st century BC to the 5th century AD and subsequently was captured first by the Visigoths (572) and then by the Moors (711). In 756, Abd-ar-Rahman I, a member of the Umayyad family, made Córdoba the capital of Moorish Spain, and for the next 250 years the city was one of the world's great commercial and intellectual centers. In 929Abd-ar-Rahman III established the caliphate of Córdoba, and the city reached a peak of prosperity, rivaling Damascus and Baghdâd in its brilliance and intellectual activity. The material well-being of Córdoba declined after the early 11th century as Muslim rule in Spain disintegrated, but it remained a center of literature and scholarship.


 In the 12th century the philosophers Averroës and Maimonides were active in Córdoba. In 1236 the city was captured and made part of Roman Catholic Spain by Ferdinand III of Castile. In 1808, during the Napoleonic Wars (1799-1815), it was sacked by the French. Population (1991) 300,229.

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