Friday, August 17, 2012

Friday, August 17, 2012- Litany Lane: inviolable, Aesthetic, Isaiah 12:2-6, Matthew 19:3-12, St. Clare of Montefalco, Order of Saint Augustine, El Escorial

Friday, August 17, 2012- Litany Lane:
inviolable, Aesthetic, Isaiah 12:2-6, Matthew 19:3-12, St. Clare of Montefalco, Order of Saint Augustine, El Escorial

Good Day Bloggers! 
Wishing everyone a Blessed Week! 

P.U.S.H. (Pray Until Something Happens). It has a remarkable way of producing solace, peace, patience and tranquility and of course resolution...God's always available 24/7..

We are all human. We all experience birth, life and death. We all have flaws but we also all have the gift knowledge and free will as well, make the most of it. Life on earth is a stepping to our eternal home in Heaven. Its your choice whether to rise towards eternal light or lost to eternal darkness. Material items, though needed for sustenance and survival on earth are of earthly value only. The only thing that passes from this earth to Heaven is our Soul, our's God's perpetual gift to us...Embrace it, treasure it, nurture it, protect it...

"Raise not a hand to another unless it is to offer in peace and goodwill." ~ Zarya Parx 2012


Today's Word:  inviolable   in·vi·o·la·ble  [in-vahy-uh-luh-buhl]

Origin:  1400–50; late Middle English  < Latin inviolābilis. See in-3 , violable 

1. prohibiting violation; secure from destruction, violence, infringement, or desecration: an inviolable sanctuary; an inviolable promise.
2. incapable of being violated; incorruptible; unassailable: inviolable secrecy.
3. That must not or cannot be transgressed, dishonoured, or broken; to be kept sacred: an inviolable oath 


Today's Old Testament Reading - Isaiah 12:2-6

2 Listen, you heavens; earth, attend, for Yahweh is speaking, 'I have reared children and brought them up, but they have rebelled against me.
3 The ox knows its owner and the donkey its master's crib; Israel does not know, my people do not understand.'
4 Disaster, sinful nation, people weighed down with guilt, race of wrong-doers, perverted children! They have abandoned Yahweh, despised the Holy One of Israel, they have turned away from him.
5 Where shall I strike you next, if you persist in treason? The whole head is sick, the whole heart is diseased,
6 from the sole of the foot to the head there is nothing healthy: only wounds, bruises and open sores not dressed, not bandaged, not soothed with ointment.


Today's Gospel Reading - Matthew 19:3-12

Some Pharisees approached Jesus, and to put him to the test they said, 'Is it against the Law for a man to divorce his wife on any pretext whatever?' He answered, 'Have you not read that the Creator from the beginning made them male and female and that he said: This is why a man leaves his father and mother and becomes attached to his wife, and the two become one flesh? They are no longer two, therefore, but one flesh. So then, what God has united, human beings must not divide.' They said to him, 'Then why did Moses command that a writ of dismissal should be given in cases of divorce?' He said to them, 'It was because you were so hard-hearted, that Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but it was not like this from the beginning. Now I say this to you: anyone who divorces his wife -- I am not speaking of an illicit marriage -- and marries another, is guilty of adultery.' The disciples said to him, 'If that is how things are between husband and wife, it is advisable not to marry.' But he replied, 'It is not everyone who can accept what I have said, but only those to whom it is granted. There are eunuchs born so from their mother's womb, there are eunuchs made so by human agency and there are eunuchs who have made themselves so for the sake of the kingdom of Heaven. Let anyone accept this who can.'


• Context. Up to chapter 18 Matthew has shown how the discourses of Jesus have marked the different phases of the progressive constitution and formation of the community of disciples around their Master. Now in chapter 19, 1 this small group withdraws from the territory of Galilee and arrives in the territories of Judaea. The call of Jesus that involves his disciples advances more until the decisive choice: the acceptance or rejection of the person of Jesus. Such a phase takes place along the road that leads to Jerusalem (chapters 19-20), and finally with the arrival in the city and to the Temple (chapters 21-23). All the encounters that Jesus experiences in the course of these chapters take place along this journey from Galilee to Jerusalem.

• The encounter with the Pharisees. Passing through Trans-Jordanian (19, 1) the first encounter is with the Pharisees and the theme of the discussion of Jesus with them becomes a reason for reflection for the group of the disciples. The question of the Pharisees concerns divorce and places Jesus in difficulty, particularly, the more solid and stable reality for every Jewish community. The intervention of the Pharisees wants to accuse Jesus because of his teaching. It is a question of a true process: Matthew considers it as “testing him”, “a way of tempting him”. The question is really a crucial one: “Is it against the Law for a man to divorce his wife on any pretext whatsoever?” (19, 3). The awkward malicious attempt of the Pharisees to interpret the text of DT 24, 1 to place Jesus in difficulty does not escape the attention of the reader: “Suppose a man has taken a wife and consummated the marriage, but she has not pleased him and he has found some impropriety of which to accuse her, he has, therefore, made out a writ of divorce for her and handed it to her and then dismissed her from his house”. This text had given place, throughout the centuries, to innumerable discussions: to admit divorce for any reason whatsoever; to request a minimum of bad behaviour, a true adultery.

• It is God who unites. Jesus responds to the Pharisees having recourse to Gn 1, 17: 2, 24, which presents the question about the primary will of God, the Creator. The love that unites man to woman, comes from God and because of its origin, it unifies and cannot be separated. If Jesus quotes Gn 2, 24: “This is why a man leaves his father and mother and becomes attached to his wife and they become one flesh” (19, 5), it is because he wants to underline a particular and absolute principle: it is the creating will of God that unites man and woman. When a man and a woman unite together in marriage, it is God who unites them; the term “coniugi” - couple – comes from the verb joined together, to unite, that is to say, that the joining together of the two partners sexually is the effect of the creative word of God. The response of Jesus to the Pharisees reaches its summit: marriage is indissoluble from its original constitution. Jesus continues this time drawing from Ml 2, 13-16: to repudiate the wife is to break the covenant with God and according to the prophets this covenant has to be lived, above all, by the spouses in their conjugal union (Ho 1-3; Is 1, 21-26; Jr 2, 2; 3, 1.6-12; Ez 16; 23; Is 54, 6-10; 60-62). The response of Jesus appears as a contradiction to the Law of Moses which grants the possibility to grant a writ of divorce. To motivate his response Jesus reminds the Pharisees: if Moses gave this possibility it is because you were so hardhearted (v. 8), more concrete, because of your indocility to the Word of God. The Law of Gn 1, 26; 2, 24 had never been modified, but Moses was obliged to adapt it to an attitude of indocility. The first marriage was not annulled by adultery. To contemporary man and particularly, to the ecclesial community the word of Jesus clearly says that there should be no divorces; and, just the same, we see that there are; in pastoral life the divorced persons are accepted, to whom the possibility of entering into the Kingdom is always open. The reaction of the disciples is immediate: “If that is how things are between husband and wife, it is advisable not to marry” (v. 10). The response of Jesus continues to sustain the indissolubility of matrimony, impossible for the human mentality but possible for God. The eunuch of whom Jesus speaks is not the one who is unable to generate but the one, who separated from his wife, continues to live in continence, he remains faithful to the first conjugal bond: he is an eunuch as regards all other women.
Personal questions

• As regards marriage do we know how to accept the teaching of Jesus with simplicity, without adapting it to our own legitimate choices to be comfortable?
• The evangelical passage has reminded us that the design of the Father on man and on woman is a wonderful project of love. Are you aware that love has an essential law: it implies the total and full gift of one’s own person to the other?
Reference: Courtesy of Order of Carmelites,


Featured Item of the Day from Litany Lane


Saint of the Day:  St. Clare of Montefalco

Feast Day: August 17
Died:  1308
Patron Saint of :  n/a

Saint Clare of Montefalco (Italian:Chiara da Montefalco) (c. 1268 – August 18, 1308), also called Saint Clare of the Cross, was an Augustinian nun and abbess. Before becoming a nun, St. Clare was a member of the Third Order of St. Francis (Secular).[1] She was canonized by Pope Leo XIII on December 8, 1881.


She was born at Montefalco, in Umbria, likely in the year 1268.[1] Clare was born into a well-to-do family, the daughter of Damiano and Iacopa Vengente.[2] Clare's father, Damiano, had built a hermitage within the town where Clare's older sister, Joan (Giovanna in Italian), and her friend, Andreola, lived as Franciscan tertiaries as part of the Secular Third Order of St. Francis. In 1274, when Clare was six years of age, the Bishop of Spoleto permitted Joan to receive more sisters, and it was at this time that Clare joined the Third Order of St. Francis (Secular), moving into the hermitage and adopting the Franciscan habit.[1] In 1278, the community had grown sufficiently large that they had to build a larger hermitage farther from town.

In 1290, Clare, her sister Joan, and their companions sought to enter the monastic life in a more strict sense, and they made application to the Bishop of Spoleto. As the Third Order of St. Francis (Regular) was not yet established, the bishop established their monastery in Montefalco according to the Rule of St. Augustine. Clare made her vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience and became an Augustinian nun. Her sister Joan was elected as the first abbess, and their small hermitage was dedicated as a monastery. On 22 November 1291, Joan died, after which Clare was elected abbess. Clare was initially reluctant to accept her position. After the intervention of the Bishop of Spoleto, Clare finally accepted her position as abbess out of obedience to the bishop.[1]

1294 was a decisive year in Clare's spiritual life. In the celebration of the Epiphany, after making a general confession in front of all her fellow nuns, she fell into ecstasy and remained in that state for several weeks. Unable to eat, the other nuns sustained Clare's life by feeding her sugar water. During this time, Clare reported having a vision in which she saw herself being judged in front of God.

Clare also reported having a vision of Jesus dressed as a poor traveller. She described His countenance as being overwhelmed by the weight of the cross and His body as showing signs of fatigue. During the vision, Clare knelt in front of Him, and whilst trying to stop Him she asked, "My Lord, where art Thou going?" Jesus answered her: ”I have looked all over the world for a strong place where to plant this Cross firmly, and I have not found any". After she reached for the cross, making known her desire to help Him carry it, He said to her: "Clare, I have found a place for My cross here. I have finally found someone to whom I can trust Mine cross," and He implanted it in her heart. The intense pain that she felt in all her being upon receiving the cross in her heart remained with her. The rest of her years were spent in pain and suffering, and yet she continued to joyfully serve her fellow nuns as their abbess.

In 1303, Clare was able to build a church in Montefalco which would not only serve as a chapel for the nuns, but also as a church for the town. The first stone was blessed by the Bishop of Spoleto on 24 June, and that day the church was dedicated to the Holy Cross (Santa Croce in Italian).

Clare served as abbess, teacher, mother and spiritual directress of her nuns. While Clare's reputation for holiness and wisdom attracted visitors to the Monastery of the Holy Cross, she continued to governed her monastery wisely, careful not to disrupt the communal harmony and the necessary day-to-day management of the monastery's domestic affairs.

Clare had served as abbess for sixteen years, but by August 1308, she had become so ill that she was bedridden. On 15 August, she asked to receive Extreme Unction, and on the next day she sent for her brother to come to the monastery. Clare made her last confession on 17 August,[2] and died in the convent on 18 August.[1]


Immediately following Clare's death her heart was removed from her body, and upon inspection it was reported that symbols of Christ's passion, a crucifix and a scourge, were found within her heart.[3][4][5] Upon hearing this news, the vicar of the Bishop of Spoleto traveled to Montefalco "burning with indignation" suspecting that the nuns of the convent had planted the symbols. A commission consisting of physicians, jurists, and theologians was assembled to conduct an investigation, which subsequently "ruled out the possibility of fabrication or artifice".[3] The vicar of the Bishop of Spoleto, who came to Montefalco as an inquisitor eager to punish those responsible for fraud, came to be convinced of the authenticity of the findings after personally verifying that the signs were not the result of trickery.[3] However, doubts as to the veracity of the findings persisted even at the canonization proceedings, which were fraught with conflicts including a challenge from the Franciscans that Clare should not be canonized as a saint of the Order of Saint Augustine because she had been a Franciscan tertiary.[3] During the proceedings Tommaso Boni, a Franciscan from Foligno and formerly chaplain to Clare’s community, stated that he suspected that the "symbols in her heart were planted by a nun from Foligno"; furthermore that John Pulicinus, who had been chaplain at the time of Clare’s death, had opposed the veneration of the symbols found in her heart.[3][6]

The crucifix reportedly found within Clare's heart is about the size of a thumb.[7] Christ's head leans slightly towards the right arm of the crucifix, and his body is white, except for the "tiny aperture in the right side which is a livid reddish color."[7] The scourge and crown of thorns are apparently formed by whitish nerve fibers, and the three nails are formed of a dark fibrous tissue.[7]

The body of Saint Clare remains incorrupt although the skin of her hands has darkened over time.[8] Saint Clare's heart is displayed for veneration at the Church of Saint Clare in Montefalco where her body, dressed in her Augustinian habit, rests under the high altar.[9]


The canonization process was initiated in 1328, but it was not until April 13, 1737, that Clare was beatified by Pope Clement XII. On December 8, 1881, the feast of the Immaculate Conception, Pope Leo XIII canonized Clare as Saint Clare of Montefalco at Saint Peter's Basilica in Rome.[1] She was recognized as an Augustinian rather than a Franciscan


  1. ^ a b c d e f Donovan, Stephen M. (1913). "St. Clare of Montefalco". Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company.
  2. ^ a b Saint Clare of Montefalco. Villanova University
  3. ^ a b c d e Bornstein, Daniel Ethan; Roberto Rusconi; Margery J. Schneider. Women and Religion in Medieval and Renaissance Italy. University of Chicago Press. 1996.
  4. ^ Cruz, Joan Carroll. Relics: The Shroud of Turin, the True Cross, the Blood of Januarius : History, Mysticism, and the Catholic Church. Our Sunday Visitor: Huntington, Indiana. 1984.
  5. ^ Goodich, Michael. Miracles and Wonders: The Development of the Concept of Miracle, 1150-1350 Ashgate Publishing, 2007. 55-56.
  6. ^ Elliott, Dyan. Proving woman: female spirituality and inquisitional culture in the later Middle Ages Princeton University Press, 2004. 147.
  7. ^ a b c Weil, Tom. The Cemetery Book: Graveyards, Catacombs and Other Travel Haunts around the World. New York: Hippocrene, 1992. 319.
  8. ^ Quigley, Christine. The Corpse: A History. McFarland Press, 1996. 257-258.
  9. ^ Buckley, Jonathan; Mark Ellingham; Time Jepson. Tuscany & Umbria: The Rough Guide. London: Penguin, 2000. 516.

Featured Items Panel from Litany Lane


Today's Snippets:  Order of Saint Augustine and El Escorial


Snippet I:  Order of Saint Augustine

The Order of St. Augustine (Latin: Ordo Sancti Augustini, abbreviated as O.S.A)—historically Ordo Eremitarum Sancti Augustini", O.E.S.A.), generally called Augustinians (but not to be confused with the Augustinian Canons Regular) is a Catholic Religious Order, which, although more ancient, was formally created in the thirteenth century and combined of several previous Augustinian eremetical Orders into one. In its establishment in its current form, it was shaped as a mendicant Order, one of the four great Orders which follow that way of life. The Order has done much to extend the influence of the Church, to propagate the Roman Catholic Faith and to advance learning. The Order has, in particular, spread internationally the veneration of the Virgin Mary under the title of Our Lady of Good Counsel (Mater boni consilii).



As is well known, St. Augustine of Hippo, first with some friends and afterward as bishop with his clergy, led a monastic community life. Religious vows were not obligatory, but the possession of private property was prohibited. Their manner of life led others to imitate them. Instructions for their guidance were found in several writings of St. Augustine, especially in De opere monachorum (P.L., XL, 527), mentioned in the ancient codices regularum of the eighth or ninth century as the "Rule of St. Augustine". Epistola ccxi, otherwise cix (P.L., XXXIII, 958), contains the early "Augustinian Rule for Nuns"; epistolae ccclv and ccclvi (P.L., XXXIX, 1570) "De moribus clericorum". This system of life for the cathedral clergy continued in various locations throughout Europe for centuries.

As the first millennium came to an end, the fervor of this life began to wane, and the cathedral clergy began to live independently of one another. At the start of the second millennium, there was a revival in interest in the stricter form of clerical life. Several groups of canons were established under various disciplines, all with the Augustinian Rule as their basis. Examples of these were the Congregation of canons in Ravenna, founded by the Blessed Peter de Honestis about 1100, as well as the Norbertines. The instructions contained in Augustine's Rule formed the basis of the Rule that, in accordance with the decree of the Lateran Synod of 1059, was adopted by canons who desired to practice a common apostolic life (Holstenius, Codex regularum, II, Rome, 1661, 120), hence the title of Canons Regular of Saint Augustine.

Around the start of the 13th century, many eremetical communities, especially in the vicinity of Siena, Italy, sprang up. These were often small (no more than ten) and composed of laymen, thus they lacked the clerical orientation of the canons. Their foundational spirit was one of solitude and penance. With time, some of the communities adopted a more outward looking way of life. As the number of hermit-priests increased, assisting the local clergy in providing spiritual care for their neighbors became a larger part of their lives. In 1223 four of the communities around Siena joined in a loose association, which had increased to thirteen within five years.

In 1231, two such associations of eremetical communities requested of Pope Gregory IX that they be allowed to share in following one of the approved monastic rules. The Pope charged Bonfiglio, the Bishop of Siena (1215–1252) to work on this request. Eventually they all adopted the Augustinian Rule, either voluntarily or by command of the Pope, without giving up certain peculiarities of life and dress introduced by the founder, or handed down by custom. These differences led to their being confounded with other Orders (e.g., the Third Order Regular of St. Francis of Penance, which was also of eremetical origin) and gave rise to quarrels.

To remedy confusion and to ensure harmony and unity among the various religious congregations, Pope Alexander IV sought to unite them into one Order. For this purpose he commanded that two delegates be sent to Rome from each of the hermit monasteries, to discuss, under the presidency of Cardinal Richard di Santi Angeli, the question of union. The first meeting of the delegates, on 1 March 1256, resulted in a union. Lanfranc Septala of Milan, Prior of the Bonites, was appointed the first Prior General of the newly-constituted Order. The belted, black tunic of the Tuscan hermits was adopted as the common religious habit, and the walking sticks carried by the Bonites in keeping with eremetical tradition—and to distinguish themselves from those hermits who went around begging—ceased to be used. The Papal Bull "Licet ecclesiae catholicae", issued on 4 May 1256 (Bullarium Taurinense, 3rd ed., 635 sq.), ratifying these proceedings, is regarded as the foundation-charter of the Order of Hermits of St. Augustine. Furthermore, the pope commanded that all hermit monasteries which had sent no delegates should conform to the newly-drawn up Constitutions.

Privileges of the Order

Ecclesiastical privileges were granted to the order almost from its beginning. Alexander IV freed the order from the jurisdiction of the bishops; Innocent VIII, in 1490, granted to the churches of the order indulgences such as can only be gained by making the Stations at Rome; Pope Pius V placed the Augustinians among the mendicant orders and ranked them next to the Carmelites. Since the end of the 13th century the sacristan of the Papal Palace was always to be an Augustinian friar, who would ordained as a Bishop. This privilege was ratified by Pope Alexander VI and granted to the Order forever by a Bull issued in 1497. The holder of the office is Rector of the Vatican parish (of which the chapel of St. Paul is the parish church). To his office also belonged the duty of preserving in his oratory a consecrated Host, which must be renewed weekly and kept in readiness in case of the pope's illness, when it is the privilege of the papal sacristan to administer the last sacraments to His Holiness. The sacristan must always accompany the pope when he travels, and during a conclave it is he who celebrates Mass and administers the sacraments. He lived in the Vatican with a sub-sacristan and three lay brothers of the Order (cf. Rocca, "Chronhistoria de Apostolico Sacrario", Rome, 1605). Augustinian friars, as of 2009, still perform the duties of Vatican sacristans, but the appointment of an Augustinian bishop-sacristan lapsed under Pope John Paul II with the completion of the term of Petrus Canisius Van Lierde, O.S.A., in 1991. The Augustinian friars always fill one of the Chairs of the Sapienza University, and one of the consultorships in the Congregation of Rites.


The value set upon learning and science by the Augustinian friars is demonstrated by the care given to their missionary work, their libraries and by the historic establishment of their own printing-press in their convent at Nuremberg (1479), as well as by the numerous learned individuals produced by the order and still contributing valuable additions to knowledge. The order has produced many saints, for example Clare of Montefalco, Nicholas of Tolentino (d. 1305), Rita of Cascia, John of Sahagún (a Sancto Facundo) (d. 1479), and Thomas of Villanova (d. 1555). Stefano Bellesini (d. 1840), the Augustinian parish priest of Genazzano, in the Roman province, was beatified by Pius X on 27 December 1904.

Augustinian Devotional Practices

The particular devotional practices connected with the Augustinian Order, and which it has striven to propagate, include the veneration of the Blessed Virgin under the title of "Mother of Good Counsel" (Mater Boni Consilii), whose miraculous picture is to be seen in the Augustinian church at Genazzano in the Roman province. This devotion has spread to other churches and countries, and confraternities have been formed to encourage it. Several periodicals dedicated to the honour of Our Lady of Good Counsel are published in Italy, Spain and Germany by the Augustinians (cf. Meschler on the history of the miraculous picture of Genazzano in "Stimmen aus Maria-Laach", LXVII, 482 sqq.).

Besides this devotion, the order traditionally fostered the Archconfraternity of Our Lady of Consolation. Traditionally, the girdle confraternity, members of which wear a blessed girdle of black leather in honour of Saints Augustine, Monica and Nicholas of Tolentino, recite daily thirteen Our Fathers and Hail Marys and the Salve Regina, fast strictly on the eve of the feast of St. Augustine, and received Holy Communion on the feasts of the three above-named saints. This confraternity was founded by Pope Eugene IV at San Giacomo, Bologna, in 1439, made an archconfraternity by Gregory XIII, in 1575, aggregated to the Augustinian Order, and favoured with indulgences. The Augustinians, with the approbation of Pope Leo XIII, also encourage the devotion of the Scapular of Our Lady of Good Counsel and the propagation of the Third Order of St. Augustine for the laity, as well as the veneration of St. Augustine and his mother St. Monica, to instill the Augustinian spirit of prayer and self-sacrifice into their parishioners.


    • Augustine of Hippo, The Rule of St Augustine Constitutiones Ordinis Fratrum S. Augustini (Rome 1968)
    • Canning O.S.A, Rev. R. (1984). The Rule of St Augustine. Darton, Longman and ToddZumkeller
    • O.S.A., Adolar (1987). Augustine's Rule. Augustinian Press, Villanova, Pennsylvania U.S.A. 


      Snippet II:  El Escorial


      Royal Seat of San Lorenzo de El Escorial
      The Royal Seat of San Lorenzo de El Escorial is a historical residence of the King of Spain, in the town of San Lorenzo de El Escorial, about 45 kilometres (28 mi) northwest of the capital, Madrid, in Spain. It is one of the Spanish royal sites and functions as a monastery, royal palace, museum, and school. It is also known shorthand as El Escorial or the Escorial.

      The Escorial comprises two architectural complexes of great historical and cultural significance: the royal monastery itself and La Granjilla de La Fresneda, a royal hunting lodge and monastic retreat about five kilometres away. These sites have a dual nature; that is to say, during the 16th and 17th centuries, they were places in which the power of the Spanish monarchy and the ecclesiastical predominance of the Roman Catholic religion in Spain found a common architectural manifestation. El Escorial was, at once, a monastery and a Spanish royal palace. Originally a property of the Hieronymite monks, it is now a monastery of the Order of Saint Augustine.

      Philip II of Spain, reacting to the Protestant Reformation sweeping through Europe during the 16th century, devoted much of his lengthy reign (1556–1598) and much of his seemingly inexhaustible supply of New World gold to stemming the Protestant tide. His protracted efforts were, in the long run, partly successful; however, the same counter-reformational impulse had a much more benign expression thirty years earlier in Philip's decision to build the complex at El Escorial.

      Philip engaged the Spanish architect, Juan Bautista de Toledo, to be his collaborator in the design of El Escorial. Juan Bautista had spent the greater part of his career in Rome, where he had worked on the basilica of St. Peter's, and in Naples, where he had served the king's viceroy, whose recommendation brought him to the king's attention. Philip appointed him architect-royal in 1559, and together they designed El Escorial as a monument to Spain's role as a center of the Christian world.[2]

      On November 2, 1984, UNESCO declared The Royal Site of San Lorenzo of El Escorial a World Heritage Site. It is an extremely popular tourist attraction, often visited by day-trippers from Madrid - more than 500,000 visitors come to El Escorial every year.

      Design and conception

      El Escorial is situated at the foot of Mt. Abantos in the Sierra de Guadarrama. It is a bleak, semi-forested, wind-swept place that owes its name to nearby piles of slag or tailings, called scoria, the detritus of long-played-out iron mines in the Guadarrama.

      This austere location, hardly an obvious choice for the site of a royal palace, was chosen by King Philip II of Spain, and it was he who ordained the building of a grand edifice here to commemorate the 1557 Spanish victory at the Battle of St. Quentin in Picardy against Henry II, king of France.[3] He also intended the complex to serve as a necropolis for the interment of the remains of his parents, Charles I and Isabella of Portugal, himself, and his descendants.[3] In addition, Philip envisioned El Escorial as a center for studies in aid of the Counter-Reformation cause.  The building's cornerstone was laid on April 23, 1563. The design and construction were overseen by Juan Bautista de Toledo, who did not live to see the completion of the project. With Toledo's death in 1567, direction passed to his apprentice, Juan de Herrera, under whom the building was completed in 1584, in less than 21 years.

      El Escorial: floor plan, based on the floorplan of Solomon's Temple.
      Since then, El Escorial has been the burial site for most of the Spanish kings of the last five centuries, Bourbons as well as Habsburgs. The Royal Pantheon contains the tombs of the Holy Roman Emperor, Charles V (who ruled Spain as King Charles I), Philip II, Philip III, Philip IV, Charles II, Louis I, Charles III, Charles IV, Ferdinand VII, Isabella II, Alfonso XII, and Alfonso XIII. Two Bourbon kings, Philip V (who reigned from 1700 to 1746) and Ferdinand VI (1746–1759), as well as King Amadeus (1870–1873), are not buried in the monastery.  The floor plan of the building is in the form of a gridiron. The traditional belief is that this design was chosen in honor of St. Lawrence, who, in the third century AD, was martyred by being roasted to death on a grill. St. Lawrence’s feast day is August 10, the same date as the 1557 Battle of St. Quentin.[3]

      In fact, however, the origin of the building's layout is quite controversial. The grill-like shape, which did not fully emerge until Herrera eliminated from the original conception the six interior towers of the facade, was, by no means, unique to El Escorial. Other buildings had been constructed with interior courtyards fronting on churches or chapels; King's College, Cambridge, dating from 1441, is one such example; the old Ospedale Maggiore, Milan's first hospital, begun in 1456 by Antonio Filarete, is another grid-like building with interior courtyards. In fact, palaces of this approximate design were commonplace in the Byzantine and Arab world. Strikingly similar to El Escorial is the layout of the Alcázar of Seville and the design of the Alhambra at Granada where, as at El Escorial, two courtyards in succession separate the main portal of the complex from a fully enclosed place of worship.

      Nonetheless, the most persuasive theory for the origin of the floor plan is that it is based on descriptions of the Temple of Solomon by the Judeo-Roman historian, Flavius Josephus: a portico followed by a courtyard open to the sky, followed by a second portico and a second courtyard, all flanked by arcades and enclosed passageways, leading to the "holy of holies". Statues of David and Solomon on either side of the entrance to the basilica of El Escorial lend further weight to the theory that this is the true origin of the design. A more personal connection can be drawn between the David-warrior figure, representing Charles V, and his son, the stolid and solomonically prudent Philip II. Echoing the same theme, a fresco in the center of El Escorial's library, a reminder of Solomon’s legendary wisdom, affirms Philip's preoccupation with the great Jewish king, his thoughtful and logical character, and his extraordinary monumental temple.[4]

      The Temple-of-Solomon design, if indeed it was the basis for El Escorial, was extensively modified to accommodate the additional functions and purposes Philip II intended the building to serve. Beyond being a monastery, El Escorial is also a pantheon, a basilica, a convent, a school, a library, and a royal palace. All these functional demands resulted in a doubling of the building's size from the time of its original conception.
      Built primarily from locally quarried gray granite, square and sparsely ornamented, El Escorial is austere, even forbidding, in its outward appearance, seemingly more like a fortress than a monastery or palace. It takes the form of a gigantic quadrangle, approximately 224 m by 153 m, which encloses a series of intersecting passageways and courtyards and chambers. At each of the four corners is a square tower surmounted by a spire, and, near the center of the complex (and taller than the rest) rise the pointed belfries and round dome of the basilica. Philip's instructions to Toledo were simple and clear, directing that the architects should produce "simplicity in the construction, severity in the whole, nobility without arrogance, majesty without ostentation."

      Aside from its explicit purposes, the complex is also an enormous storehouse of art. It displays masterworks by Titian, Tintoretto, El Greco, Velázquez, Roger van der Weyden, Paolo Veronese, Alonso Cano, José de Ribera, Claudio Coello and others.[6] The library contains thousands of priceless manuscripts; for example, the collection of the sultan, Zidan Abu Maali, who ruled Morocco from 1603 to 1627, is housed at El Escorial. Giambattista Castello designed the magnificent main staircase.

      Sections of the building

      In order to describe the parts of the great building in a coherent fashion, it may be useful to undertake an imaginary walking tour, beginning with the main entrance at the center of the western facade:

      Courtyard of the Kings

      Courtyard of the Kings and the Basilica.
      The first thing you find upon arriving to El Escorial is the main Façade. This has three doors: the middle one leads to the Courtyard of the Kings (Patio de los Reyes) and the side ones lead to a school and the other to a monastery. On the façade there is a niche where the image of a saint has been placed. The courtyard is an enclosure that owes its name to the statues of the Kings of Judah that adorn the façade of the Basílica, located at the back, from which you can access from the courtyard. This spectacular basilica has a floor in the shape of a Greek cross and an enormous cupola inspired by St. Peter's Basilica in Rome. The naves are covered with canyon vaults decorated with frescoes by Lucas Jordán. The large chapel is one of the highlights in the basilica, presided by steps of red marble. Its main altarpiece is 30 meters high and divided in compartments of different sizes where are find bronze sculptures and canvas authored by Tibaldi, Zuccari or Leoni. In the Capitulary and the Sacristy Rooms, painting such as Joseph's Coat by Velázquez, The Last Supper by Titian, or The Adoration of the Sacred Host by Charles II by Claudio Coello are on exhibit.

      Under the royal chapel of the Basilica is the Royal Pantheon. This is the place of burial for the kings of Spain. It is an octagonal Baroque mausoleum made of marble where all of the Spanish monarchs since Charles I have been buried, with the exception of Philip V, Ferdinand of Savoy, and Amadeus of Savoy. The remains of Juan de Borbon, father of King Juan Carlos I of Spain, also rest in this pantheon despite the fact that he never became king himself. The enclosure is presided over by an altar of veined marble, and the sarcaphogi are bronze and marble. also find the Pantheon of the Princes, where the bodies of the queens who did not have a crowned succession and the princes and princesses were laid to rest. This part was built in the nineteenth century.

      After the basilica is the Courtyard of the Evangelists. This is a gardened patio in whose center rises a magnificent pavilion by Juan de Herrera in which you can find sculptures of the Evangelists. Around the courtyard are the galleries of the main cloister, decorated with frescoes in which scenes from the history of the Redemption are represented. In the East gallery, you find the splendid main stair case with a fresco-decorated vaulted ceiling depicting The glory of the Spanish monarchy.

      Next is the Palace of the Austrians (Palacio de los Austrias), also known as the House of the King (Casa del Rey), which is found behind the presbytery of the basilica. The outbuildings of this palace are distributed around the Courtyard of the Fountainheads (patio de los Mascarones), of Italian style. Inside the House of the King are the Sala de las Batallas (Hall of Battles), which contains frescoes of the battles of San Quintín and Higueruela, among others. The next building contains the rooms of Philip II and of the Infanta Isabel Clara Eugenia. Another outbuilding is that of Alcoba del Rey, housing the bed in which Philip II died.

      The basilica

      Dome of the Basilica of El Escorial
      The basilica of San Lorenzo el Real, the central building in the El Escorial complex, was originally designed, like most of the late Gothic cathedrals of western Europe, to take the form of a Latin cross.[7] As such, it has a long nave on the west-east axis intersected by a pair of shorter transepts, one to the north and one directly opposite, to the south, about three-quarters of the way between the west entrance and the high altar. This plan was modified by Juan de Herrera to that of a Greek cross, a form with all four arms of equal length. Coincident with this shift in approach, the bell towers at the western end of the church were somewhat reduced in size and the small half-dome intended to stand over the altar was replaced with a full circular dome over the center of the church, where the four arms of the Greek cross meet.

      Clearly Juan Bautista de Toledo's experience with the dome of St. Peter's basilica in Rome influenced the design of the dome of San Lorenzo el Real at El Escorial. However, the Roman dome is supported by ranks of tapered Corinthian columns, with their extravagant capitals of acanthus leaves and their elaborately fluted shafts, while the dome at El Escorial, soaring nearly one hundred metres into the air, is supported by four heavy granite piers connected by simple Romanesque arches and decorated by simple Doric pilasters, plain, solid, and largely unprepossessing. It would not be a flight of fancy to interpret St. Peter's as the quintessential expression of Baroque sensuality and the basilica at El Escorial as a statement of the stark rigidity and grim purposefulness of the Inquisition, the two sides of the Counter-Reformation.

      The most highly decorated part of the church is the area surrounding the high altar. Behind the altar is a three-tiered reredos, made of red granite and jasper, nearly twenty-eight metres tall, adorned with gilded bronze statuary by Leone Leoni, and three sets of religious paintings commissioned by Philip II. To either side are gilded life-size bronzes of the kneeling family groups of Charles and Philip, also by Leoni with help from his son Pompeo. In a shallow niche at the center of the lowest level is a repository for the physical elements of the communion ceremony, a so-called "House of the Sacrament", designed by Juan de Herrera in jasper and bronze.

      To decorate the reredos, or altar screens, the king's preferences were Michelangelo or Titian, but both of these giants were already more than eighty years old and in frail health.[8] Consequently, Philip consulted his foreign ambassadors for recommendations, and the result was a lengthy parade of the lesser European artists of that time, all swanning through the construction site at El Escorial seeking the king's favor.

      Palace of Philip II

      Situated next to the main altar of the Basilica, the residence of King Philip II is made up of a series of austerely decorated rooms. It features a window from which the king could observe mass from his bed when incapacitated by the gout that afflicted him.

      Hall of Battles

      Fresco paintings here depict the most important Spanish military victories. These include a medieval victory over the Moors, as well as several of Philip's campaigns against the French.

      Pantheon of the Kings

      This consists of twenty-six marble sepulchers containing the remains of the kings and queens regnant (the only queen regnant since Philip II being Isabella II), of the Habsburg and Bourbon dynasties from Charles I to the present, except for Philip V and Ferdinand VI. The sepulchers also contain the remains of royal consorts who were parents of monarchs. The only king consort is Francis of Asis de Bourbon, husband of queen Isabella II. The most recent remains in the sepulcher are those of King Alfonso XIII, of his wife, as well as his son Juan, Count of Barcelona. Those of his and daughter-in-law Maria de las Mercedes (the mother of the current king, Juan Carlos I), lie at a prepared place called a pudridero, or decaying chamber.

      There are two pudrideros at El Escorial, one for the Pantheon of the Kings and the other for that of the Princes, which can only be visited by monks from the Monastery. In these rooms, the remains of the deceased are placed in a small leaden urn, which in turn will be placed in the marble sepulchers of the pantheon after the passage of fifty years, the estimated time necessary for the complete decomposition of the bodies.

      When the remains of the Count and Countess of Barcelona are deposited in the Royal Pantheon, they will, in a sense, constitute exceptions to tradition. First, the Count of Barcelona was never able to reign, due to the institution of the Second Republic and the exile of Alfonso XIII and his entire family, though they are the parents of a King, and their remains are in the Pantheon. Second, the Pantheon also contains the remains of Victoria Eugenie of Battenberg, who, although the wife of a King, was never the mother of a king in the strict sense. Some, however, do consider the Count of Barcelona to have been de jure King of Spain, which in turn would make Queen Victoria Eugenia the mother of a king. With the interment of the Count and Countess' remains, all the sepulchers in the Royal Pantheon will be filled; no decision has yet been announced as to the final resting place of the currently living members of the Royal Family. There has already been one exception to this old tradition: Elisabeth of Bourbon is for the moment the only queen in the pantheon who has not been mother to a King. That is because her only son, the presumed Heir to the Throne, died after her. The walls of polished Toledo marble are ornamented in gold-plated bronze. All of the wood used in El Escorial comes from the ancient forests of Sagua La Grande, on the so-called Golden Coast of Cuba.

      Pantheon of the Princes

      Completed in 1888, this is the final resting place of princes, princesses and queens who were not mothers of kings. With floors and ceiling of white marble, the tomb of Prince John of Austria is especially notable. Currently, thirty-seven of the sixty available niches are filled.

      Art Gallery

      Consists of works of the German, Flemish, Venetian, Lombard, Ligurian and more Italian and Spanish schools from the fifteenth, sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.

      Architectural Museum

      Its eleven rooms showcase the tools, cranes and other materials used in the construction of the edifice, as well as reproductions of blueprints and documents related to the project, containing some very interesting facts.

      Gardens of the Friars

      Constructed at the order of Philip II, a great lover of nature, these constitute an ideal place for repose and meditation. Manuel Azaña, who studied in the monastery's Augustinian-run school, mentions them in his Memorias (Memoirs) and his play El jardín de los frailes (The Garden of the Friars). Students at the school still use it today to study and pass the time.


      Philip II donated his personal collection of documents to the building, and also undertook the acquisition of the finest libraries and works of Spain and foreign countries. It was planned by Juan de Herrera, who also designed the library’s shelves; the frescoes on the vaulted ceilings were painted by Pellegrino Tibaldi. The library’s collection consists of more than 40,000 volumes, located in a great hall fifty-four meters in length, nine meters wide and ten meters tall with marble floors and beautifully carved wood shelves. Benito Arias Montano produced the initial catalog for the library, selecting many of the most important volumes. In 1616 he was granted the privilege of receiving a copy of every published work, though there is no evidence that he ever took advantage of this right. The vault of the library's ceiling is decorated with frescoes depicting the seven liberal arts: Rhetoric, Dialectic, Music, Grammar, Arithmetic, Geometry and Astronomy.

      The Reliquaries

      Following a rule approved by the Council of Trent dealing with the veneration of saints, Philip II donated to the monastery one of the largest reliquaries in all of Catholicism. The collection consists of some 7500 relics, which are stored in 570 sculpted reliquaries designed by Juan de Herrera. Most of them were constructed by the artisan, Juan de Arfe Villafañe. These reliquaries are found in highly varied forms (heads, arms, pyramidal cases, coffers, etc.) and are distributed throughout the monastery, with the most important being concentrated in the basilica.

      Adjacent Buildings

      Juan de Herrera also designed the Casas de Oficios or Official Buildings opposite the monastery's north façade, and his successor, Francisco de Mora, designed the Casa de la Compaña (Company Quarters).

      1. UNESCO (2008). "The Monastery of San Lorenzo de El Escorial and Natural Surroundings". Retrieved 2008-06-05.
      2.  Mary Crawford Volk; Kubler, George (1987-03-01). "Building the Escorial". The Art Bulletin (The Art Bulletin, Vol. 69, No. 1) 69 (1): 150–153. doi:10.2307/3051093. JSTOR 3051093.
      3. Fodor's Review (2008). "Real Monasterio de San Lorenzo de El Escorial". Retrieved 2008-06-05.
      4. René Taylor 1. Arquitectura y Magia. Consideraciones sobre la Idea de El Escorial, Ediciones Siruela, Madrid, enhanced from monograph in Rudolph Wittkower's 1968 festschrift. 2. Hermetism and the Mystical Architecture of the Society of Jesus in "Baroque Art: The Jesuit Contribution" by Rudolf Wittkower & Irma Jaffe
      5. MSN Encarta (2008). "El Escorial". Retrieved 2008-06-05.
      6. Tenth International Symposium on High Performance Computer Architecture (2004). "El Escorial". Retrieved 2008-06-05.
      7. The Latin cross, with its long descending arm, is the form most familiar to western Christians as the cross on which Christ was supposed to have been crucified.
      8. ^ Michelangelo died in 1564, scarcely a year after the first stones at El Escorial were laid, and Titian, when asked to come to Spain, respectfully refused on the basis of his advanced age.