Escorial: Art and Power in the Renaissance

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Escorial: Art and Power in the Renaissance

Few buildings have played as central a role in Spain's history as the monastery-palace of San Lorenzo del Escorial. Colossal in size and imposing - even forbidding - in appearance, the Escorial has invited and defied description for four centuries. Part palace, part monastery, part mausoleum, it has also served as a shrine, a school, a repository for thousands of relics and one of the greatest libraries of its time. Constructed over the course of almost twenty years, the Escorial challenged and provoked, becoming for some a symbol of superstition and oppression, for others a 'wonder of the world'. Now a World Heritage Site, it is visited by thousands of travellers every year.

In this intriguing study, Henry Kamen looks at the circumstances that brought the young Philip II to commission the building of the Escorial in 1563. He explores Philip's motivation, the influence of his travels, the meaning of the design and its place in Spanish culture. The result is a highly engaging narrative of the high point of Spanish imperial dominance in which contemporary preoccupations with art, religion and power are analysed in the context of this remarkable building.

Publication Date: 
May 7, 2010