El Escorial is one of the historic residences of the king of Spain. Today it functions are multipurpose, as a monastery, royal palace, museum, and school. It is located 45 kilometres (28 miles) northwest of the Spanish capital, Madrid, in the town of San Lorenzo de El Escorial. El Escorial comprises two architectural complexes of great historical and cultural significance: El Real Monasterio de El Escorial itself and La Granjilla de La Fresneda, a royal hunting lodge and monastic retreat about five kilometres away. These two sites have a dual nature. During the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, they were places in which the temporal power of the Spanish monarchy and the ecclesiastical predominance of the Roman Catholic religion in Spain. Originally the property of the Hieronymite monks, it is now an monastery of the Order of Saint Augustine.
The building is built around the main axis that extends eastwards from the main facade through the Library, the Kings' Courtyard, the Basilica, and the Palace of Felipe II. In addition, the complex includes the Kings' Pantheon beneath the high altar of the Basilica.
The decoration of the Monastery was entrusted to prominent Italian painters of the time who were responsible for the Gallery of Battles and the Library among other rooms. Works of Titian, Bosch, El Greco, and Velazquez also hang in the Chapter Rooms and Sacristy. In all, there are about 1,600 paintings and more than 500 frescoes in walls and ceilings. The Monastery has an interesting Museum of Painting and Architecture as well.
Nowadays it is a huge visitor attraction, and well worth a visit.