Escurial, or Escorial

Escurial, or Escorial a city of Spain, twenty-four miles N.W. of Madrid, containing a celebrated convent palace generally called Escurial. The convent, built for 160 monks of the order of Jerome, was erected 1653-84, by Philip II, in fulfillment of a vow made at the battle of St. Quentin, fought on the anniversary of St. Lawrence. It is built in the form of a gridiron, in commemoration of the martyrdom of the saint, and the king's palace forms the handle. The buildings are 740 feet long, inclosing 20 courts, in which are 63 fountains; there are 17 cross paths, 890 doors, 1000 columns, 5000 windows, 9 towers surmounted by cupolas, a magnificent church with 48 altars in side chapels. The main altar is adorned by a statue of St. Lawrence in solid silver, weighing 450 pounds. Underneath is the costly burying vault of the king, of marble and jasper, The library of the convent contains some 4600 MSS., 1905 Arabic, and is the principal collection of Oriental history and literature. Many of the MS. and other treasures were lost when the place was sacked by the French in 1808. Besides these, there are some 32,143 vols. of ancient authors, principally on history. The picture-gallery contains some 465 original paintings. A park surrounds the king's palace, or Casa del Principe. Penny Cyclopedia; Herzog, Real-Encyklop. 4:157.

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