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Approximately 50 kilometers (31 miles) northwest of Madrid, el Escorial still functions as a monastery, school, museum and royal palace. The sprawling historic site first broke ground in 1563, led by the architects Juan Bautista de Toledo and later Juan de Herrera, under the reign of King Phillip II. The architectural project set King Philip’s claim, that Madrid was the seat of the Spanish monarchy, in sculptures, ornate gold, and carved stone.
At the time of Kari’s visit in the fall 2008, the basilica was closed for renovations. However, lucky for dear Cheapos back home, she overturned the ruling (!) and snapped a few photos anyway. Here are some of the highlights of her exploration:
The ornate sarcophagus of Don Juan of Austria, inside the Royal Pantheon. In 1571, the 24-year-old illegitimate son of Charles V led a Christian fleet to victory over the Turks in the naval battle of Lepanto.