San Lorenzo de El Escorial

San Lorenzo de El Escorial, also known as El Escorial de Arriba is a town and municipality in the Community of Madrid, Spain, located to the northwest of the region in the southeastern side of the Sierra de Guadarrama, at the foot of Mount Abantos and, from Madrid. It is head of the eponymous judicial party. The settlement is popularly called El Escorial de Arriba, to differentiate it from the neighbouring village of El Escorial, also known as El Escorial de Abajo.
The Monastery of El Escorial is the most prominent building in the town and is one of the main Spanish Renaissance monuments. Especially remarkable is the Royal Library, inside the Monastery.
The monastery and its historic surroundings were declared a World Heritage Site UNESCO on November 2, 1984, under the name of "El Escorial, monastery and site".
The site also enjoys protection on Spain's heritage register; since June 21, 2006, it has been protected by the Community of Madrid as a Property of Cultural Interest.
San Lorenzo de El Escorial is located on the southern slopes of the Mount Abantos. The average altitude of the municipality is, and most of the urban area is above. The hamlet initially sprang up around Monastery of El Escorial, gradually extending up the mountain. In the 20th and 21st centuries, the town underwent a strong urban expansion, particularly towards the southeastern side of Mount Abantos.


Elevation and hydrography

The township's average altitude is. Most of the town is situated at about above sea level, including the Monastery of El Escorial, which lies approximately above the town. The highest part is the top of Mount Abantos, which is above sea level.
The town covers a total area of, most of which is mountainous terrain. In the south of the municipality is the Circo de El Escorial, bordered by the southern slopes of Mount Abantos to the south and the hills to the north. North, along the slope of, lies the Valle de los Caídos, near the border with Guadarrama. Towards the Southwest, the municipality extends down to El Escorial by the parks and gardens of the Casita del Príncipe.
San Lorenzo de El Escorial lies in the watershed of the Guadarrama river. The, born in Las Machotas, is the main tributary of the Guadarrama, after crossing the neighbouring village of El Escorial. The streams include small reservoirs.


The types of vegetation differ due to the municipality's fluctuation in altitude. In its lower altitudes, about, there are pastures with narrow-leafed ash ; and in the forest of La Herrería grow Pyrenean oaks, sweet chestnuts and Montpellier maples.
In the higher altitudes appear maritime and stone pines, as well as holm oaks, prickly junipers and laudanum. Up to grows Scots pine and black pine.
San Lorenzo de El Escorial also has some allochthonous in its mountain areas, plant species as beech, cedars, larches, Lawson cypresses, and sycamores. Students of a forestry school planted these trees during the early 20th century.
There are also trees of historical significance, including giant sequoias, planted in the 18th century in the parks and gardens of the Casita del Príncipe.
Much of the municipality is contained within the "Abantos pine forest" and the Herrería zone, a protected nature area since 1961 and extends to an area that San Lorenzo de El Escorial shares with Santa María de la Alameda.
The center of environmental education houses a collection of over 200 species of trees and bushes native to the Iberian Peninsula and Balearic Islands.


The history of San Lorenzo de El Escorial is inexorably linked to the construction of the monastery and the town named El Escorial. The first historical references of this building date year 1558 where Philip II of Spain appointed a commission to find a proper place for the site, architects, doctors and quarrymen, among other guilds.
Hamlet El Escorial met physical conditions for carrying out such company. Its abundance of forests, quarries and game reserves, the quality of its water and its place in the geographic center of Spain, at the foot of the mount Abantos, were determining factors for the final choice, which took place in 1561.
Builders placed the first stone of the monastery on April 23, 1563. A year earlier, Philip II of Spain began efforts to acquire the land adjacent to the site of the future monastery, with the intention of creating a territory of realengo, real site de El Escorial, intended for agriculture, fishing, hunting and recreational uses. Among them were the Dehesa of the ironworks of Fuentelámparas, located in the current term of San Lorenzo de El Escorial, and La Granjilla de La Fresneda de El Escorial, farms in the neighbouring village of El Escorial.
Construction lasted 21 years, which transformed the urban and social environment of El Escorial. The hamlet became a villa in 1565. A Lord Mayor exercised rule over the villa. The Lord Mayor's authority did not extend to the game reserves that the Crown managed directly, nor to agricultural uses managed by the monastery's Prior.
Through two Papal Bulls issued dated 1585 and 1586, the Roman Catholic Church removed the monastery from the control of the powerful Archbishop of Toledo and placed it under the monastery's Prior.
This administrative structure remained well into the 18th century, when the monarch Carlos III imposed a new territorial and administrative framework. The construction of houses, expressly prohibited in the outskirts of the monastery, was the cause of a dispute that faced the municipal authorities, who promoted a modification of the rules, and those who sought to restrict new construction. The subject was particularly delicate in those days, given the frequent visits of the Royal family to the site; these visits led to an increase in demand for land to build houses and support buildings mainly for civil servants working in the Royal household.
The resolution of the conflict came from King Carlos III, who, on May 3, 1767, authorized housing next to the market of the monastery, which was the birth of the municipality of San Lorenzo de El Escorial and the beginning of a process which culminated in the emancipation of the town from El Escorial. The development of this new Hamlet was very fast, reaching a population of more than a thousand only a few years afterCarlos III allowed the town's expansion.
The new settlement emerging at the foot of the monastery did not achieve self-rule until much later. The administrative structure designed by Philip II of Spain was blurring, first with the appointment of a Governor by Carlos III—detrimental to the powers of the Lord Mayor and El Escorial's Prior—and, subsequently, with the privatization of land.
This was key to the structural development of the current municipality of San Lorenzo de El Escorial, since this privatization extended over most of the royal lands except for the Herrería farms, land surrounding the monastery, the Príncipe and the Infante Casitas.
On September 26, 1836, San Lorenzo de El Escorial became an independent municipality. In 1887, it elected its first mayor. To date, 22 people have served in this role.
During the Spanish Civil War, the people remained loyal to the Republican government and briefly changed the town's name to El Escorial of the Sierra.
Today the city of San Lorenzo de El Escorial consists of 12 localities: Colmenar del Arroyo, Colmenarejo, El Escorial, Fresnedillas de la Oliva, Navalagamella, Robledo de Chavela, Santa María de la Alameda, Valdemaqueda, Valdemorillo, Villanueva del Pardillo and Zarzalejo, and the monastery of San Lorenzo de El Escorial.


San Lorenzo de El Escorial had 17,346 inhabitants, according to the National Institute of statistics, as of 2008. At that time It had a population density of 307.55 inhabitants/square km, similar to other municipalities like El Escorial, but much lower than the regional average of the Comunidad de Madrid. The density was more than three times the Spanish average of 94.06 inhabitants/square km.
As of 2006, 51.7% of San Lorentinos were women and the remaining 48.3% were men. Foreigners represent 10.07% of the total population. The average age was 37.8 years. The annual population growth was 4.2%.
The transient population of San Lorenzo de El Escorial is very high. This is a major residential site; second homes proliferated with usage during weekends and vacation periods. In addition, the municipality receives daily large numbers of tourists attracted by its historical and natural heritage.

Note: 1996 figures are referring to May 1 and the other to January 1. Source: INE


Tourism, hospitality and trade are the main economic activities of San Lorenzo de El Escorial. The municipality is one of the most important tourist destinations in the community of Madrid. Visitors usually make day trips with Madrid tourism as a starting point. The number of tourists staying overnight are insignificant as in other historical cities in the region, such as Alcalá de Henares, Aranjuez or Chinchón.
In recent years, the town has attempted to consolidate hotel tourism, trade fairs, conventions and cultural and educational nature courses. The Universidad Complutense holds summer courses to promote San Lorenzo de El Escorial as a Euroforum installations. The municipality has 10 hotels with a total of 611 rooms.
Inside of this municipality are two of the most visited monuments in the nation national. The Monastery of El Escorial is the second most visited monument with highest number of visits, short of the Royal Palace of Madrid. The Valley of the Fallen, located on the outskirts of town, is the third in the national list.
Construction is another economic activity on the rise in San Lorenzo de El Escorial. Although much of its area is protected, as with the Herrería forests, the town has experienced strong urban growth in recent years, with the creation of new housing developments in areas that lack legal protection from development. This is the case of the southeastern slope of Mount Abantos, which has many newly constructed neighbourhoods, especially after the August 21, 1999, fire that burned of pine.

Main sights

The town has an important historical-artistic, urban and cultural heritage, a result of its link with the Spanish crown. It adds relevant ecological, geological and archaeological values.
Part of the monument is listed with the heritage UNESCO. In addition, this site has been awarded bien de Interés Cultural, in the category of historical sites, with the name of "Escorial: monastery, natural and cultural environment", from the community of Madrid.
The last legal figure, approved by Decree 52/2006, also includes the towns of El Escorial, Zarzalejo and Santa María de la Alameda. This is the area which was within the so-called domain of Philip II, with which the monarch delineated the perimeter of the royal site in the area around the Monasterio.

World Heritage sites

On November 2, 1984, together with the celebration of the IV centenary of the placement of the last stone during the monastery's construction, the World Heritage Committee of the UNESCO, meeting in Buenos Aires, included "El Escorial, monastery and site" on the list of the heritage.
This entry defines territorial protection for the Monasterio de El Escorial, the Casita of Infante and the Casita del Principe, Palace, El Escorial. This building, one of the main Renaissance monuments Spain, was erected in the last third of the 16th century on the mount Abantos, slope. Juan Bautista de Toledo, originated the project that was finished, after his death, by Juan de Herrera, who imposed a new architectural style. Occupies an area of 358,729 square feet and has 16 patios, 88 sources, 13 oratorios, 15 Cloisters, 86 stairs, 9 towers, 1,200 doors and 2,673 Windows. Its main façade is in length. The most important parts of the building, include the Pantheon of Kings, the and Real library. From the sixteenth, the Escorial monastery has been described as "the eighth wonder of the world".
The Príncipe and the Infante cottages are two 18th century neoclassical mansions. Both were built by Juan de Villanueva as recreation sites for Carlos IV, then Prince of Asturias, and his brother Infante Gabriel of Spain, respectively.
The territorial scope of protection laid down in the list of the heritage is currently in the process of being enlargement. The Spanish authorities intend to extend the UNESCOheritage declaration to all the space that was included within the original decree of Philip II.

Historical site

The municipality of San Lorenzo de El Escorial and other historical-artistic group have been incorporated into the legal figure of the historical territory of "El Escorial: monastery, site and natural and cultural environment", according to Decree 52/2006 community of Madrid.
Here are different buildings and natural enclaves located within its Township and other located El Escorial, Zarzalejo and Santa María de la Alameda. Monumental sets and landscape sanlorentinos are highlighted below:
San Lorenzo de El Escorial had close historical ties with the Spanish Crown, as place of residence and burial site of different monarchs from both Habsburg and Bourbon lines.
The presence of the Kings attracted different personalities from the world of culture and the arts towards the municipality. Apart from the long list of architects, sculptors and painters who participated in the 16th-century decoration of the El Escorial, the Girona musician Antonio Soler died in San Lorenzo of El Escorial in 1783, where he had spent most of his career.
In the 19th and 20th centuries, the town became a residential suburb of Madrid, home to relevant political and cultural figures. Among these noteworthy figures are Serafín Alvarez and Joaquin Álvarez Quintero, comediógrafos who temporarily lived in the municipality.
Among children born in San Lorenzo de El Escorial in the 20th century, the poet Luis Felipe Vivanco, the architect Juan Herreros and the botanist Luis Ceballos y Fernández de Córdoba are worthy of note.

Festivals and traditions

The people of San Lorenzo hold their feasts on August 10, the day of the feast of Saint Lawrence, the saint to which Philip II of Spain dedicated the El Escorial to and that, by extension, the municipality takes its name. This building was built to commemorate the victory of the Battle of St. Quentin, which took place on August 10, 1557.
The pilgrimage of Our Lady, Virgin of Grace is without a doubt the most important tradition of San Lorenzo de El Escorial. It occurs at the beginning of September among the religious masses in Spain. Since 1948 it has been declared tourist attractions by the community of Madrid.
Holy week in San Lorenzo stands out as one of the great visual richnesses of the Guadarrameña region. At Christmastime, large crowds take to the streets to commemorate the Bethlehem nativity scene where Christ was born.


There are 5 crèches, 2 public primary schools, 1 Institute of secondary education and 3 private schools in San Lorenzo de El Escorial, as well as 1 overseas Center and 1 University Centre attached to the Complutense University.

Notable people