Daniel G. Andújar
The Real Sitio de San Lorenzo de El Escorial (the Monastery of El Escorial), as you will know, is a large building complex (a palace, the monastery itself, a museum and a library) set in San Lorenzo de El Escorial, a town 45km northwest of Madrid, in the Region of Madrid (Spain). The name El Escorial owes its name to the ancient slag (“escoria” in Spanish) deposits left by an ironworks in a village near the place where this group of buildings was erected -upon the orders of king Philip II- to commemorate Spain’s victory in the battle of St Quentin on the 10th of August, 1557, against the troops of King Henry II of France. Furthermore, it would serve as a burial place for the remains of Philip II’s parents, Emperor Charles I and Isabella of Portugal, as well as his own and those of his descendants. The building’s floor plan and its towers are reminiscent of the shape of a grill, which has led to the claim that it was built in this way in order to pay homage to St Lawrence, who was martyred in Rome by being grilled on a gridiron, and whose saint’s day is celebrated on the 10th of August, the day of the Battle of St Quentin; hence the name of the building complex, San Lorenzo, and the town which emerged around it. Prestige and power were built on slag, commemorating victory in battle and honouring a martyred saint. In addition, St Lawrence had been one of the deacons of Rome, in charge of the administration of Church goods. For this duty, he is regarded as one of the first archivists and treasurers of the Church and was made the patron saint of librarians. All of this gives rise to a series of linked metaphors which would inspire any self-respecting artist.