On my first full day in Sevilla, my program took us on a bike tour of the city. 40 loud American students riding on bicycles through the streets of Sevilla, cutting through traffic, blocking the way of cars and other pedestrians, nearly running over a few Spaniards, receiving dirty looks, amused looks, and on occasion, claps and cheers and shouts of encouragement from some drunk hobos.
El Escorial is Spain’s royal monastery, and it’s divided into 4 parts: The monastery, the school, the palace, and the cathedral. It was constructed based on the descriptions of Solomon’s temple. It also has a library containing thousands of books, with some as old as the 8th century!! Students and scholars can actually read & use the ORIGINAL books for their projects or research (in a very special room, but still)! Here’s the library:
It also has a huge underground network that houses the tombs of dozens of kings and queens of Spain from the past 5 centuries, along with many members of the royal families. In order for a queen to be buried there, she had to be the mother of a king. So even if you were the wife of the king of Spain, if your son didn’t become king, then you couldn’t be buried there. The circular room they’re buried in (called the Pantheon of the Kings) is GORGEOUS, and directly beneath the Cathedral’s main altar. Once again, like the royal palace, I was not allowed to take pictures inside. Sadness. But here’s a picture of the cathedral’s altar I found online:
In any case, I found out something pretty gruesome. The room and coffins are already made, so that means the kings and queens who die have to fit into those pre-made coffins. So, what they do is: after a king or queen who will be buried there dies, they are put in a special “rotting chamber” in El Escorial called a pudridero, and they’re left there for about 40 years. After that time passes, they’re just bones. Then the bones are placed inside the coffin. The current king’s parents are both in a rotting room, and they are going to take the final two slots available in the special burial room (26 total). That means the current king (Juan Carlos I) has to pick another place to be buried, since El Escorial ran out of space.
But yeah, it was absolutely awe-inspiring, and I really wish I could’ve taken a picture to show you all! But here’s one I found online (none of the pictures in this post do the real thing justice, but just to give you an idea):