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as a piece of natural scenery.
It affords a striking illustration of the immense size of the Escorial that even in such a situation as this it looks massive and imposing. An ordinary palace would be dwarfed into insignificance in this waste of moorland and mountain. The stern and severe simplicity of its architecture, almost entirely without decoration or ornamentation of any kind, is in harmony with the scene, and adds to its impressiveness. One cannot, however, suppress a smile at the aptness of the description, that "it is like Newgate magnified a hundred times, with the cupola of Bethlehem Hospital on the roof."
The Escorial was built by Philip II., originally with the view of founding a magnificent burial-place for the Spanish sovereigns; but as he proceeded, his plans were enlarged, and not only was it formed to receive the royal dead, but it was also destined as a splendid though most gloomy residence for them during their lives. Nor was the all-powerful Church forgotten: a convent arose within the walls for the reception of a number of monks. In this strange manner did the royal bigot fulfil a vow made by him when suffering from the dread of the French army, about to engage his own forces and those of his allies in a decisive battle. Contrary to his panic fear, he was victorious, and in the first enthusiastic warmth of his gratitude, he fulfilled the vow he had made to erect a convent on a certain spot. Building became his favourite pursuit, and the immense pile rose gradually under his auspices. For nineteen years after its completion (it was nearly twenty-two years before it was finished) did this singular sovereign reside within its melancholy walls, and finally he died there in 1598.
As it first appears in sight the palace has a very imposing effect, but a
nearer approach rather lessens these first impressions. It has too modern an aspect, though this in reality arises from the materials used in the building, which have in no way suffered from the lapse of time. Still, even on a near approach, it is very fine. The severity and simplicity of taste apparent in the stately pile give a certain grandeur of effect that is very striking on a first view. Its situation is in perfect keeping with its style of architecture. It is, as it were, actually built on the rocks; and, unlike any other royal palace, it has no external embellishments of luxuriant nature to set it off: all is rugged, and grand, and melancholy. The grey granite of which it is composed sends a cold shudder through one, as one thinks of the cold, cruel heart of its royal founder!
The grand entrance is never opened excepting to admit the reigning sovereign, or the corpse of the monarch when brought there for interment. have never been more impressed than by the sight of the chapel of the Escorial. Instead of entering it by stately portals, as is usually the case, this sacred edifice is approached from a dark passage. As one emerges from it, and stands at the arched entrance, it is impossible to describe the effect produced by its simple majesty. After a while, you begin to wonder what it is that has produced so startling an impression. There is no ornament of any kind-nothing to interfere with the solemn feeling that one stands in a building consecrated to the worship of the Almighty: there is nothing to diminish the grandeur of the idea. All is solemn and imposing; everything trifling seems banished. One can hardly understand how a Roman Catholic chapel can have preserved such severe simplicity in everything belonging to it. Truly the architect of that chapel was a master in his profession. There are none of those puerile trifling decorations which, in Spain, so often mar the beauty of the churches; but all is in severe taste, from the sombre black-and-white pavement to the beautiful screens of bronze and jasper.
After gazing at this beautiful chapel the visitor is but little inclined to listen to the legends poured forth by the guides, of the relics collected by the "pious founder." They are said to have amounted to between seven and eight thousand. Peyron enumerates eleven whole bodies, three hundred heads, six hundred legs and arms, three hundred and forty-six veins and arteries, fourteen hundred odd bits, teeth, toes, etc. When the French were here in 1808 they stripped off the gold and precious stones from the relicario, carried away the shrine, and tied up the relics in a table-cloth, with a polite note to the prior, requesting his acceptance of these precious objects, adding, that if the relics really possessed the miraculous virtues ascribed to them, they would easily cause a new shrine to grow up around themselves. It is needless to add that this scoffing wish has not been realised.
The Panteon, or royal sepulchre, is under the chapel, and is so arranged that the royal dead lie immediately below the high altar. I last visited the
Escorial on one of those delicious days in the late autumn, which in Spain are so supremely enjoyable. As we left the clear radiant sunshine and the keen bright air of the mountains for the close dank vapours of the sepulchre, and the yellow lurid light of the torches, the contrast was not a little affecting. The impressiveness and pathos of the occasion were deepened by the strange weird noises of the wind, which had risen with great rapidity and violence, and seemed to wail, and howl, and shriek through the deserted courts of the Escorial with a thrilling effect. It was as though the builders of this grand and massive pile, the lords of this once mighty land, were bewailing their follies and their crimes.
Like all the edifices in Spain which are not in actual occupation, the Escorial seems falling out of repair. On every side are traces of dilapidation. If speedy means be not taken to arrest the progress of decay, this immense palace, convent, and sepulchre will soon become a ruin, like the kingdom of which it is at once the centre and the type.
Passing the royal palace of San Ildefonso, and the wild and wooded scenery of La Granja, we reach Segovia, one of the most interesting cities, even in Spain, to the archæologist and antiquarian. Spanish tradition carries it back to Tubal and Hercules. Sober philology finds in its name traces of an old Iberian origin. And its monumental remains attest and illustrate its pre-Roman, Roman, Gothic, and Moorish occupation. The city is situated on a rocky ridge at a considerable elevation above the plain. Its picturesque old walls, the Alcazar, the curious round towers, the quaint balconied houses, the cathedral, and above all, the magnificent aqueduct, form a spectacle of rare interest and beauty. But, like all Spanish cities, it has a decayed and impoverished look. Once it was the centre of an important manufacture. streets were thronged with active and thriving traders. Vast flocks of sheep were driven in from the surrounding country, to be washed in the waters of the Eresma; and their fleeces supplied the raw material which kept busy the numerous looms of the Segovian weavers. In the seventeenth century thirtyfour thousand persons were engaged in the manufacture of woollen cloths. The whole population of the city at present does not exceed ten thousand, and a few small poor manufactories in the suburb of San Lorenzo are all that remain of its once thriving industry.
The aqueduct is supposed to have been built by the Emperor Vespasian. The Segovians ascribe to it a much earlier origin, and call it el puente del diablo. Of course they have a wild legend to account for the devil having engaged in so arduous a task as the erection of this magnificent work. Its real object was to convey water over a steep ravine, of seven hundred feet wide and more than ninety feet deep. To effect this, two ranges of arches were thrown across, one above the other. The upper one is on a level with the high land on either side, and has, or had, one hundred and fifty-nine arches. Though the