It was to be a bulwark of the faith, a symbol of the greatness and power of the Spanish world empire.
In a manner virtually unparalleled by any other building, the Escorial reflects the spirit of its age, the 16th century, and of its patron, Philipp II. Philipp II, driven by a blind faith in the Catholic Church and the burning desire to emulate his father, Charles V, had the Escorial built in a bleak, deserted landscape. From this remote vantage point he wanted to rule the world.
The architecture is a perfect reflection of this spirit, externally an austere building almost entirely without ornamentation.
It is, moreover, no coincidence that the building is reminiscent of a cloister; part of which is still used today as a monastry.
And it was from this fortified cloister that Philipp sought the solution to one of the most intractable problems of his time - the schism in the church. He resorted to the means of the Inquisition.
The building, and its whole style, exudes the relentlessness with which Philipp exerted his power.