Appeared in Winter 1990, Vol. XVI, No. 4
El Escorial, King Philip II’s monastery-palace, is a magnificent granite symbol of the traditional relationship between Church and State in Spain. The Escorial reflects the Catholicism of the nation that was forged by the medieval struggle against Islam known as the Reconquest, as well as by the sacral – as opposed to secular – nature of Spanish society. An exuberant seventeenth century fresco that reiterates the symbolism of the entire building is located above the main stairway. Commissioned by the last Hapsburg ruler of Spain and painted by Lucca Giordano, the fresco is called “La Gloria.” The painting is a triumphalistic baroque vision of heaven that expresses the close relationship between Church and State in Spain. The figures of the Trinity, St. Lawrence (patron of the Escorial), Emperor Charles V, and Philip II are prominent among the saints and angels in the clouds. St. Lawrence intercedes for the people of Spain while Charles V, supported by his son Philip, offers his royal crowns to the Trinity.
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