El Escorial and concert at the Catedral Magistral

After a hearty breakfast, we headed out of Madrid to San Lorenzo de El Escorial. El Escorial is a palace-monastery, designated a world-heritage site by UNESCO. It was ordered to be built by King Philip II in the 16th century. It is currently still the site of an Augustinian monastic community. It has two royal apartments, one each for the king and queen of Spain. Each apartment is located on either side of the sanctuary, right beside the altar (King Philip II could take communion from his bedroom). This complex was a pretty dramatic change from the previous sites that we've encountered, with little visible connection to Muslim Spain. This palace-monastery contains religious art work by artists like Tintoretto, El Greco, Titian and Hieronymus Bosch. 

There were breathtaking views, inlaid wood on doors, beautiful art work, an impressive library as well as two crypts located one floor beneath the altar. I think the Crypt of the Kings was interesting to many in our group. It was the place where almost all of Spain's monarchs since King Charles I have been buried. Before the bodies are placed in the tombs, they decompose in a room for about 20+ years. Adjacent to the Crypt of the Kings/Queens, is a Crypt of the Princesses. In one of these rooms, there are tombs set aside for the children of monarchs, under the age of 8 (who had not had their first communion). These were somber sights. Perhaps this is why conversation with one group of choristers at lunch time touched on funerals. 

We walked through the library with frescoes on the ceilings. At one end of the library there was a depiction of Theology and beneath it an image of the burning of the writings of Arius at the Council of Nicea. On the ceiling, there were many frescoes which depicted characters or scenes from Greek mythology, again inviting us to witness the diversity of traditions that contribute to Spain's cultural identity. 

After lunch and a nice rest, the choir left for Alcala de Henares and rehearsed for a concert at the Catedral Magistral. This was the first concert accompanied by Tripp Kennedy. I haven't had the chance to ask him yet what that was like for him, but it was a wonderful concert, much appreciated by the audience. There were 2 standing ovations and the choir graciously obliged with an encore. The acoustics in the church were beautiful, and the church was cooler than the ones where the previous concerts were held. After the concert, we walked over to a large restaurant where we had dinner together. One of the vestry members in the group gave a lovely toast, where we remembered and cheered for those who are in our hearts but not physically on this trip.

Following on the heels of the British referendum, Spain is going to be holding elections tomorrow (yes, on Sunday). This is the second time in 6 months that Spain has held national elections. It seems like no one party has enough popular support to form a government, creating a lot of political instability. I read that the outcome of this next election might also yield similar results, making a third election a possibility. We'll see.

Tomorrow we have a little bit of a later start to our day. We'll be heading to Toledo and the choir will sing in a Eucharist at a monastery there and then have a concert at Santa Maria la Mayor in Alcala, Madrid. Thank you for being with us in thought and prayer!

Rev. Areeta