« PreviousContinue »
the neck of the bull. “ He dances or skips like a kid or a colt in his agony, which is very diverting to the Spanish mind.” This process is prolonged as much as possible, and accompanied by wonderful exhibitions of skill and address in evading the bull's assault. There is always a priest in attendance with consecrated wafer, to send a torero, in ertremis, straight to Paradise.
The final act-the death of the bull-comes at last. The matador, or espada, comes forward, bowing to the audieuce, and, sword and cape in 'hand, confronts the bull. “It is always an impressive picture,” says the author above quoted : “the tortured, maddened animal, whose thin flanks are palpitating with his hot breathing, his coat one shining mass of blood from the darts and the spear-thrusts, his massive neck still decked as in mockery with the fluttering flags, his fine head and muzzle seeming sharpened by the hour's terrible experience, his formidable horns crimsoned with onset; in front of this fiery bulk of force and courage, the slight, sinewy form of the killer, whose only reliance is on bis coolness and intellect.” At a favourable moment the sword is thrust to the hilt between the left shoulder and spine, and the bull reels and dies. The heavens are rent with thunderous applause, and in a few minutes another bull bounds into the arena, and the barbarous spectacle is again gone through until six bulls have been slain.
About an hour and a half by railway journey from Madrid are the two adjacent villages of El Escorial, so named from the iron scoriæ (the vestiges of ancient iron-mines) which abound there. The name Escorial has also been given to the neighbouring royal residence -combining in itself a palace, a church, and a monastery—which its builder, Philip II., in consequence of a vow at the Castle of St. Quentin, dedicated to San Lorenzo. The full name of this wonderful pile of buildings, looked upon by the Spaniards as the eighth wonder of the world, is “El Real Sitio de San Lorenzo el Real del Escorial.” Against a
. background of mountain scenery, and with a blasted stony heath stretching for many a rood in front, the vast building stands in its impressive and gloomy grandeur. Mr. Sala compares it to “Newgate magnified a hundred times, with the cupola of Bethlehem Hospital on the roof." There has been much arguing pro and con as to whether the ground-plan is intended to suggest the gridiron on which St. Lawrence perished or not. idea was likely enough to have occurred to the morbid bigot who built it. According to this theory, the seventeen ranges of buildings crossing each other at right angles, and withi their enclosed courts forming a parallelogram, measuring 740 feet by 580, represent the bars of the gridiron, whilst the upturned feet are indicated by the four square towers, 200 feet in height, at the corners, and the handle by the projecting north wing, 460 feet long, containing the royal apartments. The building is of grey granite; its walls average 60 feet in height. It contains a royal palace, a church, a monastery with 200 cells, 2 colleges, 3 chapter-houses, 3 libraries, 5 great halls, 6 dormitories, 3 hospital halls, 27 other halls, 9 refectories, 5 infirmaries, a countless number of apartments for attendants, and 80 staircases. There are 1,100 windows looking outward, and 1,578 looking into the courts; if we include the outhouses, there are 4,000 windows in all. The gates number 14, the fountains 86.
The Escorial is entered by the western portico, leading to the court called “El Patio de las. Reyes,” from its statues of the Kings of Judah in mingled marble and granite, and with
gilt crowns on their heads. A vestibule, roofed with massive granite, conducts to the church. The choir has been placed above the vestibule, so that there is nothing to interrupt the simple grandeur and magnificent proportions of the interior. The general form is that of a Greek cross, above which towers the vast dome, 330 feet above the black marble pavement. Around the church, which measures 364 feet by 230 feet, are forty chapels. The chief of these is, of course, the High Chapel, containing the high altar, and approached by a flight of veined marble steps. Forty thousand pounds were spent
in this chapel in jasper, and onyx,
porphyry, and sculptures, and paintings.
The two gorgeously deco
rated pulpits of rich marble were presented by Ferdinand VII., at a cost of £15,000.
To the right of the high altar is a wonderful reliquary. Philip II. had a passion for holy bones. He collected no less than
ENTRY OF THE BULL-FIGHTERS INTO THE ARENA.
7,421 genuine relics ; skeletons, teeth, shin-bones, toe-nails, skulls—the smallest osseous contribution was gratefully received ; occasionally he got duplicate skeletons of the same saint. One relic has an altar to itself: the consecrated wafer that bled when trodden under foot by the heretics at Gircum in 1525.
We must only just mention the forty minor altars, with their pictures and ornaments; the two fine organs; the vaulted roof of the naves, frescoed by Giordano ; the low dark oratories, where Philip II. and other monarchs knelt during mass; the statues of Spanish kings, by L. and P. Leoni; the sacristy, with its carved oaken presses full of splendid vestments, rich with
gold embroidery, one of the vestments alone being valued at £45,000; and the Camaria, where there is a custodia or ark for the Host, presented by Isabella II., and containing ten thousand precious stones. There are still many paintings here although the best have been removed to the Real Museo. In the choir, thirty feet above the floor-level, are the magnificently illuminated and colossal choral books, some of them two yards wide. The carved stalls are very elegant. Here is the stall where Philip II. was kneeling when news was brought him of the battle of Lepanto, without distracting him from his momentarily interrupted prayers. The gem of the choir is the beautiful crucifix of Carrara marble made by Cellini; on this piece of work the great artist specially prided himself.
Directly under the high altar is the mausoleum of the Spanish kings, called the Pantheon, an octagonal vault forty feet in diameter, wherein nearly all the sovereigns of Spain since Charles V. lie in niches one above another. In this gloomy crypt Isabella II. delighted to attend midnight masses. Only kings and mothers of kings are entombed here ; queens whose sops did not reign, and princes and princesses, are in an adjoining pantheon of their own.
Of the convent, with its halls and cells and cloisters, little need be said. The library is a long beautiful room, with fine frescoes by Tibaldi and Carducho, and portraits of the Kings of Spain. The collection of books and MSS. is large and precious, and it is to be hoped will be in time made more useful than has yet been the case. Philip's own library of 4,000 volumes formed the nucleus of the collection, which, despite serious losses by theft and destruction, is still very extensive.
The palace contains little worthy of special notice. There are two picture galleries, from which the best pictures have been removed to the Real Museo. The room of Philip II. is a plain cell, near enough to the high altar for him to hear and see the mass when in bed. His invalid chair and his secretary's stool still remain. “Philip worked very hard,” says O'Shea, “went to bed late, and the monks' chants awoke him every morning at four, when he heard mass, and so devoutly and fervently did he pray that tears were often seen streaming down his cheeks. For two months previous to his death he endured excruciating pain with firmness and patience. On feeling his death approach, he was taken in a litter all over the building of his creation, to see for the last time and bid adieu to all those portions which were more especially his favourites; and on Sunday, the 13th September, 1598, he expired during the usual morning service, with his eyes turned towards the high altar and the Host, and grasping in his hand the very crucifix which his father, Charles V., held when he died.”