The Escorial Monastery and Bernardos Slate


The Quarries from Bernardos have the privilege of being the oldest slate quarries of Spain. They are exploted since 1559, first for the realizations of projects in the kingdom, until today, where the slate is marketed worldwide, mainly through naturpiedra JBERNARDOS, respecting the tradition of slate in Bernardos area.

The first steps 

As noted by the Marqués de la Floresta in his paper "The Real Bernardos Slate Quarry," the first instigator of the slate in Spain was King Philip II, who, on his travels in Flanders and Germany between 1556 and 1559 could see roofs covered with slate and he stated "this is a good solution because the slate doesn’t weigh like lead, support the snow without being too warm in Summer and it makes shining roofs, and gives beauty to the buildings". 

In February 1559 the King wrote from Brussels to its architect, Gaspar de la Vega who was working on the Valsaín site: 

"I think it would be better to do the roofs like those seen in these countries, and covered with slate, which as you have seen, gives a shiny and beautiful result". 

First buildings 

It was between 1559 and 1562 when slate workers reached Bernardos area, from all parts of Europe, to make the works on behalf of His Majesty Philip II, covering first the Valsaín Palace and Segovia Castle.

Since then the slate became one of the main construction materials, being present in some of the most beautiful works of Spanish art history like the Escorial Monastery in 1653.

In the heart of the Guadarrama mountain range, only 50 kilometres from Madrid, stands the town of San Lorenzo de El Escorial. Mount Abantos, its pine forests and the Herrería estate, form the natural surroundings of this emblematic place, which centres around the Monastery of El Escorial. Its urban layout is composed of a harmonious collection of ancestral homes in the Herrera style, with rationalist avenues and small squares. Nestling in the Madrid Mountains, it offers a vast variety of leisure opportunities and cultural routes, such as those, which take the visitor to Ávila, Segovia, Toledo or Madrid, all fantastic Cities worth visiting for their historic value.

The Madrid-region town of San Lorenzo del Escorial, a Historic-Artistic Site, grew up around the Monastery of El Escorial. Felipe II ordered this architectural gem to be built in the 16th century to commemorate the Battle of San Quintín. It was later declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO and commonly referred to as the 8th Wonder of the World due to its immense size and depth under ground and the fact that it was built in only 20 years.

The Royal Monastery is an extremely complex structure designed by Juan Bautista de Toledo and built by Juan de Herrera. The simplicity of its lines focus all the attention on the harmony of its courtyards, fountains, cloisters and towers. More than 4,000 rooms are distributed among the principal areas. The Courtyard of the Kings of Judea gives way to the Basilica, which has a dome base measuring 95 metres and paintings by Lucas Jordán among its major features.

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