La Granjilla de La Fresneda de El Escorial

One of the ponds of La Granjilla de La Fresneda, in an 1862 drawing by Antonio Rotondo.

La Fresneda (also known as La Granjilla de La Fresenda de El Escorial or La Granjilla) is a park in El Escorial, Community of Madrid, Spain. Built between 1561 ad 1569, it was the prívate Royal Park of Philip II in the surroundings of the Monastery of El Escorial.


To symbolize the union and centralization of political power of the Hispanic Monarchy, in 1561 Philip II chose, almost simultaneously, Madrid as the capital of the Kingdom of Spain and the hillside of Abantos, a mount in Sierra de Guadarrama, to construct a Hieronymite Monastery, el Monasterio de San Lorenzo El Real, also known as Monasterio del Escorial, or El Escorial: the monastery receives its name from the municipality of El Escorial. Furthermore, the king commissioned Juan Bautista de Toledo to build a Royal Park at La Fresneda, then a village, at the foothills of Abantos and Las Machotas, near the small village of El Escorial (equidistant of both, el Monasterio and La Granjilla).

La Granjilla was designed by Juan Bautista de Toledo as homologous, but conceptually opposed, to the Monastery of El Escorial. Other collaborators in the project were Gaspar de Vega, Juan de Herrera, Pedro de Tolosa, fray Marcos de Cardona and Petri Jansen.


Located at the foothills of the Sierra de Guadarrama, La Granjilla de La Fresneda is multifunctional architectural complex including ornamental, etnobotanical and spagyric gardens, artificial dams and waterways, and a hunting reserve. The different sections of the Royal Park are separated by dry stone walls.

Fray Marcos de Cardona, a Hieronyimite monk, was the designer and gardener of the Royal Gardens. Dutch hydraulic expert, Petre Janson, oversaw the creation of the five Royal Lakes. Both the monk and pond expert were working under the directions of Philip II and Juan Bautista de Toledo.

The highest and largest pond receives water from the Aulencia river. This pond provides water to the other three artificial lakes and to the whole complex through a system of dams, waterways and conduits -unique and inspired hydraulic archeology from the Spanish Renaissance.

The Royal Gardens in La Granjilla de La Fresneda and the Gardens of El Escorial (La Huerta del Monasterio) are very peculiar and unique Spanish Renaissance Royal Gardens; both of then were hybrids of ornamental gardens, market gardens, ethnobotanical garden and spagyiric garden. Its relevance is obvious in the context of previous Historical Royal Gardens and Royal Cottages: Gardens of Chateau de Chambord of Francis I.

La Granjilla de La Fresneda won the International Carlo Scarpa Award from the Benetton Foundation, for the management and conservation of Historical Gardens.

La Casa de Campo de Madrid, La Granjilla de La Fresneda del Escorial and El Canal del Escorial (built to supply water to the Monastery) and La Cacera de La Granjilla de La Fresneda (the aqueduct to feed de ponds of La Granjilla, from the Aulencia river) were designed by Juan Bautista de Toledo and Juan de Herrera. These civil engineering works were part of an extensive network of hydraulic, environmental and infrastructural transformations stretching out from Madrid to the slopes of Abantos and mountain-tops of Santa María de la Alameda, the starting point for El Canal del Escorial, the catchment area of the Alberche river.

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