Escolanía del Escorial
In 1567, only four years after the construction of the Monastery of the Escorial began, King Philip II announced that the Monastery would also house a seminary for boys. During the decades –long building of the Monastery– Philip established a temporary seminary at the neighboring Abbey of Párraces in Segovia.
The role of this seminary and its choir was to provide song for the main liturgical ceremonies and celebrations of the Royal Monastery, including the Dawn Mass, which was held each morning to pray for the reining monarch’s health. In addition they also performed in all festivals and receptions for the kings and their royal visitors to the Monastery. The boys danced and were also part of the comedic entertainment provided for the Royal Family.
Since the creation of the Choir (referred to as Escolanía), the Spanish Renaissance King Philip II was concerned that these boys receive a well rounded education. They were immersed in studies of Grammar, Latin, Choral singing, as well as Music Theory. Philip was also particularly interested that they receive Christian values and pious customs. During the early history of the Escolanía, a group of 4 to 8 boys with soprano voices (voces blancas) formed the choir to provide song to the Music Chapel of the Monastery during designated holidays.
This seminary and choir existed until the Ecclesiastical Confiscation of Mendizábal in 1836, when all religious orders’ belongings were seized. Later, owing to the efforts of Antonio María Claret, Chaplain of Queen Elizabeth II, the choir was reinstated with scholarships for boys.
In the year 1885 the Agustinian Order established residence in the Monastery, and in 1974, under the direction of Padre Vicente Gómez Mier, Community Prior, and Padre Pedro Blanco, the choir was reinstated and continues until the present day.
The Escolanía del Escorial Choir today has approximately 45 boarding members between the ages of nine and seventeen, all coming from the various regions of Spain. The Choir Boys continue to sing in all events and celebrations that take place in the Basilica of The Royal Monastery: Christmas Vespers and Mass, Lauds and Easter celebrations. They participate in the local feast of San Lorenzo and attend all events related to the Spanish Royal Family and the Royal and Military Order of San Hermenegildo.
HRI Queen Sofía is the Honorary President of the Escolanía. Every weekend you can hear them at Mass on Saturday evenings and on Sunday noon.
These boys receive a thorough musical education. In addition to voice training, singing techniques, choral ensemble, music theory and history, each Escolano plays the piano and one other instrument: violin, oboe, saxophone, flute, guitar or trumpet. The boys are taught by professors from the Conservatory Padre Antonio Soler and Priests from the Augustinian Community.