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La Granja

LA GRANJA, or SAN ILDEFONSO, a summer palace of the kings of Spain; on the south-eastern border of the province of Segovia, and on the western slopes of the Sierra de Guadarrama, 7 m. by road S.E. of the city of Segovia. The royal estate is 3905 ft. above sea-level. The scenery of this region, especially in the gorge of the river Lozoya, with its granite rocks, its dense forest of pines, firs and birches, and its red-tiled farms, more nearly resembles the highlands of northern Europe than any other part of Spain. La Granja has an almost alpine climate, with a clear, cool atmosphere and abundant sunshine. Above the palace rise the wooded summits of the Guadarrama, culminating in the peak of Penalara (7891 ft.); in front of it the wide plains of Segovia extend northwards. The village of San Ildefonso, the oldest part of the estate, was founded in 1450 by Henry IV., who built a hunting lodge and chapel here. In 1477 the chapel was presented by Ferdinand and Isabella to the monks of the Parral, a neighbouring Hieronymite monastery. The original granja (i.e. grange or farm), established by the monks, was purchased in 1719 by Philip V., after the destruction of his summer palace at Valsain, the ancient Vallis Sapinarum, 2 m. S. Philip determined to convert the estate into a second Versailles. The palace was built between 1721 and 1723. Its facade is fronted by a colonnade in which the pillars reach to the roof. The state apartments contain some valuable iSth-century furniture, but the famous collection of sculptures was removed to Madrid in 1836, and is preserved there in the Museo del Prado. At La Granja it is represented by facsimiles in plaster. The collegiate church adjoining the palace dates from 1724, and contains the tombs of Philip V. and his consort Isabella Farnese. An artificial lake called El Mar, 4095 ft. above sea-level, irrigates the gardens, which are imitated from those of Versailles, and supplies water for the fountains. These, despite the antiquated and sometimes tasteless style of their ornamentation, are probably the finest in the world; it is noteworthy that, owing to the high level of the lake, no pumps or other mechanism are needed to supply pressure. There are twenty-six fountains besides lakes and waterfalls. Among the most remarkable are the group of " Perseus, Andromeda and the Sea-Monster," which sends up a jet of water no ft. high, the " Fame," which reaches 125 ft., and the very elaborate " Baths of Diana." It is of the last that Philip V. is said to have remarked, " It has cost me three millions and amused me three minutes." Most of the fountains were made by order of Queen Isabella in 1727, during the king's absence. The glass factory of San Ildefonso was founded by Charles III.

It was in La Granja that Philip V. resigned the crown to his son in January 1724, to resume it after his son's death seven months later; that the treaties of 1777, 1778, 1796 and 1800 were signed (see Spain: History) ; that Ferdinand VII. summoned Don Carlos to the throne in 1832, but was induced to alter the succession in favour of his own infant daughter Isabella, thus involving Spain in civil war; and that in 1836 a military revolt compelled the Queenregent Christina to restore the constitution of 1812.

Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)

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