April 22, 2021

The kings of Spain rot here

It is not clear the precise date on which the so-called pudridero was enabled, but it was not during the reign of King Prudent, whose architects did not have an appropriate cabin for that purpose when they erected the monastery. It would be with Felipe IV and the creation of the Royal Pantheon, which was inaugurated in 1654, when this place that still remains in operation took shape.

The Royal Crypt of the monastery, known as Pantheon of the Kings, would be built by Juan Gómez de Mora, architect of the Plaza Mayor in Madrid, following the plans of Juan Bautista Crescenzi. But in the time of Felipe II, the space, much smaller, was devised by the architect Juan de Herrera following the instructions of the sovereign who, in turn, wanted to fulfill the last will of his father Carlos V. The architect and disseminator Juan Rafael de la Cuadra Blanco states in an article published in ABC in 1998 that "Carlos V made it clear in his will that he wanted to be half a body under the altar and half under the priest's feet."

The main chronicler of the time of Philip II, Father Fray José de Sigüenza, has already written that the monarch wanted to make a cemetery of the ancients where the royal bodies were buried and where the offices and masses and vigils were done, as in the primitive Church used to be done with the martyrs. ”

The original place where Felipe II wanted to bury his parents, his aunts, three of his women and his son Don Carlos – tragically deceased at age 23 after a very unstable behavior -, was in a small vault under the altar and under the praying statues of the presbytery, and slightly above the current Pantheon of the Kings. Thus his remains rested until 1654, the year of the transfer and creation of the new funeral space, as it is today. Although the memories of those times do not mention the pudridero or the origin of its construction.

In the same stairs that go down to the Royal Pantheon, a space endowed with an atmosphere and luminosity that invite the gathering and the mystery, in the second rest, on the right hand side, there is a passage closed by a wooden door that gives a space closed, even today, for ordinary mortals; even more so for the visitor; and that the monastery receives an average of 700 thousand visitors every year. It has been known for centuries as the Royal Pudridero: the walls are made of stone, the granite floor and the vaulted ceiling, 16 square meters where the mortal remains of most sovereigns have passed after Philip IV and where they are still the remains of the last two Bourbons deceased.

That space gave rise to numerous legends and rumors for centuries that tried to dismantle Fray José Quevedo, librarian of the building, in his History and description of El Escorial, in 1849, being the first to speak of the rotting itself: “The doors that are in the second rest of the stairs lead to the rotters, whose use I will explain to fade the many hoaxes that are told about them. They are three rooms as bedrooms, without light or ventilation. After the Trades and formalities for the delivery of the Royal corpse to be left in one of the pantheons are completed, the prior, accompanied by some elderly monks, goes down to the pantheon of the corpse carrying the masons and some other servants. ”

At this point, it should be noted that only the 51 members of the Augustinian community that have guarded the monastery since 1885 have access to this cabin that seems to have come out of a Poe story, in a ceremony that has been repeated for centuries and from which were formerly in charge of the Hieronymite monks, a ceremonial that begins like this: “Prior Father and Deputy Fathers, recognize your paternities of the body of (…) that according to the style and order of his majesty that has been given you I will deliver so that have in your custody and custody ”.

Once the coffin was closed again and a delivery certificate was drawn up, the corresponding Augustinian monks took over the coffin key and the body passed to the rotten. Quevedo continues to affirm that “these – the servants – take out the sealed lead box containing the corpse from the tissue or velvet that covers it and lead it next to the rotting. While the masons tear down the partition, the others open four or more holes in the lead box, place it inside the room or alcove on four wooden wedges that hold it like two or three inches raised from the ground, and at the moment the masons they return to form the double partition that they demolished ”.

The royal bodies remain inside the pudding for about 30 or 40 years, until their corruption and humidity have been eliminated and they no longer emit a bad smell, being transferred to the respective pantheon. The goal of the cabin is to reduce the bodies of the lead chests that the visitor can observe in the crypt, just a meter long by 40 centimeters wide that, once sealed, are introduced into one of the 26 sarcophagi of the Royal Pantheon , each one engraved with the Latin name of the royal person.

The chronicler follows the story of the process: “The outer boxes of the Royal people who have to pass the Infants remain in the sacristy of the pantheon, until the lead with the corpse is put back in them as they came. Those of the Kings are undone and take advantage of ornaments, because they no longer have to use, because their remains are placed in the marble urns.

Revealing the riddle

The actor Paul Naschy, a reference in Spanish horror movies, told in his memoirs an anecdote that had to do with the pudridero. As he wrote, during a shoot for a Japanese producer of documentaries about the history of Spain, he got lost and ended up in that gloomy room – he doesn't know how he managed to get in there, if it was supposedly closed -, in which he remembered breathing a foul smell , that of two decaying bodies. Since there is a gate whose key is kept with care by the Augustinians, its sole owners, presumably they showed it because of its prestige. However, what Naschy saw was not the rotter itself, but a vaulted room, because there is a partition that no one can go through by the operators when the decomposition process begins and ends. The actor said that it smelled fatal, and it is not surprising because, despite the partition, there is a ventilation window, and at the time he made that "visit", they had recently introduced there the corpse of the Countess of Barcelona. Apparently, it was at the beginning of the 80s, although Internet users do not agree on this point, neither on the date nor on the bodies that should remain in the room. So why can you find photos on the internet that claim to be from the pudridero, where you can see several coffins? The reason is that this image belongs to the “lost steps” prelude, where the empty coffins of the bodies that have already been deposited in the place are located. Only the boarded wall of the bottom that can be seen corresponds to the rotter itself, since it is forbidden to take photographs, which continues to contribute to increase its aura of mystery.

Royal Sarcophagi

In 24 of its 26 sarcophagi rest all the sovereigns of Spain who have died since Carlos I, as well as the queens mothers of kings, with some exceptions. The two that are empty wait to house the bodies of the counts of Barcelona, ​​Don Juan de Borbón and María de las Mercedes, who are currently in the pudding, since their son, Juan Carlos I, wanted to honor them with royal funerals despite never having held the Crown of Spain by decision of Franco.

The remains of the mother of King Emeritus, Victoria Eugenia de Battenberg, wife of Alfonso XIII, were transferred in October 2011 to the Pantheon of the Kings, occupying the grave located under that of his mother-in-law, Queen Maria Cristina, wife of Alfonso XII , wife and mother of kings both, as tradition says to occupy such a mournful honor. His body was repatriated in 1985 by royal decree, although he had died in Lausanne in 1969, remaining in the anteroom of the pantheon, the well-known rotten, for 26 years until his transfer to the sarcophagus.

Today the bodies of Don Juan de Borbón and María de las Mercedes remain in the gloomy room of the pudridero – see box -, which rest in the Monastery of El Escorial since April 1993 and January 2000 respectively.

For its part, the so-called Pudridero de los Infantes today houses the bodies of Jaime de Borbón – second son of Alfonso XIII -, Luis Alfonso de Baviera y Borbón and Isabel Alfonsa de Borbón y Borbón – both grandchildren of Alfonso XII. The last infants to leave that mortuary transit site were Alfonso de Borbón Dos Sicilias and the brother of Juan Carlos I, Alfonso de Borbón y Borbón. These were the last to be transferred to the Pantheon of immaculate white marble destined for princes, infants and queens who were not mothers of kings. Currently there were still 24 empty graves …

A new pantheon on the horizon

Currently, there is a debate about what will happen to Juan Carlos I and Doña Sofía after his death. And it is that once the parents of Don Juan Carlos leave the pudridero and occupy their respective coffins in the Pantheon of the Kings, the 26 will have been occupied and the emeritus kings must seek another mausoleum for their eternal rest. At the moment, we do not know what the choice will be, or if some kind of remodeling can be carried out – not likely – in the Filipino monastery. Until now, one of the possibilities that has more weight is that they opt for the Almudena Cathedral.

As El Español newspaper echoed in 2018, apparently National Heritage is already looking for a solution to this problem, when the debate about the transfer of Franco's remains, which left the king emeritus as his successor, continues as hot as when It began, and today without an imminent solution on the horizon, with the decision of the Supreme to paralyze the transfer in everyone's mouth. While, as I say, the possibility of enabling a space in the crypt of the cathedral of La Almudena is considered to house the body of Juan Carlos I. As for his wife, Queen Emeritus, Doña Sofía has expressed on occasion that He would like to be repatriated to his homeland, Greece, for eternal rest.

The unknown remains in the air.

. (tagsToTranslate) Casa Real

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