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El Escorial: Dreams of a universal library

September 24, 20197:00 p.m.
Casa Árabe Auditorium (at Calle Alcalá, 62). 7:00 p.m. Free entry until the event’s capacity is reached.
In Spanish.

Casa Árabe and the Teatro Real have organized this conference, to be held
 at the same time as the performance of the opera Don Carlo.

The conference will be given by María Jesús Viguera Molins, a numerary member of Spain's Royal Academy of History, who will be introduced by Pedro Martínez-Avial, the General Director of Casa Árabe.

In the first scene of Act IV of "Don Carlo," the great opera by Verdi, there is a very significant reference to the Monastery of El Escorial: Felipe II exclaims that he will only rest once he lies in his tomb at El Escorial. This association with the magnificent work of construction, obsessively portrayed in representing this king, could not be lacking, as Felipe II attends the solemn completion of the Monastery of El Escorial in 1584. There he houses works of art, religion and culture, not only to craeate a royal place of reference for wisdom and art, thus allowing him to stand out as patron, but also to leave the mark of his faith and power behind, all within the great building forming his majestic retreat. The bibliophilia of kings, surrounded by collections of books,  continued to exist in that era, and Felipe II was determined to have his stand out above other libraries by donating his own collection to El Escorial, and those of his entourage of humanists, nobles and prelates, as well as those of other origins, reaching dimensions surpassed perhaps only by the Vatican Library. This conference will also deal with the political, ideological, Peninsular and external circumstances which led Felipe II to form such an important collection of Arabic manuscripts, which the Escorial Library now possesses. Even today, the Arab manuscripts continue to be the greatest in number out of the whole collection at El Escorial (approximately 1,870), which contains about 4,000 manuscripts in all.

Conference information sheet

The Teatro Real began its year 2019/20 season with the opera "Don Carlo" composed by Giuseppe Verdi (1813-1901), which is being performed from September 18 through October 6, 2019. It is a masterful stage performance directed by David McVicar, with musical direction by Nicola Luisotti, and figures of the stature of Ainhoa Arteta, María Agresta, Francesco Meli and Silvia Tro Santafé, as well as other singers. Further information at

María Jesús Viguera Molins (El Ferrol, A Coruña, 1945) has been a member of Spain's Royal Academy of History since February of 2015. A tenured professor of Arab and Islamic Studies at the Universidad Complutense (Madrid) from 1983 to 2015, the university where she has run the Department of Arab and Islamic Studies for more than 12 years, she has been the director of the journals "Anaquel de Estudios Árabes" and Hesperia. Culturas del Mediterráneo." Her main lines of research are the history of Al-Andalus, the historiography and contexts of Spanish Arabism, and the history of Arab manuscripts in Spain.
El Escorial: Dreams of a universal library
Photo: El Escorial Library: Main hall