How many gates does the Alhambra have?

There are seven gates in total. There are four exterior gates: the south-facing Puerta de los Siete Suelos and Puerta de la Justicia, and the north-facing Puerta de las Armas and Puerta del Arrabal; and three interior gates: the Puerta del Vino (opposite the Carlos V Palace), and Puerta de Hierro. There is also an additional gate (Puerta de los Carros) which was built later.

What different types of gate are there in the Alhambra?

There are two main types of gates in the Alhambra: exterior ones for defence such as the Puerta de la Justicia on the outside walls of the fortresses and interior ones to control access to different parts of the complex. As exterior gates provided points of weaknesses, they were built with right angles inside. The interior gates, meanwhile, like the Puerta del Vino, were built with benches inside on either side for the guards.

What modifications were made to the Alhambra over the years?

During the reign of the Catholic Monarchs Isabel and Fernando (1492-1516), a lot of the original decorative work was filled in and whitewashed, and paintings and decorations were destroyed. Emperor Carlos V (1516–1556) then totally rebuilt some parts of the palace in the Renaissance style and added the unfinished Carlos V Palace when he decided to take up residence there. Philip V (1700–1746) then decorated the building in a more Italian style for his palace. During the centuries that followed, the Alhambra fell into a state of disrepair,  was inhabited by thieves and beggars and then used as a barracks by Napoleon’s troops. Further damage was caused by the retreating French troops to some of the towers and two of the gates (Puerta de los Siete Suelos and Puerta del Agua) in 1812 and an earthquake in 1821. After centuries of neglect and abandonment, the Alhambra was rediscovered in the 19th century by European scholars and travelers and restoration then began in an attempt to restore it to its former glory. Generally speaking, the square towers were built during the Nasrid dynasty and the round ones during the Christian era.

What happened in the War of Granada?

boabdil.jpg">The War of Granada (1482-1492) was a series of military campaigns between the Catholic monarchs and the Nasrid dynasty with each side fighting to take control of the Emirate of Granada. These campaigns were not continual and would generally begin in the spring and die out with the arrival of the cold winter weather. The war began when Sultan Muley Hacén refused to pay the annual tax to the Catholic Monarchs in 1481 and seized the fortified town of Zahara, sparking hostilities and a civil war. Boabdil rebelled against his father and took control of Granada with the support of the Abencerrajes, a powerful Granada family. Muley Hacén then recaptured Granada but was successfully deposed by his brother, El Zagal. At this time, Muley Hacén still controlled the Alhambra.

On one of his military expeditions, Boabdil was captured by Christian troops. He was released in 1483 in exchange for the liberation of 400 Christian prisoners, the handing over of 12 thousand pieces of gold and the recognition of Fernando’s authority over Granada. Muley Hacén allied himself with his brother against Boabdil, who was forced to seek asylum with the Catholic Monarchs. Following his father’s death in 1485, Boabdil gained control of the Alhambra with the help of those living in the Albaicín. He was, however, unable to maintain control of the dynasty and Alhama, Ronda, Loja, Malaga, Baza and Almeria were taken by the Catholic monarchs. With the capture of al-Zagal in 1490, it looked like the war would soon be over but Boabdil was unhappy with the terms of his alliance with the Catholic monarchs: while he controlled Granada and the Alpujarras, he felt that the lands he had been promised were effectively being controlled by Castile. Boabdil desperately appealed for foreign aid but none came and the eight-month siege of Granada – the last stronghold of the Nasrid dynasty – began in April 1491. On 25th November 1491 Boabdil surrendered and signed the Treaty of Granada.

A brief history of the Nasrid Dynasty

The Nasrid dynasty (1232-1492) was established by Muhammad I Ibn Nasr who belonged to the the Arab family ruling Jaen. Extending its borders southwards, the dynasty stretched from Tarifa on the west coast to beyond Almeria on the east. However, it was sandwiched between Christian kingdoms in the north and African sultanates in the south and so its history was marked by alternate agreements with one side over the other in exchange for territorial concessions or heavy taxes. In 1236, Muhammad I joined forces with the Catholic monarch Fernando III to conquer Cordoba in exchange for the city of Granada, which was to rule over Almeria and Malaga. The marriage of the Catholic Monarchs Isabel and Fernando heralded the end of the Nasrid dynasty. The reign of the penultimate king Muley Hacén was marked by constant uprisings and major civil discontent. To complicate matters still further, there was infighting between his wife (Aixa) and his Christian favourite (Zoraya) as to which of their respective sons should be the future heir.

Space of the month (January 2011) – Carlos V rooms

When Carlos V decided to take up permanent residence in the Alhambra, he commissioned the constuction of his living quarters with six new rooms around the Nasrid palaces to include bedrooms and his office. Years later in 1829, the North American author of Tales of the Alhambra, Washington Irving, would stay here.

The general visit to the Alhambra includes access to Carlos V’s chambers but during the month of January 2011, it will also be possible to visit the Salas de las Frutas (where Washington Irving stayed) .

These rooms can be visited during the month of January on Tuesday, Wednesday,  Thursday and Sunday between 8:30 and 18:00.