Tales of the Alhambra

 

Tales of the Alhambra is a collection of essays, verbal sketches, and stories by Washington Irving. It was originally published in May 1832.

You can buy the book in most of the souvenir and bookshops in Granada.
You can read it for free here. We have added a lot of pictures.
http://granadablog.net/tales_of_the_alhambra/index.php?chapter=0

Space of the month (December 2010) – Casas de la Partal

These Moorish houses were built in the 14th century. Inside there is a mural which was painted in the first half of the 14th century and which is important as being the only figurative Nasrid painting conserved in situ. The painting was discovered in 1908 when plaster was stripped away and provides important information about daily life during the days of the Nasrid dynasty.

Carlos V Palace

Carlos V Palace

When Carlos V came to Granada on his honeymoon, he fell in love with the Alhambra and the city. He took up residence in the Arab palaces but decided to build his own larger, more spacious palace adjoined to the Nasrid Palaces so that he could continue to enjoy them.

He commissioned the architect Pedro Machuca to design a building befitting a Roman Emperor and work began in 1527. Machuca died in 1550 and his son Luis took over. The project was then continued but most of the major work had by this time been completed.

Facade

This Renacentist building is 63m2 square on the outside with a 30m diameter circular courtyard on the inside. Originally there would have been a well in the middle but this has now been covered over.

The project was partly paid for with taxes collected from the Moriscos (Muslims who had converted to Christianity) in return for being allowed to stay in Granada and continue with their traditions.

Doric columns

Ionic column

The building has two levels: the lower level of the patio has 32 stone Doric columns and the upper level has 32 Ionic columns. The building was to be covered with a domed ceiling like the Pantheon in Rome but was never finished and the roof on the superior gallery was only completed in 1957.

Carlos V Palace courtyard

Carlos V never lived here. When he died, Felipe II transferred his court to Madrid in 1561 and in  1607 Madrid became the capital of Spain.

Today, the building houses the Museo de Bellas Artes with exhibits from the Alhambra.

For more photos of the Carlos V Palace, please visit this page.

Space of the month (November 2010) – Casa de la Calle Real

The Calle Real Alta passes through the Medina (the city of the Alhambra where the courtiers lived) and stretches from the Puerta del Vino to the Parador de San Francisco. This was where the workshops of the craftsmen responsible for the Alhambra decorative work were to be found.

This month, it is possible to  visit one of the houses in the Calle Real which was built between the end of the 18th century and the beginning of the 19th century. The house was built around an interior courtyard and is of particular interest for its decorative plasterwork.

The house is open between 8:30 and 18:00 on Tuesdays, Wednesday, Thursday and Sunday throughout November.

Alcazaba

Alcazaba and Torre de la Vela

The triangular Alcazaba with its thick walls and towers was the main form of defence for the Alhambra against attack. This is the oldest part of the Alhambra complex and was the site of the original red castle. It was Mohammed I who built the surrounding walls and the three towers: the Torre de la Vela (Watchtower) in the far-right corner, the Torre Quebrada (the “Broken” Tower) and the Torre del Homenaje (the Keep). Work on the palaces began later and the Sultan lived here until they were finished.

Alcazaba (citadel)

The Alcazaba was the main military residential area and where the soldiers responsible for defending the Sultan and the Alhambra lived. A walkway runs through the middle of the Alcazaba and the smaller houses on the left were probably for single soldiers without families while the larger ones on the right were for soldiers and their families.

The houses were built around an inside courtyard: downstairs would be the main living room, the food store and the latrine with more rooms upstairs.

Torre de la Vela & battlements

As a city in its own right, this area would have had silos, an arsenal, steam baths and a bread oven where food would be prepared. Below the Alcazaba are the dungeons and this was where the captured prisoners were held.

For more photos of the Alcazaba, please visit this page.

Torre de la Vela

This tower dominates both the Alhambra and the City of Granada. The tower itself was built in the 13th century during the Nasrid Dynasty and the bell has always played  an important role in daily Granadinian life.

When Boabdil surrendered, the Royal standards of the Catholic Monarchs were raised from the tower. Nowadays, four flags are flown from the tower: the blue European flag, the green and white Andalucian flag, the red and yellow Spanish flag and the red and green Granada flag.

The bell has been replaced several times over the years and the current one dates back to 1773. The bell tower was originally positioned in the corner of the tower but was moved to its current position in 1840 and then rebuilt in 1882 after it had been struck by lightning.

Until recently the tolls were used by farmers to mark  the changes in irrigation turns. It  is also rung every year on 2nd January in commemoration of the Taking of Granada.  Traditionally, single girls would climb the bell tower and ring the bell and it was said that if they did, then they would be married before the year was out. These days, anyone can ring the bell and the bell rings non-stop all day.

During the time of the Catholic Monarchs, the bellringers were appointed by the military governor. They would normally be soldiers who had been injured in combat and they would live in the bell tower itself. The last person to live there was Encarnación “La Velera”, who was the widow of the last bell ringer.

Puerta de los Siete Suelos

This south-facing gate is opposite the medina and was built in the middle of the 14th century for military and ceremonial events. Following Boabdil’s surrender, Christian troops entered the Alhambra through this gate on the morning of 2nd January 1492.

Legend has it that Boabdil left the Alhambra through this gate as he fled Granada for the Alpujarras and that out of respect for him, the gate was then blocked off so that no one else could pass through it. It now appears, however, that it was only filled in in the mid-18th century.

It was only reopened in 1812 when Napoleonic forces attempted to blow it up. The gate was rebuilt in the 1970s.

The Mexuar

Mexuar entrance

There are two parts to the Mexuar: the Sala de Mexuar and the Cuarto Dorado.

The Mexuar was completed in 1365 and this was the reception area for business and administrative purposes where members of the public were received. This was also where the Sultan’ listenend to his subjects’ requests and where he dispensed justice.

Sala de Mexuar

During the Nasrid dynasty, the room was square  with four marble pillars and shorter but was later extended. The wooden ceiling at the entrance is original (picture) as are the columns.

After the Christan conquest, the room was converted into a chapel with the altar on the wall on the left of the entrance and the choir stalls directly opposite.

At the far end is the Oratory and this faces Mecca. Initially it was cut off from the Sala de Mexuar but the floor was lowered and an access to the Sala de Mexuar was opened.

Sala de Mexuar: decoration

Sala de Mexuar

Originally the room was covered with a glass dome but this was removed in 1540 to make way for an upper floor with additional rooms and windows and wooden shutters were then added to provide more light.

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.

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.