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.

What happened in the years after the Moors surrendered?

King Fernando

Queen Isabel

Although the treaties signed by the Catholic Monarchs with Boabdil for the surrender of Granada stated that the different languages, religions and customs would be respected, after a few years it became clear that this was not happening in practice, and Cardinal Cisneros insisted that everyone, regardless of their religion, be baptised.

The inquisitors had never been happy with these treaties which they believed slowed down their attempts to reduce the Muslim population and the practice of Islam in Spain. They also thought a Muslim revolt was imminent and that it was useless to expect peaceful conversion to Christianity. Cardinal Jimenez de Cisneros therefore asked Isabel and Fernando for permission to continue his inquisition activities and they agreed. Consequently, on 18th December 1499, some three thousand Moors were baptised, a major mosque in Granada was converted to a church and the burning of supposed religious books and documents began.

This understandably led to revolts and protests with a lot of unrest among those who had been forced to convert to Christianity, and a series of mutinies followed, culminating in the 1680 revolt which was finally put down. The most determined rebels fled to the Alpujarras where there was a violent uprising several years later.

Cardenal Cisneros

Although promises were made that the treaties would be honoured, this did not happen and Cisneros announced that those Moors who refused to be baptised would be expelled. These baptisms were carried out en masse and at an incredible speed – so fast in fact that there was no time for religious instruction to be given to the new “converts”. It has been estimated that between 50,000 and 70,000 Muslims were forcibly baptised in this way in Granada. The offer of emigration to Africa was really only a hollow promise and only available for those who were able to pay and who had not already been baptised.

Queen Juana ("La Loca")

After the Catholic Monarchs died, things got progressively worse: Queen Juana forbade the Moriscos to wear their national dress, and Carlos V introduced a theological council in 1526 which attempted to reform them. These rules were not rigidly imposed and people were able to avoid them by paying certain taxes.

King Felipe II

That all changed, however, with Felipe II who prohibited the use of Moorish dress, language and customs. As a result, there was a violent uprising on 24th December 1568. It began in the Albaicín and continued on into the Alpujarras with the Morisco Aben-Humeya being proclaimed king. Reinforcements were sent from Africa and the revolt extended to the rest of the province of Granada. Churches were burnt, villages ransacked and Christians were murdered. Following the death of Aben-Humeya, the uprising was eventually squashed in 1571. The rebels were then expelled from the kingdom and it was subsequently repopulated by Spaniards from other parts of the country.

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.

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?

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.

Broccoli and cheese quiche

This is recipe for when the broccoli is in season for a change. Again measures are inexact and the number of eggs required will depend on the size of the quiche dish.

Onions
Garlic
Couple of rashers of bacon
Broccoli florets, cooked
Puff pastry
1 1/2 cups grated cheese
4 eggs
splash of milk

Fry the chopped onion in a frying pan. Add the crushed garlic and chopped bacon and then fry for another few minutes. Add the broccoli florets and combine well. Line a quiche dish with pastry. Spread the vegetables and bacon out and sprinkle over the cheese. Beat the eggs and milk together and season with salt and pepper. Pour into the quiche dish. Bake in the over at 180ºC for 35 minutes or so.