Alhambra

Granada, Spain

The Alhambra is a palace and fortress complex located in Granada. It was originally constructed as a small fortress in AD 889 on the remains of Roman fortifications, and then largely ignored until its ruins were renovated and rebuilt in the mid-13th century by the Nasrid emir Mohammed ben Al-Ahmar of the Emirate of Granada, who built its current palace and walls. It was converted into a royal palace in 1333 by Yusuf I, Sultan of Granada.

After the conclusion of the Christian Reconquista in 1492, the site became the Royal Court of Ferdinand and Isabella (where Christopher Columbus received royal endorsement for his expedition), and the palaces were partially altered in the Renaissance style. In 1526 Charles I & V commissioned a new Renaissance palace better befitting the Holy Roman Emperor in the revolutionary Mannerist style influenced by humanist philosophy in direct juxtaposition with the Nasrid Andalusian architecture, but it was ultimately never completed due to Morisco rebellions in Granada.

Alhambra's last flowering of Islamic palaces was built for the last Muslim emirs in Spain during the decline of the Nasrid dynasty, who were increasingly subject to the Christian Kings of Castile. After being allowed to fall into disrepair for centuries, the buildings occupied by squatters, Alhambra was rediscovered following the defeat of Napoleon, who had conducted retaliatory destruction of the site. The rediscoverers were first British intellectuals and then other north European Romantic travelers. It is now one of Spain's major tourist attractions, exhibiting the country's most significant and well-known Islamic architecture, together with 16th-century and later Christian building and garden interventions. The Alhambra is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and the inspiration for many songs and stories.

Moorish poets described it as 'a pearl set in emeralds', an allusion to the colour of its buildings and the woods around them. The palace complex was designed with the mountainous site in mind and many forms of technology were considered. The park, which is overgrown with wildflowers and grass in the spring, was planted by the Moors with roses, oranges, and myrtles; its most characteristic feature, however, is the dense wood of English elms brought by the Duke of Wellington in 1812.The park has a multitude of nightingales and is usually filled with the sound of running water from several fountains and cascades. These are supplied through a conduit 8 km long, which is connected with the Darro at the monastery of Jesus del Valle above Granada.

Architecture

Alhambra endures as an a typical example of Muslim art in its final European stages, relatively uninfluenced by the direct Byzantine influences found in the Mezquita of Córdoba. Most of the palace buildings are quadrangular in plan, with all the rooms opening on to a central court, and the whole reached its present size simply by the gradual addition of new quadrangles, designed on the same principle, though varying in dimensions, and connected with each other by smaller rooms and passages. Alhambra was extended by the different Muslim rulers who lived in the complex. However, each new section that was added followed the consistent theme of 'paradise on earth'. Column arcades, fountains with running water, and reflecting pools were used to add to the aesthetic and functional complexity. In every case, the exterior was left plain and austere. Sun and wind were freely admitted. Blue, red, and a golden yellow, all somewhat faded through lapse of time and exposure, are the colors chiefly employed. The name Alhambra means the red one or the red castle, which refers to the sun-dried bricks that the outer wall is made of.

Decorations

The decoration consists for the upper part of the walls, as a rule, of Arabic inscriptions — mostly poems by Ibn Zamrak and others praising the palace — that are manipulated into geometrical patterns with vegetal background set onto an arabesque setting. Much of this ornament is carved stucco (plaster) rather than stone. Tile mosaics, with complicated mathematical patterns, are largely used as panelling for the lower part. Metal was also not present very mainly. Similar designs are displayed on wooden ceilings. Muqarnas are the main elements for vaulting with stucco, and some of the most accomplished dome examples of this kind are in the Court of the Lions halls. The palace complex is designed in the Nasrid style, the last blooming of Islamic Art in the Iberian Peninsula, that had a great influence on the Maghreb to the present day, and on contemporary Mudejar Art, which is characteristic of western elements reinterpreted into Islamic forms and widely popular during the Reconquista in Spain.

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Details

Founded: 889 AD
Category: Castles and fortifications in Spain

Rating

4.8/5 (based on Google user reviews)

User Reviews

Moo K (2 years ago)
A place I've always wanted to visit and certainly didn't disappoint. Absolutely fabulous. Every room is just amazing. Want to go back now when it's slightly cooler to spend more time. Well worth getting a guide who can give you do much more detail. Fascinating.
Viola R (2 years ago)
Do yourself a favour and go and visit this amazing place. Buy the tickets in advance, they are usually sold out on the day of the visit. On Mondays the museum inside Charles V palace is closed, the visit is still totally worth it but take this into account if you are interested in the museum.
rafa martinez (3 years ago)
Amazing place. One of my favorite in Spain. Ticket price was 15 euros online. On summer is very hot place but don't miss it!!! You have restaurants inside, drink machines and bar for buy some cold drinks. Also you can visit some parts of Alhambra for free. You can go there very easy by bus, number C30 and price 1,40 euros. Ticket for Alhambra can buy online. Also Granada is an amazing city.
Maureen Malloy (3 years ago)
Truly a magnificent, once-in-a-lifetime experience to visit! You cannot come to Andalusia and not see this incredible wonder. Beautiful gardens to stroll through and we enjoyed the forts with sweeping views of Granada. I personally loved the orange-grove courtyards. Wonderful experience that I am grateful to have had. ?
Louis Cecile (3 years ago)
The main tourist attraction in Granada is a delightful palace of beautiful design. It has the appeal of a gallery where you walk and admire the shapes and designs. There are a few gardens and water features that break up the flow of what is essentially a home design gallery tour of the palace. It is worth reading about the history beforehand for a better appreciation. It is recommended to use the local transport to visit and explore without a guide. If you have the stamina you can also walk to the palace for additional views and seeing more of Granada. It is worth the visit, but you should know beforehand if this is the type of experience you enjoy.
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