The Palace of Charles V is a Renaissance building located on the top of the hill of the Assabica, inside the Nasrid fortification of the Alhambra. The building has never been a home to a monarch and stood roofless until 1957.
The structure was commanded by Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor, who wished to establish his residence close to the Alhambra palaces. Although the Catholic Monarchs had already altered some rooms of the Alhambra after the conquest of the city in 1492, Charles V intended to construct a permanent residence befitting an emperor. The project was given to Pedro Machuca, an architect whose biography and influences are poorly understood. At the time, Spanish architecture was immersed in the Plateresque style, still with traces of Gothic origin. Machuca built a palace corresponding stylistically to Mannerism, a mode still in its infancy in Italy. The exterior of the building uses a typically Renaissance combination of rustication on the lower level and ashlar on the upper. Even if accounts that place Machuca in the atelier of Michelangelo are accepted, at the time of the construction of the palace in 1527, the latter had yet to design the majority of his architectural works.
The plan of the palace is a 17-metre high, 63-metre square containing an inner circular patio. This has no precedent in Renaissance architecture, and places the building in the avant-garde of its time. The palace has two floors (not counting mezzanine floors). The classical orders are in pilaster form except around the central doorways. On the exterior, the lower floor is in the Tuscan order, with the pilasters 'blocked' by continuing the heavy rustication across them, while the upper storey uses the Ionic order, with elaborately pedimented lower windows below round windows. Both main façades emphasize the portals, made of stone from the Sierra Elvira.
The circular patio has also two levels. The lower consists of a Doric colonnade of conglomerate stone, with an orthodox classical entablature formed of triglyphs and metopes. The upper floor is formed by a stylized Ionic colonnade whose entablature has no decoration. This organisation of the patio shows a deep knowledge of Roman architecture, and would be framed in pure Renaissance style but for its curved shape, which surprises the visitor entering from the main façades. The interior spaces and the staircases are also governed by the combination of square and circle. Similar aesthetic devices would be developed in the following decades under the classification of Mannerism.References:
The Château de Foix dominates the town of Foix. An important tourist site, it is known as a centre of the Cathars. Built on an older 7th-century fortification, the castle is known from 987. In 1002, it was mentioned in the will of Roger I, Count of Carcassonne, who bequeathed the fortress to his youngest child, Bernard. In effect, the family ruling over the region were installed here which allowed them to control access to the upper Ariège valley and to keep surveillance from this strategic point over the lower land, protected behind impregnable walls.
In 1034, the castle became capital of the County of Foix and played a decisive role in medieval military history. During the two following centuries, the castle was home to Counts with shining personalities who became the soul of the Occitan resistance during the crusade against the Albigensians. The county became a privileged refuge for persecuted Cathars.
The castle, often besieged (notably by Simon de Montfort in 1211 and 1212), resisted assault and was only taken once, in 1486, thanks to treachery during the war between two branches of the Foix family.
From the 14th century, the Counts of Foix spent less and less time in the uncomfortable castle, preferring the Governors' Palace. From 1479, the Counts of Foix became Kings of Navarre and the last of them, made Henri IV of France, annexed his Pyrrenean lands to France.
As seat of the Governor of the Foix region from the 15th century, the castle continued to ensure the defence of the area, notably during the Wars of Religion. Alone of all the castles in the region, it was exempted from the destruction orders of Richelieu (1632-1638).
Until the Revolution, the fortress remained a garrison. Its life was brightened with grand receptions for its governors, including the Count of Tréville, captain of musketeers under Louis XIII and Marshal Philippe Henri de Ségur, one of Louis XVI's ministers. The Round Tower, built in the 15th century, is the most recent, the two square towers having been built before the 11th century. They served as a political and civil prison for four centuries until 1862.
Since 1930, the castle has housed the collections of the Ariège départemental museum. Sections on prehistory, Gallo-Roman and mediaeval archaeology tell the history of Ariège from ancient times. Currently, the museum is rearranging exhibits to concentrate on the history of the castle site so as to recreate the life of Foix at the time of the Counts.