A Walk Through the Alhambra of Grenada
Although the site of Grenada had been populated from the pre-Roman period, maybe by the mysterious Turdebans, evoked by Strabo, the city really enters History only in the XIIIth century. The context was quite different though compared with the first conquest of Spain by the Arabs. Grenada was built on seven hills like Rome and irrigated by sources from the sierras. The palaces, for the major part built in the XIVth century and the gardens of the Alhambra (the red, in Arabic) form a citadel inside the ramparts. The Nasrid Emir tried to create a vision of Paradise on Earth in order to exorcize the sad reality he was facing, that of a declining power. The dream was skilfully achieved using simple materials like ceramics, stucco, wood and tessellations. The artists played here on the subtlety of space, light, water and adornment. Despite the ravages of time, the restaured Alhambra remains an exceptional monument, and the most representative of Islamic Art in Europe.
Overall view over the Alhambra, Grenada, Spain.
Image source: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/c/cb/Alhambra_Granada_desde_Albaicin.jpg
The Alhambra rises upon the Hill of Sabika, the highest in Grenada. From the foothill, it is a black and ochre stones symphony with red tiles punctuated by the dark arrows of the cypress-trees. On an aerial view, on the contrary, we discover a complex of simple edifices (excepted for the palace of Charles the Fifth) ventilated by the Court of the Myrtles, the Court of the Lions, and the long blue pool. We then have a first intuition of the essential, the secret harmony between the three elements in counterpoint, stone, water and gardens. The Patio de los Arrayanes (Patio of the Myrtles) is the most impressive courtyard of the Moorish palace with its dimensions, 42 m (140 f) long and 22 m (74 ft) wide. It is flanked on the North side by the Tower of Comares, a strong crenalated bastion with loopholes that imposingly dominates all the other constructions in the Alhambra. It was built under the reign of Yusuf I as all the apartments overlooking the courtyard. The myrtles give bleuey-green reflection on the water of the central pool in which the porticoes graceful white columns are also mirrored. These so finely carved porticoes support semi-circular arches playing a merely decorative role. The water doubles the colonnade and accentuates the graphical perspective.
The Patio of the Myrtles, the long pool and Tower of Comares.
Image source: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/c/c2/Patio_de_los_Arrayanes.jpg
Established under Muhammad V, the famous Patio de los Leones (Court of the Lions) is a symbol of the Alhambra. It is the heart of the harem. The most recent part of the old Nasrid palace presents original solutions for the layout of rooms around the patio and innovations on the architectural plan such as switching from the square to the octogon for the stalactite vaulting of the cupola. The twelve statues of lions are among the few examples of Islamic sculptures modelled in the round. The courtyard measures 30 m long and 16 m broad. In its center, the allabaster basin of the fountain is supported by twelve white marble lions and is surrounded like in Christian cloisters, by pavilions and arcades with 124 marble columns.
The Court of Lions, Alhambra.
Image source: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/6/64/80525560_0eb2c1d54a_o.jpg
The Hall of the Abencerrajes is on the South side. According to an uncertain tradition, the members of the famous Grenadine family would have been assassinated here upon order of Boabdil, the last King of Granada. Those mournful events vanish as we admire the arches deviding the room into three parts under the marvelous cupola with trellised windows gently filtering light and extraordinary honeycomb vaulting, inspired by Pythagora's Theorem.
The extraordinary honeycomb vaulting of the Hall of the Abencerrajes.
Image source: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/b/be/Abencerrajes.jpg
The Generalife used to be the residence and gardens of the Emirs of Grenada, offering vistas over the whole Alhambra. From here, the Moorish sovereigns could follow the daily life of their city and palace, watch the soldiers enter the Alcazaba, a fortress within a fortress whilst the campanile endlessly told the hours putting rythm into peasants' works in the vega. Before leaving the Alhambra, we certainly better understand the words of the Moorish poets describing the palace as "a pearl set in emeralds" with the clear sound of waters flowing in the fountains and the incredibly adorned rooms.
Fountains in the Generalife. Image source: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/d/db/Alhambra_Generalife_fountains.jpg