Spiritual Spaces

The Allure of the Alhambra

Forged on a plateau above the vibrant city of Granada, framed by the  majestic peaks of the Sierra Nevadas sits the Alhambra, a glorious symbol of Moorish Art and Architecture. The Alhambra is one of the only medieval Muslim Palaces which survive in nearly intact in Europe. The palace/fortress overlooks the Albaicin quarter of Granada’s Moorish old town and is bordered below by the river the Darro.

In its many incarnations from citadel, fortress to opulent palace its origins are historically complex yet its most memorable buildings were constructed between 1238 and 1358 during the Nasrid dynasty when the emirs constructed their monumental homes. The other buildings in the complex were added later, notably the palace of Charles V.

The Alhambra’s design is a  example of the ciudadela tradition also prevalent in Aleppo, Jerusalem and Cairo in which a city is built within a city. The Palace is surrounded by 1,400 meters of protective walls capped with 27 towers. One of the palaces most monumental and enduring features are in its lavishly designed interior spaces The luminous, intricate carvings, and filigree using Arab geometric designs based on 8 sided geometrical figures are incredibly three dimensional. The detail in the carvings is extraordinary and complex. The most striking examples of this are in the Palacio de los Leones (Palace of the lions) named for a ring of marble lions surrounding an alabaster basin with a fountain.

There is a gallery of 124 marble columns with a canopy covered in the carved filigree design It is paved in marble and out in the courtyard are the lustrous sculptured lions. The Hall of the Abencerranjes is  named for the legendary 16th century knights beheaded in the hall. The mocarabes or Juxtaposed hanging prisms look like carved stalactites suspended from canopies are wonderous the overall affect is ethereal.

The gardens too give the impression of another world. The Generalife palace and gardens are opulent. There is so much to the Alhambra it would be easy to get lost in time there for days The author Washington Irving was so taken by the palace and grounds that he stayed there for  a while in 1828. He was so fascinated by the region of Andalucía and this magical spot that he wrote a collection of essays, sketches and stories “The Tales of the Alhambra”. As I stepped out to catch a bus I heard a woman telling a friend that she had just been to heaven. I could not disagree with that analogy!

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