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Alhambra, Palace in Granada, Spain. The best place to visit in Spain

Alhambra

Palace in Granada, Spain

The best place to visit in Spain

Alhambra, Palace in Granada, Spain. The best place to visit in Spain

The Alhambra is a palace and fortress complex located in Granada, Andalusia, Spain. In addition to containing notable examples of Spanish Renaissance architecture, it is one of the most famous monuments of Islamic architecture and one of the best-preserved palaces in the historic Islamic world.

The complex was begun in 1238 by Muhammad I ibn al-Ahmar, the first Nasrid emir and founder of the Emirate of Granada, the last Muslim kingdom of al-Andalus. It was built on the Sabika Hills, a ridge in the Sierra Nevada that was the site of an earlier fortress and 11th-century palace of Samuel Ibn Naghrilla. Later Nasrid rulers constantly changed the site. The most significant building campaigns, which gave many of the palaces their specific character, took place during the reigns of Yusuf I and Muhammad V in the 14th century. After the end of the Christian Reconquista in 1492, the site became the royal court. Ferdinand and Isabella (where Christopher Columbus received royal approval for his expedition), and the palaces were partially altered. In 1526, Charles V built a new Renaissance-style palace directly adjacent to the Nasrid palaces, but left it unfinished in the early 17th century. After centuries of being allowed to fall into disrepair, its buildings occupied by squatters, the Alhambra was rediscovered after the defeat of Napoleon I, whose troops destroyed parts of the site. The rediscoverers were first British intellectuals and then other American and northern European romantic travelers. The most influential of them was Washington Irving, whose Tales of the Alhambra (1832) drew international attention to the site. The Alhambra was one of the first Islamic monuments to become the object of modern scientific research and has been the subject of numerous restorations since the 19th century. It is now one of Spain's main tourist attractions and a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

During the Nasrid era, the Alhambra was a self-contained city separate from Granada below. It has most of the amenities of a Muslim city such as Friday mosques, hammams (public baths), roads, houses, artisan workshops, a tannery and a sophisticated water supply system. As a royal city and fortress, it contained at least six major palaces, most of which were located at the northern end where they commanded views over the Albaicin Quarter. The most famous and best-preserved are Mexuer, Comares Palace, Lion Palace and Partal Palace, which are the main attractions for visitors today. Other palaces are known from historical sources and modern excavations. At the western end of the Alhambra is the Alcazaba fortress. A series of small towers and fortified gates are also located along the walls of the Alhambra. Outside the Alhambra walls and to the east lies the GeneralifePartial, a former Nasrid country estate and summer palace with historic gardens and modern landscaped gardens.

The architecture of the Nasrid palaces reflects the Moorish architectural tradition developed in the previous centuries. It is characterized by the use of the courtyard as a central space and basic unit around which other halls and rooms were organized. Courtyards usually have a water feature at their center, such as a reflecting pool or a fountain. The decoration centers was focused on the interior of the building and was primarily executed with tile mosaics on the lower walls and carved stucco on the upper walls. Geometric patterns, vegetal motifs and Arabic inscriptions were the main types of decorative motifs. Additionally, sculptures such as "stalactites", known as mukarna, were used for three-dimensional features such as vaulted ceilings.

Alhambra, Palace in Granada, Spain. The best place to visit in Spain

The Architecture of  Alhambra:

General design: The design and decoration of Nasrid palaces continued the Moorish (Western Islamic) architecture of the previous century but developed their own characteristics. The combination of carefully-proportioned courtyards, water features, gardens, narrow pillared arches, and intricately sculpted stucco and tile decoration gave Nasrid architecture qualities that were ethereal and intimate. is described as The walls were mostly made of earth, lime concrete or brick and then covered with plaster, while wood (mostly pine) was used for roofs, ceilings, doors and window shutters.

Architect and poet: Little is known about the architects and craftsmen who built the Alhambra, but more is known about the Diwan al-Insha' or Chancery. This institution seems to have played an increasingly important role in the design of buildings, perhaps because inscriptions featured so prominently in their decoration. The head of the chancery was also often the sultan's vizier (prime minister). Although not exactly architects, the terms of office of many of the individuals in this position coincide with major phases of the Alhambra's construction, suggesting that they played a role in leading construction projects.

Decoration: Carved stucco and mosaic tilework were used to decorate the walls, while ceilings were usually made of wood, which could be carved and painted. Pala tile mosaics and wooden ceilings often feature geometric motifs. Tilework was usually used for lower walls or floors, while stucco was used for upper areas. Stucco was usually carved with vegetal arabesque motifs, epigraphic motifs, geometric motifs or sebka motifs.

Inscriptions: The Alhambra features several styles of Arabic epigraphy that developed under the Nasrid dynasty and especially under Yusuf I and Muhammad V. José Miguel Puerta Vilchez compares the walls of the Alhambra to the pages of a manuscript, with gilding-covered dados and geometric manuscript illuminations and epigraphic forms of palaces similar to calligraphic motifs in contemporary Arabic manuscripts. The inscriptions usually ran in vertical or horizontal bands or they were set inside circular or rectangular shaped cartouches.

Alhambra, Palace in Granada, Spain. The best place to visit in Spain

Main structures of  Alhambra:

1. Entrance gates

2. Alcazaba

3. Nasrid palaces

4. Mexuar

5. Comares Palace

6. Palace of the Lions

7. Renaissance apartments and courtyards

8. Partal Palace and gardens

9. Palace of Charles V

Other Nasrid palaces

1. Church of Santa Maria and the Alhambra Mosque

2. Baths of the mosque

3. Rawda (Nasrid mausoleum)

4. Generalife


Location: Granada, Andalusia, Spain

Part of: Alhambra, Generalife and Albayzín, Granada

Criteria: Cultural: i, iii, iv

Reference: 314-001

Inscription: 1984 (8th Session)

Extensions: 1994

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