Short description of the monument
It is a group of small palaces with a series of structures that surround them, that were a consequence of a purely transitory and ornamental need. From the 16th century, these “nazarie” palaces have been named “Casa Real Vieja” (Old Royal House) in order to distinguish them from the Christian-built buildings.
At this area there are:
Mexuar: the room itself, the oratory, the Golden Room and the courtyard.
The “Comares” Palace: “Arrayanes” courtyard, the “La Barca” hall and the “Embajadores” hall.
The Lion’s Palace: the “Mocarabes” hall, the courtyard, the “Abencerrajes” hall, the “Reyes” hall and the “Dos Hermanas” hall.
The rooms of the Emperor: the “Mirador”, the “de la Reja” courtyard and the “Lindaraja” garden.
History of the monument
The compound of the Royal Palace is divided into three independent areas:
• The Mexuar, where the administration of justice took place, and matters of state dealt with. There was an elevated chamber, closed with lattice windows, where the sultan sat to listen to the demands of the citizens without being seen. At the rear of the room there is an oratory, a small room orientated to the Mecca, richly decorated with plasterworks and from where the Albayzin is contemplated.
After the conquest, the Catholic Kings ordered to change the interior of this room, converting it into a chapel. The banister of the choir still remains. The exterior of its walls has suffered so many modifications that it is impossible to know how it was originally. This administrative area is preceded by two courtyards, in the first one there are the ruins of a small mosque with its minaret, and the second one, called the “Machuca” courtyard, houses the tower of the same name.
The compound was used as residence by the architects that dedicated their lives to the construction of the monument, amongst them “Pedro Machuca” who designed the “Carlos V Palace”.
Towards the interior is the “Golden Room”, which took its name from the cupola which is covered with gold leaf, and the “Mexuar” courtyard, with the magnificent façade of the “Comares” Palace, decorated with “muqarbas” (decorative motif based on vertically juxtaposed bows or prisms), plasterworks and tiles, and covered with a cedar-wood eave with decorative pineapple and shell motifs.
• The “Comares” Palace was constructed by order of the king Yusuf I, combining the representative function of the monarchy for the official management of the State matters with the private dwelling of the sovereign. The center of the palace is occupied by the “Arrayanes” courtyard, with porticoed galleries at the ends. This courtyard has been given different names through the years. Its actual name is due to the thick hedges of myrtle shrubs or “arrayanes”, whose strong green colour makes a contrast with the white marble floor of this courtyard.
It is presided by the “Comares” Tower, which houses in its interior the “Embajadores” hall or lounge, where the king, accompanied by his viziers, held official meetings. The hall has a cubical shape and its walls are completely decorated with: plasterworks with calligraphical motifs carvings, “al-tawriq” (vegetal ornamental motif, characteristic of the Arab decoration)and with laceworks with geometrical shapes. The starry cupola represents the sky. Preceding this space there is the “la Barca” hall, which had at its ends the alcoves of the sultan.
To the east of the Palace there are the “Comares” Baths, constructed according to the Moslem style, following the classic Roman hot-bath. All the existing decoration dates from the Christian period, since they have been restored and reconstructed several times due to the bad state they presented along the centuries.
• The Lion’s Palace. Its construction started by order of Mohamed V, son of Yusuf I. They were conceived as a private area for the royal family and the harem. Its name comes from the fountain which is supported by twelve lions made of white marble, placed at the Lion’s courtyard. The enclosure is an allegory of paradise, a petrified oasis where the water flows and the 124 columns and the arcades they support are a symbol a forest of palms. This courtyard is the first one where a new architectural style is used: two water channels that flow from the spouts placed inside two big halls: the “Abencerrajes” and the “Dos Hermanas”.
These rooms are located one in front of the other and they stand out for their superb cupolas of “muqarbas” (decorative motif based on vertically juxtaposed bows or prisms)”. The popular tradition assures that in the “Abencerrajes” hall (apparently, alcove of the king), the Knights of that name were beheaded, and that the “Dos Hermanas” hall makes reference to the two large marble slabs that are placed at both sides of the central fountain and that a poet of the 14th century compared with two sisters. In its interior, the “Mirador de Lindaraja”, a small room used as a relaxing place by the “favourite” of the sultan and that constitutes, thanks to its exquisite decoration, one of the most wonderful places of the Alhambra.
The “Mocarabes” hall is the simplest of all the halls of the Lion’s Palace. It is located at the old entrance of the palace. It owns its name to the vault of “muqarbas” (decorative motif based on vertically juxtaposed bows or prisms) that covered this hall, which was demolished due to the bad state it was after the explosion of a powder magazine in 1590.
Another hall of this palace is the “Reyes” hall, named after a painting done on the cupola of one of the three existing rooms, representing ten monarchs. The hall is divided in seven parts: three square rooms, separated by two rectangular sections, and alcoves at the ends. This distribution as well as the “musta’rab” decoration enhances the light that comes in the hall.
• “Granada en tus manos. Alhambra y Generalife”. Author: Carlos Vílchez Vílchez. Ideal – 2006.