The Alhambra In Granada, Andalucia – Exploration Of The Moorish Architectural Heritage In Spain

Andalucia, the southernmost province of Spain, has one of the most changeful pasts in European Mainland history. The strategic importance of the Strait of Gibraltar as bridge between Africa and Europa has always Andalucia been a key passage point for the most different ethnic groups,
especially during the period of the Barbarian Invasions between 300 AD and 700 AD. All settlers
and invaders left their cultural and architectural imprints on the region, thereby making it a melting
pot of various cultural influences. Flamenco music, which presumably developed out of Indian,
Greek, Christian, Mozarabic and Moorish influences in the so-called “Flamenco triangle” formed
by Seville, Jeréz de la Frontera and Cádiz from the 14 century onward, is the most noteworthy example resulting from this exotic and fascinating, century-long culture mixture.

Over the course of the centuries Andalucia has seen many conquerors and traders come and go, including the Phoenicians, Carthaginians, Romans, Vandals and Visigoths. The 7th century marks
the beginning of a 500 years long Moorish domination. During the Middle Ages Andalucia enjoyed
a time of cultural and economical prosperity. Arts and sciences such as astronomy, medicine, philosophy and mathematics were florishing under Moorish rule. Between the 7th century and the
12th century Andalucia experienced one of the longest periods of religious and political tolerance between Christians, Muslims and Jews in European Mainland history. This climate of mutual tole-
rance and respect and the relative religious and cultural freedom promoted the cultural exchange between all ethnic groups. The century-long Moorish domination and the period of cultural prospe-
rity were considerably weakened with the fall of Seville in 1248 and collapsed completely when
the last remaining Islamic stronghold, Granada, was reconquered by the Catholic kings of Spain
in 1492 during the Christian Reconquista.

The Umayyad invasion of Andalucia in the 7th century gave rise to a very strong, century-long in-fluence of Moorish architecture in Andalusian construction style. Its most notable examples can be found in Granada, Córdoba and Seville.

An impressive historical monument is the “Alhambra” (derived from Arab “al-hamra” (the red castle)) in Granada, a Moorish mosque, palace and fortress complex located at the foothills of the Sierra Nevada Mountains. Its construction already began in the 8th century and it was considerably expan-
ded during the Nasrid Dynasty in the 12th century. The fortress (“Alcazaba”), the Nasrid Palaces (“Palacio Árabe”, “Palacio Nazaries” or “Casa Real”), the Gardens of the Generalife (“Palacio de Generalife”) and the Court of the Lions (“Patio de los Leones”) with their Mudéjar and Mozarabic
style are true masterpieces of Moorish architecural art and always worth visiting for the historically interested traveller. The Alhambra was designated a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1984.

Another spectacular piece of Moorish architecture is the “Mezquita” (derived from Arab “masjid” (mosque)) in Córdoba, the former Aljama Mosque. It was built on the ruins of the Saint Vicente Visigothic Christian basilica (“Basílica Visigótica de San Vicente”) between the 8th century and the
10th century under the Emirate and Caliphate of Córdoba in Umayyad style. After the conquest of Córdoba by the Catholic kings of Spain in 1236 the Mezquita it was reconsecrated as Cathedral of Córdoba (“Catedrál de la Mezquita de Córdoba”) and serves as a Roman-Catholic cathedral until

An amazing Moorish construction is the “Giralda” (weathervane)) in Seville with its Almohad style,
an ancient minaret from the city´s Almohad Mosque built between 1184 and 1198. In 1248 Seville
fell into the hands of the Catholic kings of Spain during the Christian Reconquista. A Roman-Catholic cathedral, the Cathedral of Seville (“Catedrál de Sevilla” or “Catedrál de Santa María de la Sede”), was built from 1401 to 1519 on the former site of the mosque and the Giralda was converted into
a bell tower. The Cathedral of Seville with its Gothic, Baroque, Moorish and Renessaince style and breathtaking examples of Gothic woodcarving houses a large collection of religious sculptures,
jewelry items and paintings and the supposed tomb of Christopher Columbus. It is the largest
Medieval Gothic cathedral anywhere in the world and is a must for every lover of Medieval Gothic church architecture.

A further fascinating historical sight is the Alcázar of Seville (“Alcázares Reales de Sevilla”) with the “Patio de las Doncellas” (The Courtyard of the Maidens), a palace of the Catholic kings of Spain with its Mudéjar, Mozarabic, Gothic and Renaissance style. The Alcázar (derived from Arab “al-qasr” (“palace)) was built between the 12th century to the 17th century on the site of the former Almohad palace “Al-Muwarak” (the blessed).

The Alcázar and the Cathedral of Seville werde declared world heritage sites by the UNESCO in 1987.