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The Grove Encyclopedia of Islamic Art and Architecture What is This? Provides in-depth historical and cultural information on over a thousand years of Islamic art and architecture


    [Arab. Gharnāṭa].

    Spanish city at the foot of the Sierra Nevada and the confluence of the Darro and Genil rivers. Now the capital of Granada province, with a population of more than a quarter of a million, the city served as the seat of the Nasrid dynasty (r. 1230–1492) who built the Alhambra palaces there (see §III below) and made the city a thriving artistic center famous for its bronze, ceramics, inlay, wood, leather and silk (see §II below).

    I. History and urban development to 1492 II. Art life. III. Alhambra.

    I. History and urban development to 1492

    Remnants of fortifications on Albaycín Hill attest to Iberian, Roman and early Christian settlements in the area. Conquered by Muslim troops c. 713, the city had a mixed population of Christians, Muslims and Jews until the 11th century. Early remains include the enclosure walls and rectangular towers of the old citadel (Arab. al-qaṣaba al-qadīma) on Albaycín Hill, and parts of a stone bridge over the Genil. In the 11th century the Zirid dynasty (r. 1012–90) enlarged the northern section of the citadel with towers (two of them semicircular) and the Puerta Monaita and Puerta Nueva, both with right-angled bends in the entrance passages. They also linked the citadel to two small fortresses on the Alhambra and Mauror hills and built the Puerta de los Tableros, which controlled access to the city at the Darro; it had polygonal towers flanking a horseshoe arch. Near it stands the Bañuelo (rest.), a typical bath of the Zirid period, with a changing-room and a central pool preceding three vaulted rooms (a transverse frigidarium, a tepidarium with arcades on three sides and a transverse caldarium resting on hypocausts). An 11th-century minaret now forms the detached tower of the Mudéjar church of S. José (1525).

    Under the Almoravid dynasty (r. 1056–1147), who conquered the city in 1090, Granada flourished, to judge from carved wooden corbels and plaster fragments (Granada, Mus. Alhambra) found to the south of the Alhambra on Mauror Hill, some friezes with kufic inscriptions, and several bronze lamps, candlesticks and incense burners (Granada, Mus. Alhambra). It declined under the Almohad dynasty (r. 1147–1269), who took the city in 1166, as is suggested by the relatively low quality of some white marble and serpentine capitals (Granada, Mus. Alhambra).

    In 1238, when the first Nasrid sultan, Muhammad I (r. 1230–72), founded the Alhambra city, he added several multi-story towers to the Alcazaba and made it his dynastic seat. Many Muslim refugees came to Granada from territory reconquered by the Christians. In the 13th and 14th centuries the Albaycín Quarter was enclosed with a new north wall extending from the Darro on the east to the Puerta Monaita and the new Bab Ilbirah (now Puerta de Elvira) on the west, and two new city gates, the Bab al-Ramlà (moved in the 1930s to the Alhambra woods) and the Bab al-Tawwabin (destr.), were added. Remains form the 13th century include the galleried courtyard of the Albaycín Mosque, a minaret (now used as the tower of S. Juan de los Reyes, c.1520) and, near the Genil, the hermitage of S. Sebastián, which has a plaster vault of intersecting arches. The Casa de los Girones retains carved and painted stucco, part of the courtyard, the western and part of the northern wing, and a broad, cross-vaulted staircase. The Cuarto Real de S. Domingo, the royal palace known as the Dar al-Manjara al-Kubra built under Muhammad II (r. 1272–1302), preserves its great throne room with three bays in the back wall and lateral rectangular alcoves (see Architecture, §VI, D, 1). The Alcázar Genil (1319), built beside the river by Isma῾il I (r. 1313–25), survives only as a square lantern-room with side chambers.

    The house of Zafra (late 13th century; rest. 14th and 15th centuries; now convent of S. Catalina de Zafra), has a rectangular courtyard with a pool; galleries at either end lead into rooms with alcoves. The Dar al-Hurra Palace (probably 15th century) has a similar layout, but its north wing has a two-story gallery with a long transverse room with end alcoves and a projecting belvedere on each level; it recalls the Mirador de Lindaraja at the Alhambra. In 1349 Yusuf I (r. 1333–54) inaugurated the Yusufiyya Madrasa, of which only the oratory (rest.) remains next to the congregational mosque at the edge of the Alcaicería (al-qayṣariyya), a prosperous commercial district. The Corral del Carbón (14th century), originally the New Inn (al-funduq al-jadīda), has a monumental projecting portal deriving from an Oriental iwan (the Yusufiyya Madrasa had a similar portal) and a central courtyard surrounded by three levels of galleries supported on pillars. The Maristan, or hospital (1367; destr.), built by Muhammad V (r. 1354–9, 1362–91), had a rectangular plan: its court was surrounded by two stories of galleries resting on pillars preceding the rooms. Waterspouts issuing from two large seated stone lions fed the pool in the center of the court.


    • Enc. Islam/2: “Gharnāṭa”; “Naṣrids” Cuad. Alhambra, 1965– [many articles on Granada and the Alhambra]
    • M. Gómez-Moreno: Guía de Granada (Granada, 1892/facs. 1982, 1994)
    • L. Torres Balbás: “La Alhambra de Granada antes del siglo XIII,” Al-Andalus, v (1940)
    • L. Torres Balbás: “El alminar de la iglesia de S Jose y las construcciones de los Ziries granadinos,” Al-Andalus, vi (1941)
    • L. Torres Balbás: “El Maristan de Granada,” Al-Andalus, ix (1944), pp. 481–98
    • L. Torres Balbás: “Las alhóndigas hispanomusulmanas y el Corral del Carbón de Granada,” Al-Andalus, xi (1946), pp. 447–80
    • L. Torres Balbás: “La supuesta puerta de los panderos y los puentes de la Granada musulmana,” Al-Andalus, xiv (1949)
    • M. Gómez-Moreno: El arte árabe español hasta los Almohades: Arte mozárabe, A. Hisp. (Madrid, 1951)
    • L. Torres Balbás: “Esquema demográfico de la ciudad de Granada,” Al-Andalus, xxi (1956), pp. 131–46
    • J. M. Gomez-Moreno Calera: “Las iglesias del Valle de Lecrin (Granada): Estudio arquitectonico (II),” Cuad. A. U. Granada, xxviii (1997), pp. 49–64
    • M. Hattstein and P. Delius, eds.: Islamic Art and Architecture (Cologne, 2000), pp. 272–7
    • A. C. Syrakoy: “Health, Spirituality and Power in Medieval Iberia: The Māristān and its Role in Nasrid Granada,” Cities in the Pre-Modern Islamic World: The Urban Impact of Religion, State and Society, ed. A. K. Bennison and A. L. Gascoigne (London, 2007), pp. 177–95

    II. Art life

    As the seat of the Nasrid dynasty (r. 1230–1492), the kingdom of Granada was the center for many of the luxury arts associated with Nasrid patronage. Fine ceramics were produced at several centers, including Málaga and Granada, alongside everyday pottery and tiles (see Ceramics, §IV, D). The identification of wares produced in each center, such as the enormous “Alhambra” vases (see Ceramics, fig. 11), is still a matter of much conjecture. After the Christian conquest (1492) the potteries in the Puerta de Fajalavza (Albaycín) district of Granada continued to produce traditional wares with blue floral designs and birds on a white ground.

    The removal of Islamic manuscripts from Spain means that most of the evidence for the art of the book in Granada has been destroyed. A Koran manuscript on vellum (1303; Paris, Bib. N.; MS. arab. 385) has complex interlaced decoration similar to that found at the Alhambra. Its attribution to Granada has led other manuscripts (e.g. a dispersed 60-volume copy and Istanbul, Mus. Turk. & Islam. A., T.360) and fragments to be assigned there. Several astrolabes are known to have been made in the city, including one (Point Lookout, NY, Linton priv. col.; see Al-Andalus, no. 123) made in 1304–5 by the astrolabist Ahmad ibn Husayn ibn Basu, a member of an important family of timekeepers in the congregational mosque. Many high-quality silks are also thought to have been woven in the city or its environs (see Textiles, §II, A, 3). Granada was also a center of fine woodworking, judging from a magnificent pair of incrusted cupboard doors (14th century; Granada, Mus. N. A. Hispmus.) from a private house, and a large rectangular casket (Madrid, Mus. Arqueol. N.) decorated with interlaced star patterns in stained ivory and various woods.


    • P. M. de Artiñano: “Cerámica hispano-morisca,” Bol. Soc. Esp. Excurs., xxv (1917), pp. 153–68
    • M. L. Sánchez Hernández: “Cerámica de Andalucía Oriental,” Antiquaria, vii (1984), pp. 46–53
    • Al-Andalus: The Art of Islamic Spain(exh. cat., ed. J. D.Dodds; Granada, Alhambra; (New York, Met.;), 1992)
    • S. S. Kenesson: “Nasrid Luster Pottery: The Alhambra Vases,” Muqarnas, ix (1992), pp. 93–115
    • J. C. Carvajal López: “La cerámica islámica del Sombrerete (Madīnat Ilbīra, Granada). Primera aproximación,” Arqueol. & Territ. Med., xii/1 (2005), pp. 133–73

    III. Alhambra

    The palaces of the Alhambra and Generalife form the most important architectural ensemble to survive from the period of Nasrid rule (1232–1492). The buildings erected under the Nasrid dynasty in the Iberian Peninsula provided inspiration for those in the neighboring Christian kingdoms and for Marinid and Abd al-Wadid art in Morocco and Algeria (see Architecture, §VI, D, 2).

    By the 9th century the citadel on the Sabika spur of the Sierra Nevada overlooking Granada was called al-ḥamrā῾ (Arab.: “the red”) because its aging white stuccoed walls, probably belonging to a Visigothic fortress, were already stained red with ferruginous dust. In the 11th century the Zirids built defensive walls that linked this fortress with Albaycín Hill to the north and Torres Bermejas to the south. In 1238 the first Nasrid sultan, Muhammad I, organized the supply of water by canal, which allowed the building of a royal city on the Sabika from the 13th to the 15th century. Enlarged and embellished by his descendants, the walled Alhambra city comprised the Alcazaba (al-qaṣaba: “fortress”), palaces, mansions, two mos-ques, baths (ḥammāms), an ind-ustrial zone with tanneries, a mint, kilns, workshops, and some adjacent royal estates such as the Generalife (see fig.).

    After the Christian conquest in 1492, Charles V (r. 1516–56) attached a large Renaissance palace to the Nasrid palace of Comares. In the 19th century, Romantic travelers rediscovered the Alhambra, large-ly through the texts and illustrations of Joseph- Philibert Girault de Prangey (1804–92), David Roberts (1796–1864) and Owen Jones (1809–74). Some names by which the parts of the Alhambra are known today are tags from this Romantic period. Later in the 19th century the Contreras family began restoring the palaces, and this work continued in the 20th century under Manuel Gómez Moreno (1870–1970) and his pupils. Research continues today, and results are available in the annual journal Cuardernos de la Alhambra (1965–).

    A. Architecture. B. Gardens.

    A. Architecture.

    1. Foundations in the 13th century: Alcazaba, Generalife and Partal. 2. Monumentalization in the early 14th century: the Salón de Comares, the Qalahurra of Yusuf I and the great gates. 3. Apogee in the late 14th century: sala de la Barca, patio and façade of the Palacio de Comares and the Riyad Palace (Palacio de los Leones). 4. Decline at the turn of the 15th century: the Qalahurra of Muhammad VII. 5. Renaiassance in the 16th century: the palace of Charles V.

    1. Foundations in the 13th century: Alcazaba, Generalife and Partal.

    In the first period of Nasrid art, covering the sultanates of Muhammad I, Muhammad II, Muhammad III and Nasr (1232–1314), earlier Almohad traditions were continued and adapted. The Alcazaba (fig. (i)), an 11th-century trapezoidal Zirid core with small solid towers, was enlarged. Muhammad I added a 13th-century outer enclosure and vaulted towers (Vela, Armas, Homenaje and Adarguero). The Alcazaba contains military quarters, a cistern, bath, houses, storerooms and dungeons. A third northern enclosure was initiated with the great Puerta de las Armas (fig. (ii)), which controlled access from the city. The Quebrada Tower on the east side of the fortress was probably rebuilt in the 14th century under Yusuf I.

    The early Upper Partal and Abencerrajes palaces, which survive only in plan, belong to the time of Muhammad II, as does the Generalife (fig. (iii)), built on ascending terraces. The sovereign reached the Generalife's royal mansion, the Dar al-Mamlaka al-Sa῾ida (“royal house of felicity”), from the Alhambra's Puerta de Hierro (fig. (iv)), also built by Muhammad II. He ascended through orchards, crossed a first courtyard and entered the second through a guarded south portico, to ascend to a vestibule with a structural bench and up a steep staircase to the Patio de la Acequia. The mansion's southeast wing has storerooms and dwellings for servants. Its large upper-story room has alcoves and a belvedere (restored and enlarged in the 1920s) overlooking the patio. In Nasrid times the patio's southwest flank was enclosed by a high wall (later pierced by Ferdinand and Isabella to form an open gallery). The central belvedere kiosk decorated in plaster by Muhammad II was redecorated in 1319 by his grandson Isma῾il I with a later pattern. The northeast wing contains two dwellings and two staircases that probably led to the bath and to the upper gardens, where a water staircase, alternating sections of stair with rounded landings, has channeled water coursing down steps and handrails; it probably ascended to an oratory. The mansion's northwest wing has a five-arched gallery, with its wider central arch optically framing the tripartite entrance portico to the palace's main transverse room. Isma῾il I remodeled this room and added the northwest tower, with stairs in it. The upper story was reconstructed under Ferdinand and Isabella; the top gallery is entirely the work of the post-Reconquest period.


    Granada, plan of the Alhambra: (i) Alcazaba; (ii) Puerta de las Armas; (iii) Generalife; (iv) Puerta de Hierro; (v) Puerta del Vino; (vi) Palacio del Partal; (vii) S Francisco; (viii) Torre del Peinador; (ix) Rawda (royal pantheon); (x) Bāb al-Shar῾ia (esplanade gate); (xi) Bāb al-Ghudur (Puerta de las Albercas); (xii) Qalahurra of Yusuf I (Torre de la Cautiva); (xiii) Torre Cadi; (xiv) Salón de Comares; (xv) Sala del Mexuar; (xvi) Cuarto Dorado; (xvii) Patio de Comares; (xviii) Sala de la Barca; (xix) Patio de los Leones; (xx) Sala de los Mocárabes; (xxi) Sala de los Abencerrajes; (xxii) Sala de los Reyes; (xxiii) Qubba Meyor (Sala de los Hermanas); (xxiv) Sala de los Ajimeces; (xxv) Mirador de Lindaraja (or de Daraxa); (xxvi) Qalahurra of Muhammad VII (Torre de las Infantas); (xxvii) palace of Charles V; (xxviii) Puerta de las Granádas; (xxix) chapel of the palace of Charles V; (xxx) Patio de Lindaraja

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    Muhammad III built the Alhambra mosque (its foundations lie partially under the church of S. Maria). Only foundations survive of buildings on the spacious esplanade (now occupied by the palace of Charles V; fig. (xxvii)) that extended north from the Puerta del Vino (fig. (v)); the stone west façade also dates from the time of Muhammad III. The Palacio del Partal (fig. (vi)), with its exceptionally wide pool, was Muhammad III's crowning achievement. Its open gallery originally rested on pillars, mistakenly replaced in 1964 by modern columns. The palace's delicate decoration includes plaster arches with foliate patterns, a frieze of kufic cartouches, an upper geometric band below the flat wooden roof, and ceramic dados in cold colors made by the masterly school of artists who had built the earlier Dar al-Manjara (Cuarto Real de S. Domingo) in Granada. A staircase and dwelling were added to the Partal palace under Muhammad III. The pattern of six-pointed stars found on the Partal also appears in another early Alhambra royal mansion that became the convent of S. Francisco (the first burial place of Ferdinand and Isabella and now a hotel (fig. (vii)); its central garden and canal are an earlier version of the Generalife's Dar al-Mamlaka al-Sa῾ida.

    Nasr introduced the lantern-room (previously used in baths) into palatine architecture, in which a central square structure with overhead lighting is supported on pillars or columns and surrounded by outer rectangular areas, sometimes with lower windows. Nasr was responsible for the lantern-tower of the Peinador (fig. (viii)), although its inscription was altered by Yusuf I; Muhammad V replaced its pillars by columns and added the entrance; and its floor and decoration belong to Muhammad VII.

    2. Monumentalization in the early 14th century: the Salón de Comares, the Qalahurra of Yusuf I and the great gates.

    The second stylistic period of Nasrid architecture in the first half of the 14th century saw the construction of monumental architecture and classical ornament. Isma῾il I built the huge Puerta de las Armas and Rawda (royal pantheon; fig. (ix)) and initiated the official palace called the sultan's palace, now known as Comares. In 1348 his son, Yusuf I, built the monumental Bab al-Shari῾a (esplanade gate; mistakenly called Justice Gate; fig. (x)) that gives access from the south through a four-bend entrance. Its arched marble façade is set between large cubic projections and has a foundational inscription and decorative ceramic panel. Yusuf also built the Bab al-Ghudur (Puerta de las Albercas; fig. (xi)) and the palatial, military Qalahurra (Torre de la Cautiva; fig. (xii)), which has a bent entrance, staircase and small central patio with a gallery supported on pillars. This leads to the main square room with large window areas on three sides and a geometric ceramic dado with unique purple pieces of luster bearing the Nasrid coat of arms. The plaster walls have decorative rhomboid patterns (sebka). In the four corners of the room above the dados, four poems by Ibn al-Jayyab frame a kufic frieze that resembles a textile band. Yusuf I also built the oratory next to the Partal; it has open windows on either side, as does his Madraza oratory in Granada itself. The decoration of the Torre Cadí (fig. (xiii)), and the dwelling in the Partal with wall paintings probably belong to the period of Yusuf I.

    In his last years, Yusuf I enlarged his father's Palacio de Comares and built its huge tower containing a magnificent throne room (Salón de Comares), with original ceramic paving and patterned dados that crowned the masterly school of Dar al-Manjara in Granada. The throne room (fig. (xiv)) has three alcoves in each of its east, north and west walls, overlooking the city; the uniquely decorated central north alcove contains a poem (perhaps by the vizier Ibn al-Khatib) stating it to be the throne alcove. The plaster decorations round the huge room are arranged in wide horizontal bands resembling subtly colored fabrics. The great wooden ceiling symbolizes the seven heavens of the Islamic paradise and the throne of God, and when fully colored would have appeared golden. The hall is the culmination of Nasrid official architecture. The Comares bath (built by Isma῾il I, completed by Yusuf I) has a high and low apodyterium (lantern-room) and vaults covering the small frigidarium, tepidarium, caldarium, wood store and furnaces.

    3. Apogee in the late 14th century: Sala de la Barca, patio and façade of the Palacio de Comares and the Riyad Palace (Palacio de los Leones).

    Muhammad V initiated the third, highly complex stylistic period of Nasrid art. First he completed the Palacio de Comares. Its west area, mostly in ruins, was the Mexuar, or administrative area. The main west entrance from the square facing the Alcazaba led to a first courtyard that has the foundations of a small mosque and minaret. The second courtyard has a rectangular pool with semicircles in its sides and retains its Nasrid north gallery and an older pavilion (built by Yusuf I) overlooking the city. A double-bend stairway ascended from the southeast corner of this courtyard to the Private Council Room and thence to a tiny courtyard in front of the Mexuar façade. The Sala del Mexuar (fig. (xv)), with its lost central lantern supported on four marble columns, was reconstructed and decorated by Muhammad V with rich decorative panels that rise from the capitals. To the north of this room, a small Nasrid court communicated through a narrow arch on its eastern side with the triple-arched portico of the Cuarto Dorado (fig. (xvi); see also Architecture, fig. 41), which served as a waiting chamber when the sultan gave audience on the far (southern) side of the courtyard in front of the inner façade of his palace. This great façade is carefully proportioned to the width of the courtyard, and protected by large overhanging eaves like an awning. The plaster decoration resembles a huge hanging tapestry, with small lateral columns and corbels simulating gathered side curtains. From its upper windows women could watch public ceremonies unobserved. The façade has two identical entrances: the right-hand door was the private and service entrance; the left-hand door gave official access, through a guarded vestibule and ascending bent passage, to the Patio de Comares (fig. (xvii)) at the center of the palace. The patio has a long central pool bordered by low hedges with two fountains; at each end was a seven-arched portico with a wider central arch. Friezes with floral decorative arches and verses adorn the end walls. The central muqarnas arch of the north portico has spandrels decorated with trees, and leads into the Sala de la Barca (fig. (xviii)), the sultan's bedroom and sitting room which has alcoves crowned by magnificent muqarnas arches at each end. The transverse passageway between this room and the throne room has a small oratory, and a staircase ascends to the upper winter quarters and roof.

    The longitudinal naves of the Patio de Comares contain four dwellings, the official and service entrances, and access to the bath. The south portico has a mezzanine floor and upper gallery with a wide linteled opening in the center. This patio so impressed Pedro Machuca (c.1490–1550), architect of Charles V's palace, that he interrupted the Renaissance façade to preserve the Nasrid south gallery, each of whose floors was thought to originally have given on to a transverse room.

    After completing the Palacio de Comares, Muhammad V built the Riyad Palace (known since the Reconquest as the Palacio de los Leones (Palace of the Lions)). Constructed on sloping land in the palace garden (riyāḍ means “garden”), the site was first made level on the north side by the construction of basement vaults. The entrance from the street at the southwest corner of the palace led to two guard rooms arranged in elbow bend (one survives) and thence to the cruciform Patio de los Leones (Court of the Lions; see fig. (xix) and color pl. 2:V, fig. 1, 1:III, fig. 1) at the heart of the palace, which has a central fountain with twelve contemporary stylized standing lions, carved in white marble to fit exactly the proportions of the patio; the lions support a polygonal basin inscribed with a poem by Ibn Zamrak, a pupil of Ibn al-Khatib (for illustration see Fountain).

    The patio is surrounded by galleries with a projecting central kiosk at either end and an upper central belvedere on the longer sides. An older lantern-kiosk with a gadroon vault was incorporated into the southeast corner of the palace. The patio has magnificent rooms on all four sides. On its west side, the Sala de los Mocárabes (fig. (xx)) is named for its original muqarnas (Sp. mocárabes) ceiling (severely damaged in the 16th century, partially replaced in the 17th). On the south side, the Sala de los Abencerrajes lies below the level of the cobbled street that ran east to west to the south of the Comares and Riyad palaces, separating them from the higher ground and the Rawḍa; the Sala de los Abencerrajes (fig. (xxi)) has a square ground-plan, which ascends by means of squinches to form a star-shaped drum supporting a supremely beautiful star-shaped mocárabes vault (see Muqarnas, fig. 2). On the east side, the Sala de los Reyes (fig. (xxii)) is sectioned into complex compartments surrounded by alcoves: three square spaces alternate with two rectangular ones; they are separated by elaborate muqarnas arches and enclosed on three sides by alternating rectangular chambers and vaulted cubicles. Three alcoves have vaults painted with Gothic–Muslim scenes; those on the lateral vaults show a Muslim knight and a Christian knight competing in hunting and for the love of a maiden; the Muslim wins, killing his adversary. The central vault shows a meeting of ten high-ranking Nasrids seated in council inside a tent. The other alcoves have exquisite muqarnas vaults.

    The most successful Nasrid palatine complex lies on the patio's north side: the Qubba Mayor (Sala de las Dos Hermanas; fig. (xxiii)). Its transverse entrance aisle has a latrine and stairs to the upper story. The large square lantern-hall has side alcoves on both levels and ascends by means of muqarnas squinches to form an octagon at the upper level, where high windows illuminate its magnificent muqarnas vault. Constructed on a geometric pattern of eight-pointed stars, this ravishing vault creates an impression of floating spaces suspended above the room. Above the geometrically patterned dado runs a frieze resembling a textile band, containing the finest epigraphic composition in the Alhambra: a 24-verse poem by Ibn Zamrak, placed in lobed circles and rectangular cartouches. An arched entrance leads north to the transverse Sala de los Ajimeces (fig. (xxiv)) with another fine muqarnas vault, and thence to the intimate Mirador de Lindaraja (fig. (xxv)), where the decoration displays the culmination of Hispano-Muslim kufic patterning. The frames of the windows have a poem by Ibn Zamrak in fine cursive calligraphy, while the decorative glass ceiling on a wooden frame envelops the Mirador in colored light.

    4. Decline at the turn of the 15th century: the Qalahurra of Muhammad VII.

    The fourth stylistic period of Nasrid art survives in a single building: Muhammad VII's military and palatial Qalahurra (Torre de las Infantas; fig. (xxvi)). It follows the general plan of the Riyad's Qubba Mayor, compressed to fit the tower: a bent entrance, with stairway to the upper floor and terrace, leads to a gallery surrounding the central lantern-hall, whose linteled lower and upper galleries give on to other rooms. The main room has alcoves and a shallow belvedere reduced to the thickness of the wall. The decorative work shows marked stylistic decline. Fine large decorative luster panels, and smaller ones in relief, survive from modifications made by Yusuf III to an older palace of Muhammad II in the Upper Partal.

    5. Renaissance in the 16th century: the palace of Charles V.

    The large Renaissance palace of Charles V (1526–50; fig. (xxvii)) adjoining the Patio de Comares was designed by Pedro Machuca (c.1490–1550). He built the Puerta de las Granádas (c.1546; fig. (xxviii)) as a formal Renaissance entrance to the Alhambra precinct. The construction of the palace began in 1533; the design was revised by Juan de Herrera (c.1530–97), and work continued for over a century, but the palace was never completed. Perhaps the finest Renaissance palace in Spain, it has a square plan and a circular courtyard, whose lower story has an arcade of Doric columns and whose upper level has Ionic pilasters between the windows. The octagonal chapel in the eastern corner of the palace was intended to have a dome (fig. (xxix)), but this was never built.


    • Enc. Islam/2: “Gharnāṭa,” “Mukarbaṣ,” “Naṣrids”
    • L. Torres Balbás: “La Alhambra de Granada antes del siglo XIII,” Al-Andalus, v (1940)
    • L. Torres Balbás: Arte Almohade, arte Nazarí, arte Mudéjar (Madrid, 1949), iv of Ars Hispaniae (Madrid, 1947–77)
    • L. Torres Balbás: La Alhambra y el Generalife (Madrid, 1950)
    • R. Arié: “Quelques remarques sur la costume des musulmans d’Espagne au temps des Naṣrides,” Arabica, xii (1965)
    • M. Gómez Moreno: “Granada en el siglo XIII,” Cuad. Alhambra, ii (1966)
    • E. García Gómez and J. Bermúdez Pareja: The Alhambra: The Royal Palace (Granada, 1966)
    • A. Fernández-Puertas: “Un paño decorativo de la torre de las Damas,” Cuad. Alhambra, ix (1973)
    • O. Grabar: The Alhambra (Cambridge, MA, 1978)
    • “The Alhambra,” Al-Andalus: The Art of Islamic Spain (exh. cat., ed. J. D. Dodds; Granada, Alhambra; New York, Met.; 1992), pp. 127–72
    • C. Brothers: “The Renaissance Reception of the Alhambra: The Letters of Andrea Navagero and the Palace of Charles V,” Muqarnas, xi (1994), pp. 79–102
    • A. Malpica Cuello and J. Bermúdez López: Transformaciones cristianas en la Alhambra (Florence, 1995)
    • P. J. Girault de Prangey: Impressions of Granada and the Alhambra: A New Reproduction of Lithographs of the Pictures, Plans and Drawings Made on his Visits there in 1832 and 1833 (Reading, 1996)
    • A. Fernández-Puertas: The Alhambra I: From the Ninth Century to Yusuf I (1354) (London, 1997)
    • P. Marinetto Sánchez and A. Fernández Puertas: Los capiteles del Palacio de los Leones en la Alhambra: Ejemplo para el estudio del capitel hispanomusulmán y su trascendencia arquitectónica: Estudio, Monográfica Arte y Arqueología, 32 (Granada, 1997)
    • J. M. Rodriguez Domingo: “La Alhambra efímera: El pabellón de España en la Exposición Universal de Bruselas, 1910,” Cuad. A. U. Granada, xxviii (1997), pp. 125–39
    • M. Jacobs: Alhambra (New York, 2000)
    • A. Gámiz Gordo: La Alhambra nazarí: Apuntes sobre su paisaje y arquitectura (Seville, 2001)
    • O. Jones, J. Goury, and M. Campos Romero: Planos, alzados, secciones y detalles de la Alhambra (Madrid, 2001)
    • A. Malpica Cuello: La Alhambra de Granada, un estudio arqueológico, Monográfica Arte y arqueología, 55 (Granada, 2002)
    • F. Arnold: “Das Grab im Paradiesgarten: Zum Mausoleum der Naṣridischen Sultane auf der Alhambra ,” Madrid. Mitt., xliv (2003), pp. 426–54
    • J. M. Gomez-Moreno Calera: “Torres y puertas de la Alhambra: Ensayo morfologico-didactico,” Cuad. A. U. Granada, xxxv (2004), pp. 9–28
    • R. Irwin: The Alhambra (Cambridge, MA, 2004)

    B. Gardens.

    Medieval Granada was an agriculturally rich region with two rivers providing abundant water for its famous farm estates, gardens and orchards, which produced, among other crops, excellent figs. According to the historian Ibn al-Khatib (1313–75), the Alhambra palace complex, like Granada, was densely planted with so many verdant gardens that the light-colored stone of the towers and belvederes of the palace appeared like bright stars in an evening sky of dark vegetation.

    In the gardens of the Alhambra there is a constant play between openness and closure. While enclosed spaces are defined and contained by architecture, they are also juxtaposed with miradors offering multi-level views on to the palace gardens situated on the lower slopes of the Alhambra, looking beyond to the Albaycín Hill and surrounding countryside, and views from the Generalife across the ravine to the Alhambra with the Sierra Nevada in the distance. Such cultivated vistas are often framed by arched polylobed windows, as in the Salón de Comares (fig. (xiv) or the elegant Cuarto Dorado (fig. (xvi))). From the latter the view is north to the hills and streams of the “natural,” exterior landscape or in the opposite direction into an enclosed paved courtyard in which the only reference to nature is a fluted water basin in the center. The all-encompassing, sweeping vistas of garden and landscape at the Alhambra and Generalife belie the traditional concept of the Islamic garden as a self-contained, private space organized according to a simple, rigid geometry; instead, they show that different kinds of landscape experience were incorporated into garden design by manipulating the direction and distance of the gaze.

    The poetry inscribed on the walls and fountains of the Alhambra refers to the gardens and landscape. In the Patio de los Leones (fig. (xix)), for example, Ibn Zamrak's verses refer to the watercourses and vegetation, the architecture and space surrounding the garden and the view on to the surrounding countryside, as well as to Muhammad V, the patron for whom the garden was built. The belvederes and pavilions in the middle of each of the galleried sides contain small water jets or rivulets that flow toward the Lion Fountain and create an axial organization that suggests a miniature, “four-plot” garden (Pers. chahārbāgh). A visitor in 1602 observed six orange trees in each quadrant; thus the garden in the Patio de los Leones was probably planted with orange trees, vegetation and flowers, the surface of the soil a half meter or more below the level of the pavement.

    Several gardens in the Alhambra were refashioned after the Christian conquest of 1492. The Patio de Lindaraja (fig. (xxx)) in its original state was an open Islamic garden with an overlook provided by the projecting Mirador de Lindaraja (or de Daraxa; fig. (xxv); Arab. ῾ayn dār ῾ā῾isha: “Eye of the ῾A῾isha's Palace”), which was subsequently enclosed when converted into private apartments for Emperor Charles V (r. 1519–58). The Torre de las Damas in the Palacio del Partal (fig. (vi)) is also of the Nasrid period, functioning as a mirador with ground-floor windows and a tower on the left side providing expansive views toward the Albaycín Hill; the gardens of the Partal, however, are 20th-century restorations with modern designs and types of plants.

    When the Patio de la Acequia was excavated and restored in 1959 following a fire, a 13th-century quadripartite, Islamic garden was discovered. The original soil level was half a meter below the surrounding pavements, and the original irrigation system was intact, although neither was retained in the restoration. Two tall pavilions mark the ends of the garden, which is organized along a central axial watercourse, whose water is supplied from the mountains via the same aqueduct that supplies the Alhambra. The water-channel is bordered by planted beds and intersected by a short, narrow walkway. Although the garden is enclosed on four sides, the west wall is pierced by arches and a projecting mirador, which looks over the lower gardens (rest.) and across to the Alhambra. Above and to the northeast are other water-channels, pools and gardens, redesigned in later centuries after the Christian conquest. The highest is reached via a stairway ascending through verdant vegetation; the coping of the low walls of the stairs is hollowed to conduct refreshing and decorative trickles of water while water jets adorn each landing. Elsewhere the 18th-century avenue of cypress trees leads to the modern entrance of the Generalife.see also Garden, §III.


    • L. Torres Balbás: “Patios de crucero,” Al-Andalus, xxiii (1958), pp. 171–92
    • J. Bermúdez Pareja: “El Generalife después del incendio de 1958,” Cuad. Alhambra, i (1965), pp. 9–39
    • A. Fernández-Puertas: “Los jardines hispanomusulmanes del Generalife según la poesía,” Les Jardins de l’Islam: Compte rendu [du] 2ème colloque international sur la protection et la restauration des jardins historiques: Granada, 1973, pp. 196–201
    • F. Prieto Moreno: “El jardín nazarí,” Les Jardins de l’Islam: Compte rendu [du] 2ème colloque international sur la protection et la restauration des jardins historiques: Granada, 1973, pp. 170–75
    • F. Prieto Moreno: Los jardines de Granada (Madrid, 1973)
    • J. Dickie [Y. Zaki]: “The Islamic Garden in Spain,” The Islamic Garden, ed. E. B. Macdougall and R. Ettinghausen (Washington, DC, 1976), pp. 87–105
    • D. Fairchild Ruggles: “The Gardens of the Alhambra and the Concept of the Garden in Islamic Spain,” Al-Andalus: The Art of Islamic Spain (exh. cat., ed. J. D. Dodds; Granada, Alhambra; New York, Met.; 1992), pp. 162–71
    • L. Ramón-Laca Menéndez de Luarca: “Plantas cultivadas en los siglos XVI y XVII en la Alhambra y el Generalife,” Cuad. Alhambra, xxxv (1999), pp. 49–56
    • D. F. Ruggles: Gardens, Landscape, and Vision in the Palaces of Islamic Spain (University Park, PA, 2000)
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