The historic city of G r a n a d a
Almost unrivalled for beauty and architectural splendour, the entire city has been declared a national monument. It lies at the foot of Spain´s mightiest massif, the Sierra Nevada, and on the edge of an extraordinarily fertile plain. A provincial capital with a university and archaepiscopal see, the city is divided by the Darro which runs underground in the city centre.
On the right lies Albaicín, the city´s oldest quarter; on the left rises the imposing Alhambra. To the south the city is bordered by the Río Genil into which the Darro flows. This fertile area was already settled in the 5th Century BC and was known as Iliberis in Roman times. The city was founded under the Visigoths, whose domination ended with the Arab victory in 711. 'Elvira' (Granada was just a nearby settlement) was ruled by a viceroy dependent upon Córdoba until the fall of the Caliphate in Córdoba in 1031.
During the next two centuries Granada was ruled by the Berber dynasty of the Almoravides and then Berber Almohades, until the first Nasrite king, Mohammed I, established a kingdom in 1241. After the capture of Córdoba by the Christian armies in 1236 the town increased in importance, reaching its brilliant zenith under the rule of the Moorish Nasrites, who were tolerated by the Castilian kings. It was the only surviving bastion of Islam in Spain until the last king of Granada had to relinquish the city to Ferdinand and Isabella at the treaty of Santa Fé in 1491.
The famous haumanist Diego Hurtado de Mendoza (1503-75), who was born in Granada, described the capture of the town. In the same way that the Alhambra palace was built during the Nasrite dynasty and a lively cultural environment was able to develop in the densely populated and wealthy city, so too were the new Spanish powers able to enrich Granada with splendid Renaissance and baroque buildings. However, from 1570, following the expulsion of the Moors who had rebelled against the represive measures of Philip II, the economical and historical importance of Granada declined. Vital irrigation systems which were destroyed at the time were not rebuilt until the 20th century.
In the 17th century the versatile Granada-born artist, Alonso Cano, who was a painter, sculptor and architect, made an important contributionto the appearance of the town. His buildings were of a stylistic importance which reached beyond the confines of Granada itself. The sculptor Pedro de Mena, who was also born in Granada was Cano´s pupil.
The palace and gardens of the Generalife stand on the slopes of the Cerro del Sol ('Hill of the Sun'), next to the Alhambra. This country house for the Moorish kings of Granada was built in the 13th century, and rebuilt in the 14th. The Patio de la Acequia ('Courtyard of the Stream') is the most interesting part; its northern section, the best preserved. The Patio de la Sultana ('Courtyard of the Sultaness'), also called the Court of Cypresses, merits special mention too.
The Royal Chancery
The Chancery, Law Court or Supreme Tribunal of Justice, according to the period, is a building of the 16th century. It is built around a central patio with arcade and vestibule. Designed by Diego de Siloé, the patio has a lower floor with Doric columns that support semicircular arches with medallion and leaves. On top of this arcade is an upper floor with stone balustrade and classic columns of the Jonic style. The facade is of a severe style and very harmonious. It has an enormous variety of highly dynamic decorative elements, indications of the Baroque, which was then in its dawn; nevertheless, it contains some clearly Renaissance-style elements, such as the bossage or the triangular frontons. Al in All, it is a building of the transition between Renaissance and Baroque. The square where it is situated is an area that was very much rebuilt after the Christian reconquest.
Santa Ana´s Church
In front of the Chancery and in the Santa Ana´s Square is the church of the same name. It is a small church designed by Diego de Siloé. It has a simple facade with a semicircular arch, many niches with statues and a medallion with the Virgin and Christ Child. The brick tower has balconies (the upper one divided) with arches decorated with ceramic tiles. The interior has five chapels on each side, covered by Mudéjar-style coffered ceilings.
Monument of the Agreements
This is the work of sculptor Mariano Benlliure, from the 19th century. On a high pedestal, with allusive historic inscriptions, are the statues of Cristopher Columbus and Queen Isabel in the moment in which the discoverer presents his projects.
Madraza (Arab University)
Situated in front of the Royal Chapel, it was founded by King Yusef I in the 14th century, even though it has today a Baroque facade from the 18th century. The patio has a beautiful arcade and in the upper floor is the Twenty-Four Knights´ Room, splendidly decorated in Plateresque style.
The Royal Chapel
The chapel was ordered by the Catholic King and Queen for their burial site. Together with them were buried the mortal remains of the King of Castile, Felipe, and of the Queen Juana, by order of the Emperor Carlos V. The costruction project was given to Enrique Egas, who had already collaborated on the project of the Cathedral. Its architecture is of the late Gothic, combined with Renaissance elements. One of its most outstanding features is the profusion of its heraldic decoration, with coats of arms of King Fernando and Queen Isabel, the royal emblem of the yoke and arrows and the initials F and Y.
A Gothic ground floor of five naves, with various side chapels and a double sanctuary or apse aisle make up a Renaissance-style structure with evident Gothic elements, as planned by Diego de Siloé. Especially eye-catching is the great height of the naves, achieved by using pedestales on which rest groups of split columns, with classic capitals and upper entablature. Crowning all of it are the ribbed ogival vaults and stained-glass windows depicting religious themes, some of them by Flemish masters, which illuminate the interior.
The Main Chapel is a golden beauty, almost a work of perfection by Diego de Siloé. The entrance arch or main arch narrows in its centre to adapt to the enormous circular vault which it supports. At the sides of this arch are the statues of the King and Queen in prayer, and above them, the busts of Adam and Eve. The Renaissance influence can be appreciated here in the main chapel with its Corinthian columns and entablature with reliefs. Statues of the twelve apostles and other saints are found on shelves attached to the columns. Above the arches are spaces for tombs, covered by paintings. Continuous narrow balconies complete the group. In the upper part the Corinthian columns are finer, on pedestals decorated with paintings; among these are stone alterpieces which hold seven large paintings by Alonso Cano, which depict episodes in the life of the Virgin. Large Flemish stained-glass windows from the 16th century illuminate the Chapel. Furthermore, there are 17th century choir stalls, which used to be in the centre of the main nave.
Noble Girls School
In front of the Facade of San Jerónimo is situated the Noble Girls School. Founded in the 16th century for the schooling of the daughters of the nobility, its facade is of Plateresque style, and inside are Mudéjar-style coffered ceilings.
The Ecclesiastic Curia
This building was costructed to carry out the functions of an Imperial College annexed to the university, it was so used until 1769. It was built in the Plateresque style. The patio is bordered by semicircular arches and classic columns. The facade is more clearly Renasssance-style with a coat-of-arms of the Archbishop in the centre.