NOTE: When I started this blog back in May of 2013, in Spain, I struggled to put pictures into a post, not knowing how to do it well. The struggle was enough of a hassle that I quit until I could master this blogging art (old-dog problem). Now, almost a year later, roosting in New Zealand with over 50 posts to my credit, I am returning to my Spain pictures to back-fill those adventures. And indeed, as much as NZ is an amazing adventure in physical beauty, Spain is an amazing adventure in culture and history. You’ll see.
Aaaaaand, picking up where we left off, now we’re at Sevilla’s Alcazar. Oh my. Originally it was a palace built in the AD 900’s for the local governors of the local Moorish state (the picture shows an original palace wall). After the fall of Sevilla in the 1300’s the palace was extensively expanded and rebuilt when the Christian King Pedro the Cruel left his wife and moved to the Alcazar with his mistress. He hired Muslim workers from Grenada to recreate the romance of that city’s Alhambra (we’ll see Grenada in a coming post). The style is called “Mudejar” – built by Moorish craftsmen for Christian rulers – and even with the subsequent hodgepodge that comes from more than 800 years of lived-in renovation, the Alcazar is considered Spain’s best example of that style. Mudejar is distinctly Islamic, using tile and plaster and wood that is highly decorated with a dominant geometrical character. Its striking appearance is the result of the interconnection and superimposition of geometric design with different stylized elements such as stars, leaves, flowers, shells and calligraphy (quotations from the Quran) – anything but human or animal forms, depictions of which are forbidden by Islam. The Mudejar’s complicated patterns have never been surpassed in sophisication; computer analysis has shown that many of the patterns followed complicated mathematical equations. You might want to take a close look at the plaster decoration shown here (it’s the inside of an entrance arch). That’s plaster, carved in 3-D, with stylized flowers and leaves arranged in a complicated pattern interweaving and repeating. It’s truly amazing art, but it’s very hard to capture its intricacies with a camera – from afar the detail is not easily seen, and up close one can only view a tiny piece of the interconnecting, incredible and mesmerizingly beautiful work. The walls, the arches, the ceilings, and even the floors are all amazing. I’ll try to give you a feeling for it. One could stand and gaze at this stuff for hours – which I guess we did.
The floor plan of the palace is very confusing, perhaps as a protective device and likely as a means to impress with surprises. It does that. Every turn, every corner is a WOW. The palace is still occupied today, but rarely, when the King and Queen of Spain visit (then the palace is closed to the public; hence tour guides are not big fans of royalty). In this picture, you’re standing in the Plaza de la Monteria; on the right is the Admiral’s Apartments from the early 1500’s. When Columbus returned with news of the New World, Queen Isabel realized it could result in big business and created this wing to administer New World ventures. To the left (out of view) is the Gothic Wing, built in the 1200’s; you can see a piece of it through the gate in the first picture. We’re going straight ahead into King Pedro the Cruel’s Palace of the 1300’s. Of course the palace has seen 8 centuries of living, and the colors are faded, and there are chinks here and there, so you’ll have to imagine how grand it must have been; nevertheless, although time has taken its toll, and colors are often gone, what’s left is still going to blow you away!
First let me show you some close-ups of the entrance and upper level. Wow, we thought, clueless as to what was to follow.
Then comes the interior, and it starts out “isn’t that nice”. Note the interesting ceilings!
As we wander through the maze of interconnecting rooms, the “isn’t that nice” slowly ratchets up to Holy S…!” The intricate plasterwork begins to occupy the columns and walls, and the ceilings are incredibly beautiful, each with very different designs.
We come to the Court of the Maidens, a central area surrounded by a number of other connected rooms, and likely an area where the king did business. Not too shabby! The upper level was actually added in the 1500’s (Renaissance style), but I think it works. Other views are shown below.
The arched entrances to the other rooms have fabulous plaster decorations!
The ceilings in the walkways are varied and spectacular, as are all the patterns in plaster.
The lower part of the walls are solid tile in a great variety of intricate designs; in the one shown here, the geometric lines produce 8-sided stars and the appearance of squares, yet none of the lines makes even more than 1/8th of the side of a square! I dare you to try and follow the path of one of the defining lines!
Below are pictures from some of the connecting rooms, beginning with a picture of one of the gorgeous wood shutters for the windows; each window has shutters with different patterns.
Next we come to the Dolls’ Court, which gets its name from two tiny faces decorating one of the arches. This room is thought to be the harem in the original palace (rank has its privileges), but which became a private region for King Pedro and his family. Originally the court center had a pool, reflecting the once brightly colored decorative patterns.
As we wander around, getting lost in the maze of rooms, I take more pictures, mostly ceilings and window shutters.
Then we stumble upon this entrance. It goes to the Hall of the Ambassadors. The room is – can I find more superlatives? – the most fabulous amazing ornate spectacular palace room (see below). Because of the startlingly unique ceiling, it is also called “The Room of the Half-Orange”.
Wow! How do you follow that?! We wander on – it’s hard to top the Hall of Ambassadors, but we do find some very nice ceilings in connecting rooms, as shown below;
and suddenly we’re in the Gothic wing of the palace. It’s strikingly different (see first two pictures), but it does contain some very interesting tapestries from Brussels dating to the 1500’s.
From the Gothic Wing there is an exit to the Gardens, which are more than extensive.
Finally, we exit through what was once the “parking lot” for the visitors’ carriages and horses.
Hope you enjoyed this visit to the Alcazar and its Mudejar art.
The next post will be about the fascinating city of Malaga on the Costa del Sol.