Granada, Land of Blood and Sun

We spent yesterday in the city of Granada, Spain and centered our time around the exquisite Alhambra.

To understand Spain, and especially Granada, you have to first understand the roots of Spanish history. Phoenicians founded Cádiz in 1100 BC, Iberians came in 800 BC from across the Pyrenees, and the Carthaginians settled in 250 BC. Then came Rome, who mastered the land in 20 BC, making fertile Hispania an agricultural provider for the Empire. This united the people under the common language of Latin (which would later form what we know as Spanish in all its regional dialects), and under the common religion of catholicism in 300 BC. Biblical history tells us in Romans 15 (around 60 AD) that Paul hoped to journey to Spain with a stop in Rome to visit the Church there. In 711 AD, Spain slipped into new hands. Around 12,000 members of a new religion, Islam, invaded the peninsula and established a very tolerant rule from Córdoba for around 700 years. The Reconquista (catholic reconquest of the Spanish lands) ended this period. The last Moorish stronghold in Granada fell under Ferdinand and Isabel’s hand in 1492, while Columbus sought the Indies. When Boabdil, the last Moorish king fled Granada, he wept. His mother sneered, “You weep like woman for what you could not defend like a man!”

Granada Moorish Quarter Alhambra

View of the Moorish Quarter (Old City) from the Alhambra

The Alhambra was the king’s palace in Granada. It contains all of the intricate architectural details of the Moorish style: horseshoe arches, stalactites, vibrant colors, and the geometric tiling that showcased the Moor’s mathematical prowess and inspired artist MC Escher. But the main decoration at the Alhambra is water. In the arid lands of Islam, water was life and wealth–a precious commodity. As all kings since time in memoriam, the sultans flaunted their riches and thus, here, threw water away on plants, ponds, and fountains like it was just dust.

Water Feature Alhambra Fountain

Water Decorating the Alhambra

The centerpiece of this palace is known now as the Patio de Leones. The Jewish community got along quite well with the sultans, and presented them with the huge and beautiful lion fountain, a large basin resting on the backs of 12 lions (representing the 12 tribes of Judah). This brings to mind another Jewish symbol–Solomon’s molten sea, a great basin resting of the backs of graven oxen (II Chronicles 4:2-5).

Patio of Lions Leones Alhambra

Patio de Leones

Off of this court is the Hall of the Abencerrajes, the sultan’s living room. Boabdil’s father once took a new wife and wanted a new heir through her. To achieve this, he decided to cut off the children of his first marriage. Quite literally. At one time, he had 36 heads piled in the room’s fountain. The savage brutality is shocking now, though commonplace then. But, sic simper tyranus; his plan failed and Boabdil ascended to the throne.

Abencerrajes Alhambra Boabdil

The Living Room, Abencerrajes

There were many other interesting niches and corridors here. One door would lead to a 1200 AD bathroom with full plumbing, the one directly across from it led to the harem. Insets in the wall face Mecca for prayer. Windows peek out at the white-stucco city or the luxurious gardens inside the walls. And everywhere is heard the lush gurgle of water from fountains, pools, and irrigation tunnels.

Gardens Fountains Alhambra

Gardens and Fountains at the Alhambra

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8 Responses to “Granada, Land of Blood and Sun”

  1. TB Says:

    You all are blowing me away with all these amazing facts and photos. I feel like I am in a tour guide pamphlet! 🙂 Very interesting!

  2. vanbraman Says:

    Looks like you are having a great time. It was back to work for me today :-).

  3. ferrelljenkins Says:

    Delighted to see all of your comments and photos. Especially pleased to have a good photo of the Patio de Leones. The last time I was there was in the early days of digital photography. We just walked in the house less than an hour ago after an addition great week in Israel. Keep having fun, learning, and sharing.

    • trentandrebekah Says:

      Glad you and Elizabeth returned safely. We both immensely enjoyed our time in Israel with you (and Elie :). We now have lots of good information and pictures to review and distill into teaching material and such. Also, glad we could provide a useful photo!

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