The most outstanding surviving examples of Moorish architecture in Spain are the Alhambra palace in Granada, the Alcázar Palace in Seville, and the Mezquita in Córdoba. My family made it a priority to visit all three this summer. These are all glorious, unique, works of art.
Of the three sites, unanimously our favorite was the Alcázar in Seville. The exterior is deceptive. The massive red Lion's Gate at the entrance looks like a military fortress, not a palace.
|My kids in front of the Lion's Gate.|
Even once inside the immediate courtyard, the Lion's Patio, the intricacies of the exquisite interior architecture are not yet revealed.
|Lion's Patio inside Seville's Alcázar Palace.|
Through the triple arches another courtyard, called the Patio de la Montería, allows us to see the entrance of the Palacio Pedro I, the original palace of King Pedro I, constructed in 1364 on the site of a lavish grand mosque. Many subsequent monarchs added to the construction of the palace and the upper floor is still regularly used by the Spanish royal family today.
|Patio de la Montería.|
The palace façade is decorated in Mudéjar style with emblematic horseshoe arches and carved stonework.
Immediately upon entering the palace our gasps began. We had rented audio guides, and even the kids were spellbound by the history and descriptions of the centuries of craftsmen who designed this magnificent complex.
The grand buildings and halls are arranged around a number of patios, and the elements of light and water were obviously carefully considered in their delicate construction. Water is ultimately significant in Islamic culture - water is life - so everywhere there are fountains, reflecting pools, and narrow running canals (which, if in the U.S., would have been cordoned off as a tripping hazard) through rooms and halls.
|Beauty in the Alcázar, ankle breakers in the U.S.|
Ceramic tilework (azulejo) and mosaics are abundant and beautiful.
Over centuries of additions and reconstructions by Moors and then Spanish Christians after the Reconquista, Alcázar Palace now exhibits a fusion of Mudéjar, Gothic, Renaissance, and Neoclassical architectural styles. The result, if I haven't already mentioned it, is an absolutely stunning work of art. The four of us took over 300 pictures. Photos never seem to do justice to ceilings, but these domes, squares, and polygons were wondrous, too.
Just when my husband, son, daughter, and I thought we couldn't be any more impressed on that hot July day inside the walls of the Alcázar, we entered the gardens. I think their description will have to wait for another blog post.
Fast facts about the Alcázar Palace in Seville:
• Touring with toddlers or young children is no problem. The halls and rooms are mostly empty of furniture or breakables. The gardens are expansive and full of peacocks, pond fish, and friendly stray kittens. There's even a garden bush labyrinth.
• Some websites mistakenly state that the Alcázar is closed on Mondays. It is open on Mondays.
• Admission is 8.50€ per adult, 6.50€ per child.
• Audio guides are informative and essential to understanding the history and beauty of the Royal Alcázar.