Nasrid Palace – the most impressive Islamic building in Europe

Nasrid Palace is located inside the fortress Alhambra of Granada in Andalusia. It is considered by many to be the most beautiful Muslim building in Europe, constructed by the Nasrid emirs when Spain was invaded by the Moors.

The Palace was finished towards the end of Muslim rule of Spain by the Sultans of Granada, Yusuf I (1333–1353) and Mohammed V (1353–1391). The Nasrid Palace is characterized by decorative columns, outstanding 13th-century mosaics, water, tall chambers with Arabic tiling, intricately molded stucco walls, arabesques, fine carved wooden ceilings, all decorated with geometrical and symbolic patterns.

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Nasrid Palace Photo Credit


Detail of arabesques Photo Credit

Nasrid Palace contains perfectly proportioned rooms and courtyards. It can be divided into three areas, each with a distinct function and different artistic characteristics. These are the Mexuar, the oldest part of the Palace, dating back to the 14th century and used as a council chamber; Comares Palace, the official residence of the Sultan; and the Palace of the Lions, which served as a private residence. The Comares Palace has typically Muslim decorations, while Christian influences are noticeable in the Palace of the Lions, perhaps as result of the friendship between Mohammed V and his Castilian counterpart Pedro I the Cruel.

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Detail of Islamic calligraphy in Mexuar Hall: “God is the only Victor.” Photo Credit

Entering the Palace through the Mexuar follows the courtyard Patio del Cuarto Dorado, where the Sultan received his vassals in the Alhambra, with the Cuarto Dorado (Golden Room) on the left. The room’s name comes from the magnificent woodwork ceiling, which was restored under the rule of the Catholic Monarchs. The room was used to write down and carry out the Sultan’s orders. The security guard of the Palace used the road that runs under the room. At the end of the Mexuar, overlooking the Río Darro, a small ornamented Oratorio (Prayer Room) is situated.

Sitting places in the hammam in the Nasrid palaces, Granada, Andalusia, Spain. Photo Credit

Opposite the Golden room is the entrance to the Palacio de Comares. It was the private residence built by Yusuf I around the Patio de los Arrayanes (Patio of the Myrtles), where the sultan’s harem was also located. It is named after the hedges around the rectangular pool and fountains in the Patio de los Arrayanes.

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The square Salón de Comares (Comares Hall), also called the Salón de los Embajadores (Hall of the Ambassadors), where the Sultan negotiated with the Christian emissaries. The ceiling has more than 8000 cedar stars representing the seven heavens of Islamic paradise, while the stucco work on the walls includes repeated inscriptions in praise of God.

Patio de los leones Photo Credit

The Patio de los Arrayanes leads into the Palacio de los Leones (Palace of the Lions). It was commissioned by the Sultan Mohammed V. The palace rooms are built around the Patio de los Leones (Lion Courtyard), that is surrounded by a low gallery with beautifully ornamented pavilions at its ends, supported on 124 white marble columns. The most famous element of the courtyard is the fountain of 12 marble lions. The courtyard symbolizes Paradise, divided into four parts, standing for the four parts of the world, by four rivers of Paradise, represented by water channels meeting at the fountain.

Stilted arches of the gallery, Patio de los Leones. Photo Credit


The fountain of 12 marble lions. Photo Credit

Among the other beautiful rooms and chambers in the Palaces are the Sala de Dos Hermanas (Hall of Two Sisters) with its huge central dome, and the Sala de los Reyes (Hall of the Kings) with leather-lined ceilings painted by 14th-century Christian artists. After the Spanish Christian Monarchs reconquered Granada in 1492, the Moors were forced to leave the country. The Nasrid Kingdom is the last Islamic sultanate on the Iberian Peninsula. After Nasrid Palace became the property of the monarchs, they made some changes, adding some sections and destroying others. In 1870, the palace was protected as an international monument and today is a UNESCO World Heritage site.