The Alhambra and Royal Chapel


Granada is often visited by people from all corners of the world thanks to it being an epicentre for Spanish-Islamic art. One of the most famous and most visited locations in all of Spain and is so important to the history of the world that it was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1984, putting it on a par with the likes of Venice, Rome, the Great Barrier Reef and the Everglades National Park.

The Alhambra, which translates to “The Red One,” is a palace and fortress that was originally constructed as a small fortress in AD 889 on the remains of a Roman fortification and was mostly forgotten about until Nasrid emir Mohammed ben Al-Ahmar of the Emirate of Granada renovated and rebuilt it in the mid-13th century. In 1333, the Alhambra was converted into a royal palace before it became a Royal Court of Ferdinand and Isabella in 1492; Christopher Columbus received royal endorsements for his expedition in this very place.

Over the next few centuries, several parts of the Alhambra were damaged and ultimately destroyed before a major earthquake in 1821 further damaged the iconic building. Restoration of the Alhambra began in 1828 by famous architect Jose Contreras and major improvements were made by Leopoldo Torres Balbas in the 1930s; he re-excavated filled in pool and opened arcades that had previously been walled up.

The Alhambra has several key areas within its grounds, including the Royal complex, which is elaborately decorated, the Court of the Myrtles that contains a large pond set in the marble pavement, the largest room in the Alhambra known as the Hall of Ambassadors, and the Court of the Lions and fountain.

Another famous Granada landmark is the Royal Chapel, which the Catholic Monarchs chose as their burial site by a royal decree in 1504. It is built over the former terrace of the Great mosque and is highly important to Granada history. It is in the Royal Chapel where you can find the graves of Isabella 1 of Castile and her husband Ferdinand II of Aragon, plus Joanna of Castile “the Mad” and her husband Philip I of Castile “the handsome” although his heart is buried in the Church of Our Lady in Bruges, Belgium.

There is also the sarcophagus of the infant Miguel da Paz, Prince of Portugal, the grandson of the Catholic Monarchs. These five lead coffins, along with the main fence, and main altar and the most important parts of the Royal Chapel, but as they are still dedicated to Catholic worship, they are not accessible to the general public. The Royal Chapel also houses the Sacristy-Museum where galleries of painting from Spanish, Italian and Flemish artists can be discovered including the rare example of Agony in the Garden by Sandro Botticelli, along with the goldsmith where the crown and sceptre of the Catholic Monarchs was made. If you ever have the opportunity to visit Granada, you should go out of your way to see both the Alhambra and the Royal Chapel because they are a sight to behold.