Reales Alcazares in Seville

Located across the square from the Cathedral of Seville is the Reales Alcazares or royal fortress, which functioned as the palace of the kings of Seville. Their rooms or salons and gardens attract thousands of visitors and rival the Cathedral in popularity. A walk-through will make you understand why. Muslim rule in Seville lasted from 711 to 1248, and the Almohad dynasty, despite its brief tenure, arguably left the largest mark, architecturally speaking.


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Muslim and Christian architecture combined in the Mudejar style to make the Alcazar of Seville what it is today. The term means "those who accepted submission". In a few words, Western architecture, such as Gothic and Renaissance, were perceived through a Muslim lens. Brick was the principal material used. One can easily detect the Muslim influence in the arches and decoration. The Puerta del Leon of two towers and the royal lion welcomes you in. You step into the Patio de la Monteria or Hunting Patio; it leads to Sala de la Justicia or Hall of Justice.


Picture of the enterance to the Realez Alcazares The original Muslim palace dates from 913 built on Visigoth ruins. Later, the second Taifa king of Seville, Al-Mutamid who reigned between 1069 and 1091, extended the building and named it "Al-Mubarak" or "the Blessing" with its entrance at the present Manara gate. In 1254, King Afonso X added a more Gothic touch when he built the Palacio de Caracol with its Salones de Fiestas and the Four Towers famous for its spiral staircases. Peter I of Castile and Charles V made the most radical changes in the mid XIVth and XVIth Centuries respectively.

Peter I of Castile, who reigned between 1350 and 1369, hired Muslim artisans to construct the fortress on old Muslim ruins in 1364. Arcades and walls cover the courtyards protecting the residents from prying eyes. Pools and fountains populate the grounds. The tiles are characteristically Arabic. Go to the Patio de las Munecas or Dolls' Patio whose arches are repeated in a horseshoe shape. If you go to the Patio de las Doncellas or Patio of the Maidens, you will walk into legend, because Christians created the myth that the Muslim ruler demanded an annual tribute of 100 maidens.


A look along one of the perimiter walls inside the gardens

The Salon de Embajadores or Hall of the Ambassadors is now located in Al-Mutamid's Grand Hall. The bedrooms of the Muslim rulers are also nearby. In 1427, its orange shaped and coloured ball was completed. Some say that this room is the main attraction. It is hard to argue with such a statement, as its dome ceiling called Media Naranja or Half Orange simply absorbs your gaze. Carved from wood and gilded in gold, one can only marvel at its ingenuity. On its second floor, a royal chapel was added in 1504 for King Ferdinand II and Queen Isabella I of Castile and Aragon. Do remember to pause at the multi-coloured altar and say a prayer to the muses.


The original Muslim palace dates from 913 built on Visigoth ruins. Later, the second Taifa king of Seville, Al-Mutamid who reigned between 1069 and 1091, extended the building and named it "Al-Mubarak" or "the Blessing" with its entrance at the present Manara gate. In 1254, King Afonso X added a more Gothic touch when he built the Palacio de Caracol with its Salones de Fiestas and the Four Towers famous for its spiral staircases. Peter I of Castile and Charles V made the most radical changes in the mid XIVth and XVIth Centuries respectively. Picture of the enterance to the Realez Alcazares

Charles V, the Holy Roman Emperor, also known as Charles I of Spain, made more changes beginning in 1540. His son, Philip II, completed them in 1572. They included a labyrinth and pavilion designed in a stricter Gothic style. Every hallway and apartment is lavishly decorated with tapestries and azulejos. Luis de Vega built a second floor to the Patio de las Doncellas in a more Italian Renaissance style.

So many rooms! Go to the Baths of Maria de Padilla, who was a mistress to King Peter I of Castile. She helped him strengthen his rule, but he would murder her husband, after which she burnt herself with hot water and became a nun. The light from the main window generates an interesting colour effect. Beside the Patio de la Monteria is the Casa de Contratacion or House of Trades. It was built in 1503 to help regulate trade with the Spanish colonies in the Americas. A school of navigation was once here and its first director was Amerigo Vespucci. Its lovely chapel contains the Madonna of the Seafarers made in 1535.

Christian Biblical verses are written on the walls in a beautiful Arabic script Look at the frieze patterns. They mix colours and shape at an incredible rate. Palm and myrtle are just some of the plants giving a peaceful perfume to the palace. The Alcazar of Seville remains an official residence of the current Spanish royal family. A few words of advice: always look up!



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