Date: Dec, 2014
Location: Cordoba, Spain
The Alcázar de los Reyes Cristianos (Alcázar of the Christian Monarchs) is a medieval era Alcázar located in the historic center of Córdoba next to the Guadalquivir River, close to the Grand Mosque (now the Mezquita Cathedral de Cordoba) and the Puente Romano de Cordoba (Roman Bridge).
In early medieval times, the site was a Visigoth fortress. After the Umayyad conquest, the emirs of the Umayyad Caliphate in Damascus rebuilt the structure. After the Umayyads fell to the Abbasid Caliphate, the surviving member of the Dynasty, Abd ar-Rahman I, fled to Cordoba. His successors established the independent Caliphate of Cordoba and used the Alcázar as their palace. The city flourished as an important political and cultural center, and the Alcázar was expanded to a very large compound with baths, gardens, and the largest library in the West at the time. Watermills on the nearby Guadalquivir powered water pumps to irrigate the extensive gardens.
In 1236, Christian forces took Cordoba during the Reconquista. In 1328, Alfonso XI of Castile began building the present day structure on part of the site of the old fortress. Other parts of the Moorish Alcázar had been given as spoils to the bishop, nobles, and the Order of Calatrava. Alfonso’s structure retained only part of the Moorish ruins but the structure appears Islamic since Alfonso used the Mudéjar style.
The monarchs Isabella and Ferdinand used the Alcázar for one of the first permanent tribunals of the Spanish Inquisition and as a headquarters for their campaign against the Nasrid dynasty in Granada, the last remaining Moorish kingdom in the Iberian Peninsula. The Inquisition began using the Alcázar as one of its headquarters in 1482, converting much of it, including the Arab baths, into torture and interrogation chambers. The Inquisition maintained a tribunal here for three centuries.
In 1492, Ferdinand and Isabella also welcomed Christopher Columbus to the Alcázar who explained his plans to find a westbound sea route to India which ultimately resulted in the discovery of the Americas.
The Alcázar later served as a garrison for Napoleon Bonaparte’s troops in 1810 and then a prison in 1821. It was declared a national monument in the 1950s.
The Alcázar houses several remarkable ancient artifacts including Roman sarcophaguses from the third century and tessellations from the second century. The major attraction, however, are the magnificent gardens. The entire fortress is encircled by massive walls with four towers: Lion’s Tower, River Tower, Homenaje Tower and Vela Tower.