Wednesday, July 10: The Alcázar de los Reyes Cristianos (Spanish for “Alcázar of the Christian Monarchs”), also known as the Alcázar of Córdoba, takes its name from the Arabic word القصر (Al-Qasr, meaning “the Palace”). The fortress was one of the primary residences for the Christian Monarchs, Isabella and Ferdinand.
It is designed in the Mudéjar style, which is a fusion of Moorish and Christian Gothic, and was the scene of famous historic events including the planning of the voyage of Columbus.
In 1236, Christian forces took Córdoba during the Reconquista. In 1328, Alfonso XI of Castile began building the present day structure on part of the site for the old fortress. Other parts of the Moorish Alcázar had been given as spoils to the bishop and nobles. Alfonso’s structure retained only part of the Moorish ruins but the structure appears Islamic since Alfonso used the Mudéjar style.
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.
Isabella and Ferdinand’s campaign against Granada succeeded in 1492. The same year, the monarchs met Christopher Columbus in the Alcázar as he prepared to take his first voyage to the Americas.
The Alcázar served as a garrison for Napoleon Bonaparte’s troops in 1810. In 1821, the Alcázar became a prison. Finally, the Spanish government made the Alcázar a tourist attraction and national monument in the 1950s. (Wikipedia: Alcázar de los Reyes Cristianos)
It’s amazing to stroll around the grounds of such a place and think of the history that happened here. Today, the place is swarming with tourists, but centuries ago, huge decisions were being made by Christian Kings and Queens about ridding the Iberian Peninsula of Muslims and other non-believers and about discovering riches in new lands.
I loved the Alcazar in Seville, but the heat on the day I visited was enough to put a damper on my enthusiasm. This place with its long pools and gentle and soothing fountains, and numerous shade trees, is much more pleasant. I’d say that this Alcazar, though it lacks the beautiful Islamic arches that Seville’s Alcazar has in abundance, is a very pleasing place indeed.