Alhambra

Historical fortress complex in Granada, Andalusia, Spain

One of the 21 Finalists

Alhambra

Granada, Spain

The Alhambra (/ælˈhæmbrə/; Spanish: [aˈlambɾa]; Arabic: الْحَمْرَاء‎‎ [ʔælħæmˈɾˠɑːʔ], Al-Ḥamrā, lit. “The Red One”), the complete Arabic form of which was Qalat Al-Hamra, is a palace and fortress complex located in Granada, Andalusia, Spain. It was originally constructed as a small fortress in AD 889 on the remains of Roman fortifications and then largely ignored until its ruins were renovated and rebuilt in the mid-13th century by the Moorish emir Mohammed ben Al-Ahmar of the Emirate of Granada, who built its current palace and walls. It was converted into a royal palace in 1333 by Yusuf I, Sultan of Granada. After the conclusion of the Christian Reconquista in 1492, the site became the Royal Court of Ferdinand and Isabella (where Christopher Columbus received royal endorsement for his expedition) and the palaces were partially altered to Renaissance tastes. In 1526 Charles I & V commissioned a new Renaissance palace better befitting of the Holy Roman Emperor in the revolutionary Mannerist style influenced by Humanist philosophy in direct juxtaposition with the Nasrid Andalusian architecture, but which was ultimately never completed due to Morisco rebellions in Granada.

Alhambra’s late flowering of Islamic palaces were built for the last Muslim emirs in Spain during the decline of the Nasrid dynasty who were increasingly subject to the Christian Kings of Castile. After being allowed to fall into disrepair for centuries, the buildings occupied by squatters, Alhambra was rediscovered following the defeat of Napoleon, who had conducted retaliatory destruction of the site, the re-discoverers were first British intellectuals and then other north European Romantic travelers. It is now one of Spain’s major tourist attractions, exhibiting the country’s most significant and well-known Islamic architecture, together with 16th-century and later Christian building and garden interventions. The Alhambra is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and the inspiration for many songs and stories.

Moorish poets described it as “a pearl set in emeralds,” an allusion to the colour of its buildings and the woods around them. The palace complex was designed with the mountainous site in mind and many forms of technology were considered. The park (Alameda de la Alhambra), which is overgrown with wildflowers and grass in the spring, was planted by the Moors with roses, oranges, and myrtles; its most characteristic feature, however, is the dense wood of English elms brought by the Duke of Wellington in 1812. The park has a multitude of nightingales and is usually filled with the sound of running water from several fountains and cascades. These are supplied through a conduit 8 km (5.0 mi) long, which is connected with the Darro at the monastery of Jesus del Valle above Granada.

Despite long neglect, willful vandalism, and some ill-judged restoration, the Alhambra endures as an atypical example of Muslim art in its final European stages, relatively uninfluenced by the direct Byzantine influences found in the Mezquita of Córdoba. The majority of the palace buildings are quadrangular in plan, with all the rooms opening on to a central court, and the whole reached its present size simply by the gradual addition of new quadrangles, designed on the same principle, though varying in dimensions, and connected with each other by smaller rooms and passages. Alhambra was extended by the different Muslim rulers who lived in the complex. However, each new section that was added followed the consistent theme of “paradise on earth”. Column arcades, fountains with running water, and reflecting pools were used to add to the aesthetic and functional complexity. In every case, the exterior was left plain and austere. Sun and wind were freely admitted. Blue, red, and a golden yellow, all somewhat faded through lapse of time and exposure, are the colors chiefly employed.

The decoration consists for the upper part of the walls, as a rule, of Arabic inscriptions -mostly poems by Ibn Zamrak and others praising the palace- that are manipulated into geometrical patterns with vegetal background set onto an arabesque setting (“Ataurique”). Much of this ornament is carved stucco (plaster) rather than stone. Tile mosaics (“alicatado”), with complicated mathematical patterns (“tracería”, most precisely “lacería”), are largely used as panelling for the lower part. Similar designs are displayed on wooden ceilings (Alfarje). Muqarnas are the main elements for vaulting with stucco, and some of the most accomplished dome examples of this kind are in the Court of the Lions halls. The palace complex is designed in the Nasrid style, the last blooming of Islamic Art in the Iberian Peninsula, that had a great influence on the Maghreb to the present day, and on contemporary Mudejar Art, which is characteristic of western elements reinterpreted into Islamic forms and widely popular during the Reconquista in Spain.

Spain

Interesting Facts

Alhambra


Location

Granada, Spain

Instance of

Palace, architectural structure & tourist attraction

The Official

New 7 Wonders of the World

Great Wall of China

series of fortifications built along the historical border of China

Machu Picchu

15th-century Inca site in Peru

Taj Mahal

A white marble mausoleum in Agra, India

Petra

Arabian historical and archaeological city, Jordan

Chichén Itzá

Pyramid at Chichén Itzá, Yucatan Peninsula, Mexico

Colosseum

elliptical amphitheatre in Rome

Christ the Redeemer

statue of Jesus in Río de Janeiro, Brazil

Worldmap

The 21 Finalists

Latest News

New7Wonders continues, find out how in our News Room

The New York Times presents the New Seven Wonders of the World in 360 video

"Experience these majestic sites during moments of solitude in 360 video," is how The New York Times introduced readers to its interactive feature titled The New Seven Wonders of the World', which was compiled by Veda Shastri, Guglielmo Mattioli and Kaitlyn Mullin. "Built on four continents, most by ancient and medieval…

7Wonders Day in the international media

The universal calendar has a new observance day: 7 Wonders Day. On 7 July from now on, the world will celebrate the event that honours the 21 iconic wonders chosen by hundreds of millions of votes in three global campaigns: the New7Wonders of the World, the New7Wonders of Nature…

Presenting the 7Wonders Day Poster Collection

To commemorate 7Wonders Day, Alessandra Fasino has created a poster collection representing the entire list of Wonders that combines vibrant typography with a rainbow of colours. Each poster is a microcosm of each Wonder and they all express the character of the places and the people being celebrated on 7Wonders…

A day to wonder! World 7 Wonders Day

Zurich, Switzerland: On 7 July this year, and every year from now on, the world will celebrate 7 Wonders Day. The event honours the 21 iconic wonders chosen by hundreds of millions of votes following three historic global campaigns: the New7Wonders of the World, the New7Wonders of Nature and…

Bernard Weber: "Have a Wonderful New Year!"

ZURICH, SwitzerlandDear Wonderful FriendsPlease accept my warmest wishes at the start of the New Year. In 2017, let us all adopt the New7Wonders positive vision of life, and inspired by this, we can work together to build a more harmonious and just world.Undoubtedly, the highlight of our past 12…

Wonderful Content loading...

Hello! Contact New 7 Wonders Close

Do you have any questions about the New7Wonders campaigns?
Are you writing an article, do you have a project in mind?
Maybe you have an idea using the New7Wonders concept?
Whatever it is, just say "Hello!" to us, and we will reply as soon as we can.

If you are from the press or a media organisation, or a social media reporter, please use this form to contact Eamonn Fitzgerald, New7Wonders Head of Communications.

If you have an idea involving the New7Wonders concept, or maybe you want to associate New7Wonders with your product or brand, or any other commercial or business or new creative idea, please use this form to contact Jean-Paul de la Fuente, New7Wonders Head of Value Development.>