Experience the Alhambra in 3D

Layers of beauty in Spain’s most fantastical fortress

By Google Arts & Culture

The Alhambra (2019-08-01/2019-08-01) by Jorge Fernández Salas

The Alhambra is a sprawling fortress complex perched on the top of a rocky outcrop overlooking the magnificent city of Granada. Work on the site started in 1238, when the city was the seat of the Islamic Emirate of Granada. 

Over the next few centuries, more palaces, administrative buildings and places of worship were added. As a result, the Alhambra features a wide range of architectural styles as well as layer upon layer of history. This history can be seen in the Alhambra’s structures, sculptures and styles. Peeling back these layers lets us explore the story of the fortress and learn how it came to be.

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The Alcazaba

The Alcazaba is one of the oldest parts of the Alhambra. The original fortifications for the complex, the instantly recognizable red Alcazaba is made up of a number of different structures. These include the Torre del Homenaje, the Torre del Cubo, the Barrio Castrense and the Jardin de los Adarves. 

The majority of the Alcazaba was constructed in the 1200s. Though additions were made in the following centuries. It’s thought the Alcazaba was built on the site of earlier Roman fortifications, making this prominent lookout one of the oldest defenses in Granada.

The Comares Palace

The Comares Palace is located to the east of the Mexuar, the entrance wing of the palace. It was built in the early 14th century, though numerous alterations have been made over the years. Home to the Sultan’s Throne, the Hall of Ambassadors and Comares Tower, the palace is one of the most important structures in the Alhambra. 

A number of facades in the palace are ornately decorated. The most famous is that in the Patio de Cuarto Dorado which features inscriptions of Arabic poems and verses of the Qur’an as well as intricate geometric patterns. 

Palace of Charles V

The Palace of Charles V, or the Palacio de Carlos V, is one of the most noticeable features of the Alhambra when the complex is viewed from above. Construction of the palace was ordered by Holy Roman Emperor Charles V who wanted a residence close to the royal palaces in the Alhambra. 

Standing 17 meters high and 63 meters wide, the square building has a large inner circular courtyard and an imposing stone façade. The courtyard has two levels, with carved columns supporting each floor. This gives the building a dramatic, theatrical appearance

The Palace of Lions

One of the most famous examples of Islamic architecture, the Palace of Lions is built around an ornate courtyard measuring 28.7m by 15.6m. Intricately decorated pavilions stand on the east and west sides of the courtyard and the center is occupied by the beautiful Fountain of Lions. 

Built between 1362 and 1391, the palace is made up of a number of halls and galleries, most of which are set around the central courtyard. The arcades of the palace's porticos and pavilions feature intricately carved stucco decoration, and the entire  structure exudes a feeling of opulence and luxury. 

Architectural Model based on the Alhambra, From the collection of: The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Architectural Model Based on the Alhambra, From the collection of: The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Architectural Model Based on the Alhambra Architectural Model Based on the Alhambra, Rafael Contreras, 19th century (?), From the collection of: The Metropolitan Museum of Art
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Architectural models based on carvings at the Alhambra

Entrada de la Sala de los Abencerrajes, Alhambra, Granada, Juan Laurent, 1865, From the collection of: The J. Paul Getty Museum
Alhambra (Main View), From the collection of: The J. Paul Getty Museum
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Elaborate carvings in the palaces of the Alhambra

The Alhambra (2016-07-10/2016-07-10) by Victoriano Izquierdo

Learn more about the Alhambra here.

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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