Alhambra: Gardens of the Partal

Torre de las Damas (Tower of the Ladies), a building with an open portico located in the Partal Gradens, Alhambra, Granada, Spain

Located between the Medina (i.e., city) and the Nasrid Palaces, the area covered by the present Gardens of the Partal was mostly residential during the Nasrid era. Because of the convenient location, the people who worked in the palaces lived there. Medina, which had shops, baths, and mosques, was nearby and met their daily needs. 

After the Christian kings took over the Alhambra, the houses and other buildings in this area fell into disrepair. A major restoration of the Alhambra took place from 1923 to 1936, during which period this area became an archaeological site. Excavations of this site led to the discovery of numerous Moorish houses and even a palace attributed to Yusuf III. The gardens in this area are a modern construction and were part of the restoration that in the 1930s.

The Gardens of the Partal consists of few buildings near the Nasrid Palaces and the gardens built on the slopes north of the upper Alhambra. The two main buildings in this area are 1. Torre de las Damas (Tower of the Ladies) 2. Oratorio del Partal (Oratory of the Partal).

Torre de las Damas (Tower of the Ladies)

Torre de las Damas (Tower of the Ladies), a building with an open portico located in the Partal Gradens, Alhambra, Granada, Spain
Torre de las Damas (Tower of the Ladies)

Built sometime between 1302 and 1309 CE during the reign of Muhammed III, the Torre de las Damas (Tower of the Ladies), which used to be called the Partal, is one of the oldest buildings in Alhambra. Partal means portico in Arabic. The Gardens of Partal got its name because of this building.

It had many modifications and renovations done to it over the years, but eventually, it was neglected and fell into disrepair. Fortunately, it underwent a significant restoration in 1924, and the beautiful building you see now is the result of that restoration.

As you can see from the image, the Tower of the Ladies consists of a tower, a hall, and an open portico. Resting on the marble pillars of the portico are the five arches. Only the middle arch, which is higher than the other four, belonged to the original building.

The image on the left shows the ceiling of the portico of the Tower of the Ladies. As you can see from the image, the ceiling has several repetitive geometrical patterns, including many recessed octagons, arranged symmetrically with a deeply-recessed multi-angled niche at the center.

The beautifully decorated wooden ceiling shown in the image is a delight to watch and is a great example of Mudéjar art, a style of decoration originated in Moorish Spain and is a fusion of Islamic and Christian art. There are many rooms in Nasrid Palaces and Generalife with ceilings decorated with Mudéjar art.

The image on the right shows the hall behind the portico of the Tower of the Ladies. As you can see from the image, it provides a great view of the city of Granada.

Oratorio del Partal

An interior view of the Oratory, a building located in the Partal Gradens, Alhambra, Granada, Spain
An interior view of the Oratory showing the mihrab

The image shows an interior view of the Oratorio del Partal (Oratory of the Partal), a small building next to the Tower of the Ladies. Attributed to Yusef I (1333-1354), the seventh and one of the most prominent ruler of the Nasrid dynasty, the Oratory was a house of prayer, which was used by the sultan for namaz (prayer). It was first restored in the 1930s, then again in 2017 to the present form.

As you can see from the image, the highly decorated wall has a niche, known as mihrab, oriented towards the Kaaba of Mecca. The upper part of the mihrab has a beautiful arch surrounded by a square border carved with Islamic calligraphy. Beautifully carved arabesques fill the space between the arch and this border. The wall above the mihrab has two decorative windows, and surrounding it are arabesques and Islamic calligraphy.

Note: Arabesque is a repetitive pattern of foliage or geometrical designs found in decorations of Islamic architecture.

Also seen in the image is part of the ceiling, which is ornate with finely-carved wooden panels. It is also an example of Mudéjar art mentioned above.

Gardens

Built on the slopes north of the upper Alhambra and east of the Nasrid Palaces, the gardens consist of several terraces with reflecting pools, fountains, flower beds, and nicely trimmed hedges of bushes enclosing plants and trees.

The image on the left shows a terrace on the west side of gardens. At the far end is the Iglesia de Santa María de la Alhambra (Church of St. Mary of the Alhambra), and to its right is Palacio Carlos V (Charles V Place).

On the right, a low brick wall with a white plaque is part of the remnants of Palacio de Yusuf III (Yusuf III Palace). The archaeological excavation in the 1930s led to the discovery of this palace. Based on the type of construction and the artifacts found in the site, experts attributed it to Yusuf III (1408-1417), the thirteenth ruler of the Nasrid dynasty. However, experts also believe that a much older construction attributed to Muhammad II (1273-1302), the second ruler, existed in this site, and the Yusuf III Palace was a modified version of that building.

The image on the right shows a terrace on the north side of the gardens. As you can see from the image, the Tower of the Ladies is at the far end.

Related Pages
Alhambra
Palacios Nazaríes – Nasrid Palaces – A Shining Example of Moorish Art and Architecture
Alcazaba – A Formidable Fortress of the Nasrids
Medina, the Bustling City
Alhambra – Christian-Era Monuments
Alhambra – Outer Monuments
Generalife – Heavenly Gardens of the Nasrids

Copyright © 2019 – 2020 by Lawrence Rodrigues. All rights reserved.

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