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History of Palace of the Christian Kings

Palace of the Christian Kings - C/Caballerizas Reales Cordoba -14009

GARDENS – The primitive “Huerta del Alcázar” (the Palace’s orchard), has provided the extraordinary 55.000 square meters of the actual gardens. This orchard was limited to the northeast by the “Arroyo del Moro” (a brook), to the south by the walls of the “Alcazar” next to the “Guadalquivir” river, to the north by the Royal mews and the “Alcazar” itself. At these gardens, a rich variety of autochthonous plants, always according with the Arab style of garden and plants usage (palm trees, cypress tress, orange and lemon trees), alternate with fountains and ponds, creating a unique space, representative of the culture of Cordoba. Abd al-Rahman II, brought the water to the city, through an aqueduct, from important springs of “Sierra Morena”, like the ones of “Caño de Escarabitas” and “Bejarano”, which provided plenty water to the gardens, fountains, ponds, to the different rooms of the Palace and to the Royal mews, which were joined, since Moslem times, to the Castle-Palace. The volume of water was raised from the “Guadalquivir” by the buckets of the “Albolafia” draw wheel. The large ponds of the upper floor where built in the 19th century.

ARTISTIC COLLECTIONS – At the “Alcazar” different works of art, from archaeological discoverings at the subsoil of Cordoba, are exhibited. The Roman sarcophagus, made in the 3rd century a.c., is outstanding. The principal motif is the “Hades” door (the door of the unknown) that is almost open; a high quality work of art of great beauty that reflects the artistic quality of its author, the extraordinary sculptor and portraitist of the pagan art. This door was at first at the “Huerta de San Rafael” (San Rafael orchard) in Cordoba in 1958. Also from the period of the Roman splendour, is the collection of mosaics that decorate the walls of the old chapel of the Inquisition, made in the 18th century, and actually known as “Salón de los Mosaicos” (Mosaics Lounge). This group of mosaics, discovered in 1959 at the subsoil of the Plaza de la Corredera of Cordoba (“Corredera” square), during the market constructions, is a clear example of the Arab Art of the 2nd and 3rd centuries a.c. They belong to a Roman mansion which had numerous mosaics of different motifs, figurative and geometric, with well carved multicoloured tesserae, most of them made with glass paste. Amongst these motifs, the most outstanding are: the motifs of “Polifemo” and “Galatea”, inspired in the Hellenistic literature, the Cíclope, the “Medusa” (usual decorative motif on mural paintings and sculptures of the classic world), “Eros” y “Psique” beautifully framed by the four seasons, the Ocean mask (placed at the capitulary room, but belonging to the same Roman mansion) and the great geometric mosaic. Also at these walls, we find an unusual mosaic about a tragic actor of great importance, for being one of the first representations of the theatre and a clear reference to “Edipo’s” work. Period furniture decorate its corridors: arks and tables of the 16th and 17th centuries and sculptures of historical people like “Seneca” and the “Gran Capitán” (the Great Captain), made by the artist “Mateo Inurria”. The Chapter Choir (of the 17th century) is exhibited in a small room next to the “Salón de Mosaicos” (Mosaics Lounge), that belong to the Chapter, with representations of the parish churches of Cordoba and symbols incised in the chairs that conform it. An artistic table about the discoveries and a painted and inlaid cabinet of the 19th century, complete the reception room.

ROYAL BATHS – On the lower room, joined to the north wall of the building, and below the “Salón de Mosaicos” (Mosaics Lounge), are the “thermæ” (hot baths) or rooms dedicated to the baths of the King. These thermæs were made following the Arab traditional baths, although they were probably contemporary to Alfonso XI, the creator of the “Alcazar”. To enter these baths you pass a small courtyard, through which you enter a narrow entrance area, where the hall or “beit almusalaj” was located. The traditional process at these “thermaes” (hot baths), original of the Romans and used by the Arabs, consisted of three consecutive rooms or baths through which you have to pass. The first room is the Roman “frigidarium” or “albared” (long room covered by a barrel vault with trumpet-shaped skylights or with openings with the shape of eight pointed stars, arranged in quincunxes to illuminate and ventilate). The second room, “Beit alguasti” or Roman “tepidarium”, is a lukewarm room covered by a groined cross-vault and with similar illumination as the first one. The third room, “beit assajún” or Roman “calidarium”, is a vapour and hot water room with two individual baths or “almagtás”. The walls are made with mud and part of the original flooring with big marble tiles, is still kept. Under the “Torre del Homenaje” (Homage Tower), next to the “aljibe” (water tank), was the oven and the big boiler or “alborma” for the hot water, that passed through tubes made with clay, through the walls and floors to the unipersonal baths.

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