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Houses of first Christians to occupy the Alhambra in 1492

A researcher from the University of Granada (UGR) has described, for the first time, how the houses of the first Christians to occupy the Alhambra after the conquest of 1492 were.

Houses of first Christians to occupy the Alhambra in 1492
Alhambra in Granada [Credit: Panoramio]
Her work, first of its kind in the world (given that, until now, the houses studied were the Islamic ones), has unveiled how the houses built and inhabited within the Alhambra enclosure during the time of the Catholic Monarchs were. Said houses were built with the purpose of the recently conquered palatial city to be occupied by a large number of Christians.

The research has been carried out by Mª Elena Díez Jorge, professor at the UGR department of Arts History, who thoroughly analyzed more than one hundred documents from that age, which were kept in several archives (such as the General Archive of Simancas in Valladolid, for example).

This has allowed her to reconstruct certain interesting aspects about the houses from that time, in addition to writing a plan showing the distribution of more than thirty of said houses within the Alhambra's urban structure, pinpointing each and every sector of the palatial city.

Houses of less than 20 square meters

"The Christians who settled in the Alhambra reused some of the houses from the Islamic period, but they demolished some others and built their own homes, too -the UGR professor explains-. Most of the houses were very tiny, smaller than the ones in the rest of the city of Granada. The houses of squires and artillerymen could be as small as just a tiny room, whilst the houses of people who held minor posts in the Court had a surface of around twenty square meters; all of them in contrast to a few houses of big proportions belonging to the nobility the closest to the Catholic Monarchs."

The researcher notes that the space in front of the main facade of the Palace of Charles V "was occupied by more than ten houses and shops which formed a little, now imperceptible neighborhood within the Alhambra." In the same way, in the area around the old mosque, there were houses, too (before the construction of what is known today as the St. Mary Church of the Alhambra). All of that shows a totally different image of the Alhambra as we can visit it today.

The houses' typology, as well as the different parts that configured them, the household furnishings, and the life behind close doors during those first years after the conquest complete this study, which has appeared in a book published by the Sílex publishing company under the sponsorship of the Excellence Project GENARQ, lead by the University of Granada, and in collaboration with another project lead by Julio Navarro Palazón, from the School of Arabic Studies, belonging to the Spanish National Research Council (Centro Superior de Investigaciones Científicas, CSIC).

Despite the small size of some of the houses, the people living in them managed well to accommodate several persons. In the analyzed houses within the Alhambra there were houses occupied by the owner and his wife and children, as well as families who were part of the domestic service, or even such particular cases as one father who shared the house with his wounded son in order to help the latter heal the wounds he had received during the war of Granada.


Moreover, the research has brought to light that some of these houses were part shop, part house. "Given their reduced proportions, they were almost limited to a small counter and a tiny room." Only some of the most relevant ones had a farmyard and a vegetable garden, but it wasn't very common. The stables were also just small cubicles in which to keep the animals.

"Although much has been written about the Alhambra, the different moments of its long history and the vicissitudes it has endured, there remain some aspects to investigate about it," warns the UGR historian. "One of them is, precisely, the configuration and disposition of the houses of those first settlers after the Christian conquest in 1492, and that's the object of this work."

Source: University of Granada [February 27, 2016]

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