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The magnificent Aljafería Palace

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The Zaragoza Palace is huge

Image – Wikimedia/David Caponera

Spain It has many ancient castles, fortresses and palaces and some of them date back to the times of Muslim rule over part of the country. This is the case of this beautiful palace that you see in the picture: the Aljaferia Palace.

It’s in Zaragoza, an ancient city, yes there is, and it was the residence of the Taifa kings at the time of the greatest splendor and height of their period of government. Let’s meet the Palace of Joy today, as it was once called.

Aljaferia Palace

Its construction was ordered by the second king of the Banu Hud dynasty, Al-Muqtadir, in the second half of the eleventh century. he baptized him Palace of Joy and it has become a pleasure palace, still fortified as it is and as it is still preserved to the wonder of our eyes.

The palace has passed through the passage of time with great honor and so, since its birth as Islamic Hudi Alcazar, became Mudejar medieval palace, Catholic palace, prison of the fearsome Inquisitiona military barracks later and seat of the Cortes of Aragon. Obviously, each function has left its mark on the building since it has also undergone modifications, expansions, destructions and restorations.

So the islamic palace It is the one that was built in the 11th century: a fortified rectangular enclosure with huge semicircular towers with a beautiful Torre del Trovador. Between two towers remains the entrance door in the shape of a horseshoe arch. The palace has a garden, later called the patio of Santa Isabel, with porticoes and rooms at both ends. There is also a mosque and a simple and small octagonal oratory.

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the latest Mudejar palace appears from the hand of the reconquest by Alfonso I the Battler in 1118. It was the palace of the Aragonese Catholic kings and some internal changes and extensions are due to them. The Church of San Martín appears, the room of Santa Isabel, the arcades of the patio and the rooms dedicated to Pedro IV, which has beautiful alfarjes.

Around 1492 on the Muslim factory was built the Palace of the Catholic Monarchs. This building has as particularities many rooms, those of the Pas Perdus, a huge and beautiful Throne Room with a gilded and polychrome wooden ceiling, and a wide staircase. About a hundred years later, the Aljafería Palace became a fort and an important citadel, already more defensive.

King Philip II was reigning at the time and the building had an outer wall with pentagon shaped bastions at each corner and a moat all around with several drawbridges. As can be seen, it never stopped growing and changing, and it continued to do so in the times of Carlos III and Isabella II, the latter providing it with neo-Gothic towers.

currently and since 1987 the Aljafería Palace has been the seat of the Cortes de Aragón and of course, is open to visitors. So what should we visit? Highlights: the Patio de Santa Isabela, the Throne Room, the Mosque, the Church of San Martín, the Mudejar Palace of Pedro IV and the Torre del Trovador, which is one of the oldest constructions in the building .

The Troubadour Tower It is named after a literary work by Antonio García Gutierrez from 1836, later transformed into an opera by Giuseppe Verdi. It’s a five-storey square defense tower built at the end of the 9th century. From the outside I don’t know the internal division into so many floors and it looks solid. It is entered through a small door which is accessed by a portable ladder and, naturally, it had military, lookout and defense functions.

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This tower is surrounded by moats and it was the Banu-Hud who then integrated it into the castle. The Christians turned it into the Torre del Homenaje and the Inquisition into the dungeon. Then we have the Taifal Palace, in charge of the second king of the dynasty and the one who baptized it as the Palace of Joy, a building with red, blue and golden decorations, white marble and a lot of beauty.

Many of these decorations have been lostplasterwork, alabaster plinths, marble floors… Something remained in the museums and this is what allows us to imagine its original magnificence. For example, what remains of the Golden Hall lets us know that its ceilings reproduced the sky and the cosmos, that it had access through a canvas with three openings, that it had marble columns with Islamic alabaster capitals and many colors.

From the original layout, the small mosque remains, a more private oratory which was used by the king and which contains, towards Mecca, the niche of the mihrab. The famous patio of Santa Isabel unified the whole palace and many rooms looked towards it. The original pool to the south remains and has been largely restored with orange trees and flowers and marble slabs on the floors.

What has not undergone many modifications is the Palace of Pedro IV el Ceremonioso, with the Church of San Martín, an old Gothic-Mudejar factory. It has two naves with simple ribbed vaults decorated with the coat of arms of the Aragonese monarchy and a brick portal from the time of Martin the Human. It was Pedro IV who enlarged the Muslim palace with more rooms and chambers and later, as we said, it was the Catholic Monarchs who built a new palace which is accessed by a monumental staircase.

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Finally, the The throne room is the definition of lavish. It is huge, 20 meters long and 8 meters wide, with thick beams, decorations in the form of leaves and hanging pineapples, arches and a border that surrounds the whole room with Gothic calligraphy and honors the figure of Fernando, King of Spain.

It should be borne in mind that the palace is very important as a physical testimony of what Hispanic Islamic architecture was like during the era of the Taifas in present-day Spain. This period predated the arrival of the Almoravids and since 1986, the architectural complex has been a World Heritage Site.

He calculates that walking around the palace takes about three hours. It is in the center of the city and you can get there by bus or on foot. I leave you practical information for the visit:

  • Opening hours: from April to October it opens in the morning, except Thursday and Friday, from 10 am to 2 pm. Guided tours take place at 10:30 a.m., 11:30 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. In the afternoon, except Thursday, from 4.30 p.m. to 8 p.m., with guided tours at 4.30 p.m., 5.30 p.m. and 6.30 p.m. From November to March in the morning, except Thursday and Friday, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. with guided tours at the same times and in the afternoon, except Thursday, from 4:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. The palace is closed on Sunday afternoons.
  • In January, July and August, the palace is open daily, but closes on December 25 and January 1.
  • General admission costs 5 euros.

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