Sunday, June 5, 2016

Seville Day 1 - Will the Real Alcazar please stand up !

By now, it was well past 300 pm and we managed to claim our right to the room. As we were heading out, we stopped by the reception to pick up a city centre map but mostly to see if we can get a few tips on where we can stand to get a perfect glimpse of the evening Semana Santa procession. During half english and half dumb-charades type banter, she told us that the ticket line to the Real Alcazar is usually massive and it’s important to book it online, we promptly agreed her advice and later found out how true it was.

Originally founded as a fort governors of Seville in 913, the Alcázar has been expanded or reconstructed many times in its existence. The history goes that in the 11th century, Seville’s prosperous Muslim rulers developed the original fort by building a palace called Al-Muwarak. Later on, in the 12th-century, the Almohad rulers added another palace. However, in 1248, the Christian monarch, Fernando III captured Seville and moved into the Alcázar. Fernando’s son then replaced much of the Almohad palace with a Gothic one. The credit for the best part of Alcazar however goes to Pedro who between 1364 and 1366 created the Alcázar’s crown jewel, the sumptuous Mudéjar Palacio de Don Pedro. Needless to say, this is a UNESCO world heritage site and the palace is still used by the Spanish royal family when they are in Seville

The palace can be entered from the Plaza del Triunfo through the Puerta del León or Lion's Gate. From the ticket office inside the Puerta del León (Lion Gate) you emerge into the Patio del León (Lion Patio), which was the start of the original Al-Muwarak palace. Off to the left of the Patio del León one can enter the Sala de Justica (“Hall of Justice”). This room was likely used as a residence of Peter I during the construction of his palace.  Also, it is said that Peter’s step-brother, Don Fadrique, was murdered in this room by order of Peter himself.
Passing through the rear arch of the Patio del León, one enters the heart of the complex which is called the Patio de la Montería.
Patios De La Monteria

Patios de la Monteria is named after the hunters (monteros) who met here with the King before they went out hunting. 
In front is the Palacio del Ray Pedro I de Castilla (“Palace of King Peter I of Castille”), built in 1364. On the left is the Palacio Gótico (“Gothic Palace”), built in the mid-13th century.  On the right is the Casa de la Contratación (“House of Trade”) where Columbus signed his contract with Queen Isabella.

At this point the husband needs a restroom break. It is extremely important that the husbands visits every bathroom at every place – be it a restaurant, a café, a theatre, a cinema or any other location so why leave out the Real Alcazar. Once the husband is back, we continue on the most magnificent part of the Alcazar - Palacio del Ray Pedro I

Palacio del Ray Pedro I

The Palace of King Don Pedro I starts with a facade which harmoniously marries Moorish features - horseshoe arches, Arabic lettering ("No one is victorious but Allah") - with Christian words (the very noble... Don Pedro... ordered ordered these Alcazares built"). It is amazing how the both co-exist.

Hall of Ambassadors – This was the main hall of the palace and the throne room of the king Pedro I. It’s a sqaure room similar to Muslin “Quba” where the square represents the earth and the dome represents the universe. A decoration of the combed muquarnas forming a star joins the square to the circle.

Patio De La Doncellas

The Courtyard of the Damsels was the centre of public area of the king Peter I palace. Its surrounded by the poly lobed arches, one of the most characteristic motifs of the Almohad dynasty. This was named for the legend that the Moorish rulers of Andalusia would demand 100 virgins from the Christian kingdoms each year.  This story was used to spur  the Christian reconquest of the Moorish territories that took place during the Middle Ages.

Patio de las Muñecas (“Court of the Dolls”)

Private life in the Palace of Pedro I revolved around the Patio de las Muñecas, which leads to the bedrooms and private halls. The small hall is enclosed by a gallery with marble columns and lobed arches. The name of the Patio de las Muñecas - Patio of the Dolls - is derived from four small heads that decorate one of the arches.

From the Mudéjar Palace we passed without realizing it into the Gothic Palace, and entered the Gothic Palace Chapel. From the palace we passed out into the massive Gardens of the Alcázar.

The Gardens
A visit to the Royal Alcazar also allows entry into the royal gardens. The expansive area is divided into a number of separate gardens some of which are terraced. 

The first thing that caught our eye was the lovely Pond of Mercury. It is said that the This pond was originally an irrigation reservoir that was fed by a Roman aqueduct!  In 1575, it was converted into a more decorative pool with a theme based on the Roman god Mercury, the messenger of the God.
From the pond you have a view over a walled-in section of the garden, laid out in a formal style. To the right of the pond are a number of smaller terraced gardens all connected to each other via gates and small staircases. The gardens are decorated with fountains, grottos, a labyrinth and even a small artificial mountain.
The arch is connected to a gallery - the Galeria del Grutesco - which was once part of the original Moorish palace. 

Mercury Pond with the Galeria del Grutesco in the background

Garden View from the Gallery 

All in all, the Alcazar is a must visit when you are in Seville and specially if you want to avoid going all the way to Granada to see the Alhambra. 

Few weeks later, when husband and I are watching Game Of Thrones season 6, we will get excited to see that the Alcazar gardens are the gallery are being used to show 'Dorne'.
Perhaps, this will make us go back again !



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