Very occasionally you come across a place on your travels that seems to stand out from all the rest. That’s not to say it’s better per se (after all, how could you possible compare St. Paul’s Cathedral with the Iguazu Falls, or Angkor Wat with the Statue of Liberty?), just that you happen across it at the right time, and it stays in your memory for that little while longer.
For HostelBloggers, the Alcazar in Seville is one such place. In a little bit of a departure from the usual style, there’s no glibness or childish attempts at humor in this post. Just an effort to capture the essence, and a little bit of the history, of a genuinely magnificent monument…
The roots of the citadel date back to the 8th century, when it is believed to have functioned as a barracks for the Roman Army. Its role changed drastically, however, once the Abbadid Dynasty selected it as their official court in the 12th century. Within no time at all, the buildings had acquired something of the decorative ‘pleasure palace’ appearance – an appearance that was supported by the fact that the walls had become home to a harem of around 800 women!
That said, the Alcazar as it can be seen today only really started to take shape during the next century, when the Almohad Dynasty developed it into a citadel whose walls stretched out and enveloped the surrounding city. Their architectural tastes can be seen in the complex and highly rhythmic patterns that decorate the structure’s many walls, as well as in the many floor-level water features. There’s also a pleasing simplicity to the shape of the rooms, which rarely stray from the square – another feature of Moorish design at the time.
The 13th century was a tumultuous one for Al-Andalus, and no sooner had the Almohads bedded down than they were disposed of by invading Christian conquerors from the north. For hundreds of years thereafter the Alcazar would be the home of ‘Spanish’ kings, each of whom would add their own personal touch to the building. Fascinatingly, the additions made under each king (with perhaps the exception of the pious Carlos V, whose designs were largely Christian in their symbolism) retained the same Moorish architectural sensibility of the Almohads.
The Alcazar of today is most of all, though, a testament to the will of Pedro the Cruel of Castile, who got got the ball rolling in the 14th century by employing subjugated Moors to design and rebuild the structure, thus giving birth to the vaunted Mudejar era of Andalucian architecture.
The result as we see it now is a majestic combination of geometric patterns, auriferous decorations, and public and private spaces that resonate with a delicate beauty. Nature seems to ebb and flow through the buildings, almost as it would through a river of its own making, and the abiding tranquility of the Alcazar ensures it always rises above the increasing number of tourists in its midst.
It’s easy to lose yourself for hours, if not days, here, wandering around and gazing at the building’s various features, or simply reclining in its gardens, watching the doves and peacocks.
In fact, HostelBloggers were so taken by it all, we couldn’t help getting out our video camera and making a small (and slightly arty) film, which you can watch below. We’re thinking of titling it ‘Textures of the Alcazar’ or something like that – although we’re undecided as yet! So all suggestions welcome, really – as long as they’re in keeping with the high-brow subject matter, that is…