un recorrido por el arte mudéjar aragonés
webmaster: José Antonio Tolosa (Zaragoza -España-)

THE ALJAFERÍA (ZARAGOZA)

MUDÉJAR ART IN THE CITY OF ZARAGOZA (see catalog)

I personally consider the Palace of the Aljafería as one of the most emblematic complexes of monuments in Zaragoza, which it shares with the Cathedral of San Salvador. The state of what the visitor sees now is the result of a distinct thousand year history, during which it has been successively used as a royal palace, seat of the Inquisition, military barracks and since 1985, seat of the Aragonese Cortes.

Its detailed description, that I will include in these pages in the most complete possible manner, has been structured so that I continue to successively expand on it as I incorporate it on the web, given its size,. I begin with a historical summary, beginning with the Muslim palace. The fortifications and the entry door will be the prologue to the rest: the Troubadour’s Tower, the Mudéjar Palace, The Palace of the Catholic Kings and the Muslim Palace. I have also included photographs of a higher resolution than is normal in the other pages; I believe that the importance of the monument requires it.

Fundamentally, there are three periods and construction styles that coexist in the Aljafería: an initial Muslim summer palace of the 11th century, the medieval reforms and amplifications, especially during the 14th century in the Mudéjar style, and the palace in the style of the Catholic Kings that the latter had constructed in the 15th century. After this came the works and modifications of accommodation and systematic destruction for its use as barracks until 1947, the year in which Francisco Iñiguez began the long process of restoration, which had its impulse and culmination with the choice of the palace as the seat of the Cortes of Aragon in 1985.

The Aljafería was originally conceived as a suburban summer palace, which was built on the alluvial plain of the Ebro, at a distance of about a kilometer from the city. There was already a watchtower or an orchard or a country house on the site, which corresponds to the lower part of the Troubadour’s Tower, dated to the second half of the 11th century (Bernabé Caballero dates it to the 10th).

The person responsible for the Islamic palace was Abu-Ya’far Ahmad I al-Muqtadir bi-llah, second king of the Banu Hud dynasty, who ruled in the taifa of Zaragoza between 1046 and 1081. The palace, which was first named “qasr al-surur” (palace of joy) was probably constructed after 1065, the year in which Ahmad adopted the title of “al-Muqtadir bi-liah” (Powerful Thanks to God), after regaining the city of Barbastro. Later, the palace was known as “al-Yafariyya,” derived from Abu-Ya’far, the preface that customarily was given to the king by Muslim custom: it is from this that that the Romanized deformation of the name to Aljafería occurred. It must be noted that the official palace was located within the city: la Zuda was located in the northwest section of the walled precinct, near the Toledo Gate, through which one exited towards the Aljafería.

After the conquest of Zaragoza by Alfonso I el Batallador in 1118, the second period of the Aljafería began, with its becoming the property of the Kings of Aragon, who used it as a residence when they visited the city.

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It is in the 14th century, during the reign of Pedro IV, when the major part of Mudéjar construction was carried out in the palace: the chapels of Saint Martín and Saint George, the construction of the two floors of the Mudéjar palace, as well as the addition of two stories to the Troubadour Tower.

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In the 15th century, the Catholic Kings made a major alteration with the construction of the stairway, the Throne Room and its dependent annexes; additions that led to a significant change to the early simplicity of the palace of al-Muqtadir.

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In 1486, some palace rooms became the seat of the Tribunal of the Holy Office of the Inquisition. Towards 1550 at least two new buildings were constructed as residences for the Inquisitors, one on the east side and the other at the extreme east of the south side of the San Martín Patio.

 

 
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