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)

It would be around 1593 when the true ordeal and systematic destruction of the Aljafería Palace began, when it passed into military use. In that year, Felipe II, after the assault on the building to liberate his personal secretary, Antonio Pérez, employed Tiburcio Spanochi to reinforce the palace with four towers, a wall with two entry doors and a new moat with an escarpment and counter-escarpment. The Archivo General de Simancas preserves four sepia elevations, one per side, made by architect-director of construction, that served to show the aspect of the reformed palace. (Photographs 8-11).

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More dramatic was the drastic transformation into army barracks that was carried out in 1772, under King Carlos III. All of the ultrasemicircular alabaster towers were demolished, as well as the four arches of the south face and the entry arcade giving access to the Salón Dorado, so that the exterior aspect of the structure was radically changed.

This would not be the last disgraceful intervention in the palace, since between 1863 and 1880 the barracks of Carlos III were reformed, with the construction of other neo-Gothic towers at the four corners, two of which survive.

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According to descriptions of Mariano Nougués Secall and Paulino Savirón, who saw the building before 1866, the only part of the Islamic palace that remained visible were three arches on the south front door, the entry arcade of the southern salon, and the oratory or mosque and eastern alcove of the Salón Dorado.

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With the sponsorship of Paulino Savirón, the three south façade arches were removed and taken to the Zaragoza Museum, along with some elements of the frieze of corbels of the west alcove and the intersecting arches of the east façade of the same alcove, as well as the western façade of the east alcove of the Throne Room. They also transferred to the Museum an important number of Islamic capitals and a Romanesque one. Some of these remains, specifically two of the arches, some capitals and the rose window of the Chapel of Saint George were donated by the Comisión de Monumentos Históricos y Artísticos de Zaragoza on successive occasions beginning in 1867 to the National Archeological Museum, from which they were returned some years ago for their exhibition in the present Saint George Salon, which was the old chapel of the same name, on the south face. We hope that the Aragonese Cortes will not return them to Madrid and keep them in the place where they belong and for which they were made: the Muslim palace of the Aljafería.

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The Aljafería arrived at the 20th century still being used as a barracks, and would continue to be so through the first half of the century. In 1947 the architect-restorer Francisco Iñigez Almech began a long solitary process of restoration that would continue until 1982, the year of his death. In 1980 the dependencies of the Aljafería became the property of the Ayuntamiento of the city, and then in what became known as “Operation Barracks” the majority of military installations within the city limits of Zaragoza became municipal property. Beginning in 1982 the restoration continued under the architect Ángel Peropadre Muniesa until 1985.

The slowness of this restoration, fundamentally due to the lack of an appropriated official budget came to an end in 1985, when the Ayuntamiento ceded the Aljafería as the seat and for the use of the Aragonese Cortés. At that time, they decided to interrupt the restoration and reconstruction, that had basically affected the eastern half of the complex, and began a new phase under the technical direction of the architects Luís Franco Lahoz and Mariano Pemán Gavín, whose interventions have been adjusted to the necessary adaptation for its new uses. They respected the monumental part where they had already intervened, but proceeded in a different way on the western part, disregarding the idea of Iñiguez to demolish the part that had been erected in the reign of Carlos III and substituting a series of completely new towers that would complete the original perimeter of the Hudí palace. We must also take into account that the conservation of the old barracks of the 17th century, which had never been demolished, was necessary to construct in it the seat of the Cortes of Aragon. All of this has affected the vision that we actually see now when we look at the building, both on the exterior and its internal dependencies.

 

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