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granada la bella blog

About this blog

Here you will find my personal view about selected events relating to Granada, 'the city where anything is possible', Granada, 'la bella y la bestia', and particularly about the city's uneasy relationship with its greatest son, Federico Garcia Lorca, who alternatively loved and loathed it.


Historic Granada Posted on Sat, August 17, 2019 16:54:43

The shaping of our waterways goes hand in hand with the shaping of our cities is the argument of John Vidal`s Guardian article referred to in the previous blog. According to this account, many waterways (rivers, streams, canals) were condemned to neglect and oblivion and buried underground, so the business of overground traffic could flow better through the city. But in more recent times, the hegemony of the motor car has come to an end, and there is a trend to recover – to ‘daylight’ subterranean waterways as part of a gentrifying process which prioritises a greener and more human-friendly, car-free and pedestrianised environment. The Cheonggyecheon Stream in Seoul is a classic example of this trend. (

Here, let’s place our own River Darro within this process. The river goes underground by the church San Gil y Santa Ana and it remains underground all the way until it joins the Genil, following the entire course of the roads Reyes Católicos and Acera de Darro, a stretch of well over one kilometre.

The Darro disappears underground. Agencia Albaicín Granada.
The Darro Underground

However, we cannot directly blame the demise of the River Darro on the rise of the motorcar. It was buried long before the popularising of the automobile, in the 1880s, and the reasons given for it were environmental and hygienic rather than anything else. From Arabic times (prior to 1492), the Zacatín and the Alcaicería, on the left bank of the river, had been home to a number of small workshops for a variety of craftsmen. The Revés del Zacatín, the Back of the Zacatin, looked onto the part of the river that now runs under the street Reyes Católicos,  and all the waste from these small workshops was dumped from here directly into the river. A similar situation can still be seen today in Fez, Morocco. 

So it seems to keep the river clean, they buried it!

A secondary reason for covering the river was to try to control the problem of flooding and this involved extending it beyond Puerta Real. There the river swings quite sharply left and this gave rise to the clumsy solution of the Embovedado, or Vaulted Way, because, in order to span the width of the river here, the surface of the road had to be vaulted, to such an extent that they say you could only see the heads of the people walking on the other side of the road.

The Darro, Puerta Real, 19th Century
Work on the Vaulting, between Puerta Real and the River Genil

The covering up of the river was ridiculed and criticised in powerful terms by Angel Ganivet (1865 – 1898), such an important influence on the thinking and attitudes of the forward-looking sectors of subsequent generations, though not influential enough, or well enough understood, to affect the decision-making of local politicians and town planners.

Ganivet argued strongly against the project of the Embovedado. If this part of the river was covered over, he said, it would cause a lot of harm without bringing about any real improvement. The width of the river here made up for the lack of trees to give shade, because it created a kind of mini-climate, cooler and fresher than in the street. The covering of the river would give rise to a wide street, sacrificing the freshness and charm of the river. The street would be nothing more than a prolongation of the Reyes Católicos, vulgar in itself and out-of-character in the context of the shady and narrow streets that lead off it.

[Si para facilitar la circulación se continuara la boveda hasta el extremo de la Carrera se causarían muchos daños sin ninguna seria compensación. El río suple allí con ventaja la falta de árboles y siendo grande la distancia entre las casas el efecto es si la calle fuera estrecha. Con el Embovedado la calle sería más ancha, perdida su frescura y su gracia, vendría a ser como una prolongación de la calle Méndez Núñez (Reyes Católicos), vulgar en sí y ridícula en relación con las calles tortuosas, obscuras que hasta ella descienden. Yo conozco muchas ciudades … Granada la bella.]

 And this criticism was followed by his famous observation that there were many famous cities with rivers running through them, but only in Granada had they hit upon the perverse idea of covering theirs over. The idea, he mocks, could only have been conceived at the depths of the darkest night. Ganivet was not entirely right, though, for, as we have seen, covering over waterways was part of a trend that prioritised overground motorised traffic, which only in the last couple of decades is being reversed.

It wasn’t really until the 1940s that the definitive re-shaping of Granada’s city centre took place, during which time the mayor’s office was occupied by Antonio Gallego Burín. Possibly Gallego Burín’s greatest achievement in his tenure was the provision of safe drinking tap water for the city, but what we want to focus on here is the re-modelling of the area around Puerta Real.

While claiming to be working in the spirit of Angel Ganivet, his urban development plans set about demolishing the crooked, narrow, shady streets emblematic of the old Granada, whose values Ganivet espoused, with the main intention of getting rid once and for all of the low-life Manigua neighbourhood with its brothels and street-corner prostitution, and incidentally erasing part of the old Jewish Quarter, making way instead for the imposing and modern calle Ángel Ganivet (!), inaugurated in 1943 by General Francisco Franco himself.

Calle Ángel Ganivet. Today. Granada Hoy.

Gallego Burín’s Ángel Ganivet Street is uncompromisingly broad and straight, demonstrating little of the old Granada values, though in all fairness it must be said that the project did tackle the problem of the intense summer heat by means of the covered arcaded walkways flanking the street, somewhat in the Italian city portico style. Nevertheless, in spite of its name, the street is more in the spirit of the fin de siècle Gran Vía – that smashes its way through the network of medieval streets that characterised the old Granada – than in the spirit of Ganivet’s urbanistic manifesto (Granada la bella, 1896). Nor did the mayor heed Ganivet’s fierce criticism of the Embovedado,for although its excessive vaulting was now flattened, the widening of the paved area would inevitably diminish any respite from the scorching high summer sun. The street here did indeed become little more than a prolongation of the ‘vulgar’ Reyes Católicos.

With the implementation of Gallego Burín’s reform project, any attempt at recuperating the freshness and charm of the river was abandoned forever. Or at least until today. And the ground was laid for the urban planners’ abject deference to the motor car whose rise and rise would remain unresisted until, by the end of the century, Granada was virtually choked by the uncontrolled access of private traffic. Now, happily, this tendency is being rolled back and as it is we see a chance emerging that the Darro will itself one day be daylighted, returned to the surface, not only in its Reyes Católicos stretch, but all the way from Santa Ana to the River Genil.

Puerta Real. No room for a river here?

Cante Jondo Competition

Historic Granada Posted on Sat, February 02, 2019 17:21:38

Clockwise from
top left

1. A young
Manolo Caracol (b 1909) also won a prize

2. a photo of
the event

3. Manuel de Falla, portrait by Ignacio Zuloaga;

4. publicity
for a recording of the event

5. the Plaza
del Aljibe, the event’s venue, today

6. López
Sancho’s famous caricature of El Tenazas and his select audience

Emilia Llanos Medina

Historic Granada Posted on Fri, January 25, 2019 17:32:15

At the end of calle Elvira where it joins Plaza Nueva, on the second floor, the
last four windows in calle Elvira and
the first three in Plaza Nueva, was
the home of Emilia Llanos Medina, a life-long and intimate friend of poet
Federico García Lorca. She was quite a lot older than him, born in 1885, and they
were introduced by the painter Ismael de la Serna at the end of August 1918.
Lorca was very impressed by Emilia Llanos, as de la Serna expected him to be.
He gave her a copy of his first book Impressions
and Landscapes
(for which de la Serna had done the cover) and dated it
29th August 1918 with the dedication
“To the marvellous Emilia Llanos, spiritual treasure among the women of
Granada; divine emblem of the 20th Century; with all my fervour and
admiration.” – – The marvellous Emilia Llanos

From then on,
Lorca was a frequent visitor to this flat, Dolores Cebrián, Emilia’s maid,
informs us. He came and went with a degree of familiarity; it was a sort
of home from home for him.

Llanos maintained a
life-long friendship with Ismael de la Serna, mostly by correspondence, as the
painter spent most of the 20s and 30s in Paris. She was also a close friend of
Manuel de Falla’s, and of his sister Carmen.

On one occasion,
Falla urged Emilia to use her influence to persuade Lorca to break off his
contact with a certain ‘wretched group of young men’ whose company he was known
to enjoy. He was of course referring to a certain section of the city’s
semi-submerged homosexual milieu. It was her duty as a friend, he argued, to
lead the poet onto the path of righteousness. Emilia’s response was indeed
marvellous. “Federico is a wonderful person and we should love him as he is,
with his virtues and with his defects.” It wasn’t for them to judge him.

Who did judge him were the gentlemen of the Tribunal
of Political Responsibilites who in July 1941 reached the verdict that Lorca’s public
life had been ‘questionable’ (dudosa) and that he had been ‘free’ in his choice
of friendships (amistades libres). He was assumed to be a homosexual, although
for obvious reasons it was impossible to present concrete evidence for this

17 August 1936, the
day after the poet’s arrest: his mother begged Emilia to go and ask Falla to
intervene on her son’s behalf, as his life was clearly in danger. Emilia set
off but in the Cuesta de Gomérez she
met Antonio Gallego Burín, who advised her: “Don’t go, don’t go. Federico
is already dead. You’ll only get Falla into trouble.” “I swear,”
relates Emilia, “that if I had suspected there was a chance that Federico was still alive I
would have gone myself, on my own, to the Civil Government.” (Evidence
suggests Lorca was held overnight in the Civil Government building in calle Duquesa before being transferred
to Víznar.) When later Emilia told this to Falla, he made an enormous scene.
“He made me cry. Your duty was to have come immediately with the message,
no matter what anyone told you.” The day after news of Lorca’s death got
out, she went to a friend’s house (Cristina Gómez Contreras), terribly upset,
pale, and crying bitterly.

She never got over
the death of the poet, for whom she harboured intense feelings of affection all
her life. She was also convinced that she had not done enough among her
influential social contacts to prevent it. In the last years of her life she
talked to him as if he were present, on one of his once customary visits, and
would insist a place was laid out for ‘the boy’ at mealtimes. She died on 29
August at the age of 82.

Leer más,
en español: Lola Manjón. Emilia
Llanos Medina. Una
mujer en la Granada de Federico García Lorca. Comares 2017.
To my charming Emilia Llanos . With affection and
admiration from your devoted Federico 1931

Palacio de los Vargas

Historic Granada Posted on Thu, February 21, 2013 14:55:47

If you think my warning in #blog30 about the
inability of the Direccion de Bienes de
Interés Cultural
, the body entrusted with safeguarding Granada’s historical
and cultural patrimony, to guarantee the survival of some of the catalogued
Lorca sites is exaggerated, let the following be a lesson to you.

In a narrow little street known as Horno de
Marina, off San Jeronimo Street, a stone’s throw from the cathedral, there is a
sixteenth century building that was the home to the aristocratic Vargas family,
the Palacio de los Vargas, catalogued, it could hardly be otherwise, as a Bien
de Interés Cultural – a cultural asset.

I came across the splendid but neglected
building by chance several years ago, taking a short cut through the centre of
the city, and noted with dismay its lamentable state of disrepair, with rats
scurrying among the rubbish piled up against the dilapidated facade.

So it was with relief that a few years later
I heard about project to convert it into another luxury hotel, rather like what
had happened to the Convent of Saint Paula nearby in the Gran Via. What state
would that have been in today if AC Hotels had not stepped in to halt its
decline? They have done hideous things to the ground floor facade but the upper
floors facade has been tastefully restored and there is no doubt that there is
much within that has been saved – for their five-star guests, if not for us.

In 2007 a company called Hoteles Casas y
Palacios de España, with a track record of making posh hotels out of historical
buildings, including two notable cases in the Jewish Quarters of Sevilla and
Córdoba respectively, presented a proposal to the Granada city council to build
a 70-room hotel complex, the centrepiece of which would be the rehabilitated
Vargas Palace. The council must have bent over backwards to oblige, for
bureaucratic hurdles were overcome with unusual ease and permission was granted
for the protected palace along with deteriorating neighbouring residences to be
incorporated into the new hotel. Within a year the project got the go-ahead and
work could begin on clearing up the debris and restoring the palace to
something of its former glory.

I noted the improvement with satisfaction.
But then, as the crisis wore on, the hotel company lost interest in this
project. After getting building permission nothing much happened. The owners
did not bother to pursue the irksome paperwork inevitable in such cases.
Deadlines passed and now the premises have been taken over by the Municipal
Register, a first step towards an impending compulsory purchase order.

The abandonment and deterioration of all the
adjoining properties involved became more and more apparent until, almost
predictably, over Christmas, the building caught fire. Squatters, who it seems
had little difficulty getting into the Palace through a hole round the back of
the building, are being blamed for the fire.

The fire has visibly affected the iron
forgings on the first floor, the carved wooden roofing over the galleries in
the central patio, and the double doors to the room where the fire started.

Now the
Council has issued a decree (bravo!) ordering the owners to adopt urgent
measures to prevent any further deterioration to the renaissance building –
such as ”shoring up the affected structures” and “closing all the holes to
stop squatters getting in”: ordering the stable doors to be closed
after the horse has bolted, in other words.

owners say that they are abandoning their plans to convert the palace into a
luxury hotel ‘for now’ – lack of economic resources, they say. What is apparent
is that they are happy to let the unique renaissance palace decay, risking that
the final ruin of the building become a fait
and so justifying its final abandonment.

It has been the tactic of property developers
in Granada since the nineteenth century whenever the task of protecting the
city’s cultural heritage comes into conflict with their private interests
(making money). Historic buildings have been left to rot until their
deteriation is such that they are no longer considered worth salvaging. This
was the case of the Arco de las Orejas, a medieval gateway that led into Plaza
Bib Rambla. It was knocked down in 1884 despite protests and initiatives to
preserve it, including declaring it a national monument in 1881. All to no

The factual info comes from Lola Quero Granada 13.02.2013 but the
cynical inferences are all mine.

Blogger Granadino
has written a very
fine appreciation of the Vargas Palace in his highly recommendable series “El Reino de Granada en la
Edad Moderna” (in Spanish, of course), available at

GRAN VIA de Colon

Historic Granada Posted on Thu, February 21, 2013 14:38:45

Granada’s Gran Via
was the street that did more than any other ‘to deform the character of the
people of Granada’. So wrote the poet Federico Garcia Lorca in his lead
contribution to gallo, the local
cultural magazine that he nurtured and published in 1926.

His opinion was neither original nor unique. It was a view
shared by all like-minded intellectuals and artists living in the city in those

Its origins go back to the strongly worded criticism of
Angel Ganivet, local guru for Lorca’s generation, published in his influential
essay Granada la bella published in
1896, two years before its author’s suicide.

Ganivet’s views on contemporary urban development in Granada
were scathing in their contemptuous sarcasm. Fortunately in Granada, he said,
there was normally no money for grandiose urban projects and in that way the
greatest calamities that might have befallen the city had been avoided. But
sometimes, alas!, money was available.

This was the case in the development of the Gran Via. Popularly
known as “Sugar Avenue” – la Gran Via del Azucar – this strident thoroughfare
came to express the dominance and self-confidence of the sugar bourgeoisie,
those who made their fortune via the sugar beet industry that became so economically
important after the loss, in 1898, of the colonies in Cuba and the Philippines
and sugar cane imports. (Historia de Granada, 344.) Lorca’s father belonged to
this bourgeoisie and indeed he moved into a flat at number 34 for one year in
1916. One surmises that Federico Garcia Senior did not feel at home among these
people, who were considerably less liberal and progressive than he.

But it’s not just that this street was the vulgar expression
of a rather vulgar bourgeoisie. In order to construct the Gran Via, a whole
neighbourhood was ruthlessly demolished, a neighbourhood with its roots in
pre-Christian times, with its inimitable style of buildings and urban layout;
it was a deliberate and abrupt break in a historical tradition that the sugar
bourgeoisie felt nothing but disdain for. (Historia de Granada 347.)

This is what Lorca and his ilk objected to so vehemently
with regard to the radical urban project that had just, alas!, been brought to
fruition. And as we said, it was not just his personal opinion. A couple of
years earlier, in 1923, Leopoldo Torres Balbas, architect who headed the
conservation work on the Alhambra in those years, voiced the anger of his
fellows in a professional Madrid publication writing about “Granada, the
disappearing city”. Here he lamented bitterly the loss of the aesthetic and
historical spirit of the city through the loss of its historical buildings ‘as
if memories were being methodically wiped out’. The Gran Via was at the centre
of his scorn, for the way in which it cut through the old city with ‘an
extraordinary lack of understanding and respect’, ignoring the special nature
of the city’s inhabitants, its history, its climate, its beauty. It had become,
he said, a monotonous street, tiring to walk down, lined by high buildings with
cement and plaster decoration, where the sun burns relentlessly in summer and
in winter it is swept by icy cold winds. (Quoted from an article in the Ideal
newspaper, 9.2.97)

Ganivet experienced the beginning of the demolition of the
old city in the 1990s. By the 1920s the disaster was complete. By 1918 the last
of the grand houses on the Gran Via had been handed over to its proud owner. (H
de G 347.)

In July 1936 the residents of these fine new houses,
conscious of being the legitimate target of the ‘reds’ (working class), would
be quaking in their boots for 48 hours until the troops were finally marched
out of their barracks in support of Franco’s nationalistic uprising. The ‘reds’
had already burnt down a number of buildings that symbolised their exploitation
and oppression, very much as these grand houses in the heart of the new city


Historic Granada Posted on Wed, February 13, 2013 10:19:42

This is the view from the back window of my house in El
Fargue, a few kilometres to the north of Granada. We’re looking west and in the
middle of the mountain range that forms the horizon we can discern the place
where Puerto Lope – the Lope Pass – permits the passage through the mountains
of the road to Cordoba. This was where in days of old highwaymen lay in wait
for those who made the journey between the two Andalusian cities.

Reflected in the morning sunshine we can also just about
discern the church on the hill above the village of Moclin. Above the church was a fortress
of which only ruins remain today. This was where Ferndinand and Isabel
established their court as they lay siege to Granada, leading up to the fall of
the city on 2 January 1492.

Ferdinand and Isabel captured the fortress on 26 July 1486.
To give it some historical perspective, that’s the year after Richard III’s
defeat and death at the battle of Bosworth and so the start of the Tudor dynasty
in England. It might have been the year Sandro Boticello painted ‘The Birth of
Venus’. Constantinople had recently been integrated into the Ottoman Empire and
the city state of Venice was the centre of European civilisation, thanks to its
trade routes to the East.

The fortress had long been a military goal for Christian
armies but its position made it close to invincible. The determination with
which they now fought was a sign that the campaign to capture Granada was not
simply another skirmish between Christians and Moslems, of the kind that had
been going on for centuries. The aim was to drive all non-Christians once and
for all from the Iberian peninsula. Fernando and Isabel began their siege in
the spring of 1486 and once victorious they made a great investment in terms of
men and materials to make sure they hung on to it.

Moclin was the perfect vantage point for the siege of
Granada. Once Malaga in the west had been taken, in 1487, and Baza and
Almeria in the east, in 1489, the city found itself completely isolated. The
Catholic Monarchs now moved their troops down onto the Vega and set up camp at
Santa Fe, barely ten kilometres across the plain from their final objective.
The camp was converted into a walled city in the course of 1491 – and for
Granada, the writing was on the wall. Boabdil, the last head of the Nazrid
dynasty, formally capitulated on 25 November 1491 and handed over the keys to his
capital city on 2 January 1492, an event whose repercussions have echoed down
to the present day.

The church at Moclin was built on the site of the mosque
that had stood there for centuries and was raised to the ground immediately
after its capture. The church was designed by Diego de Siloé, favourite
architect of the Catholic Monarchs, one of the first in Spain who built in the
Renaissance style.

In acknowledgement of their gratitude to the people of
Moclin for their hospitality (forced hospitality, I imagine, as the town had been Moslem
for several centuries), Ferdinand and Isabel left the painting Cristo del Paño (sackcloth).
But this is another story.

Souce Wikipedia & Ayuntamiento de Moclin


Historic Granada Posted on Sun, December 09, 2012 21:04:21

The typical cobbled streets of Old Granada, and
indeed of Old Andalusia, have a surprisingly short history that hardly goes
back to much before the twentieth century. 150 years ago the great majority of
streets in central and “Moorish” Granada were unsurfaced. And that it how we
have to picture the streets of the Granada of the Nazarids; not as the
picturesquely paved nooks and alleyways of the romantic imagination.

The surfacing of streets with paving or cobble
stones is a relatively modern phenomenon. We know this from both written and
pictorial sources, later confirmed by photographic evidence. Chroniclers have
left us with graphic descriptions of the puddles and potholes that made winter
travel in Granada so difficult, and of the choking clouds of dust in summer. We
get the same picture from contemporary artists: an urban environment knee-deep
in mud in the winter; obliterated by dust in the summer.

Any doubt that may remain about the veracity of
this unromantic view of Old Granada will be dispelled by the photography that
began to emerge in the last third of the nineteenth century. The earliest
photographic evidence reveals an unpaved urban landscape with the exception of
one or two central streets. We see streets full of puddles and potholes, rutted
and hoof-marked. From the photographic works of José García Ayola (1863-1900),
for example, we see the forecourt of the Cathedral and Puerta Real unsurfaced.

In photographs he took between 1885 and 1890 we do
see the beginning of the paving of some of the steeper streets of the Albayzín.
Granada Hoy reporter Gabriel Pozo
suggests that this was a consequence of the Glorious Revolution of 1868 which
prompted the authorities to provide paid work for the poor with the aim of
warding off further social unrest and uprisings. Now at last we see the Cuesta
de San Cristóbal y Aljibe de Trillo with a primitive form of paving, undertaken
where erosion threatened to make the streets completely unpassable.

These early cases of surfacing were, as we said,
primitive and had little to do with the paving and cobbling that we think of as
typical today. Mud was mixed quite haphazardly with irregular-shaped and -sized
stones and pebbles. These were stamped down into the earthen road surface. Lacking
any binding element such as mortar, the earth would get washed away with the
first serious rainfalls, leaving the streets uneven and potholed.

The meticulously laid stones and pebbles of
differing colours forming graceful geometric patterns that are so typical of Andalusian squares and public spaces today were as yet unknown. The
paving was crude and uneven and bore little resemblance to the familiar sophistication
of modern Andalusian urban spaces.

Sophisticated cobbling in the Alhambra. Fifteenth century? No, twentieth.

If the steeper streets of the Albayzín were given
some primitive form of paving from the 1880s, flatter and broader streets were mostly
left unpaved. Although we do see the Carrera del Darro paved as early as 1885,
the Paseo de los Tristes, by way of contrast, was still mud surfaced till the
end of the century.

The generalised paving of the streets of Granada
did not really get underway until well into the twentieth century. Now we have
the photographs of José Martínez Rioboó (1888-1947) to bear witness to the
construction of typical cobblestone streets that gave adequate support to the modern
tramlines in Puerta Real, Reyes Católicos, San
Jerónimo and a few other major central streets.

Major streets in the Albayzín like the Carril de
la Lona, Santa Isabel la Real, or San Juan de los Reyes, on the other hand, were
not surfaced until around 1915. Meanwhile, the streets of today’s popular
tourist spots, like Plaza de San Miguel Bajo,
San Cecilio and even the Mirador de San Nicolás still looked more like
pig pens than the tourist attractions they have become.

My source for this blog is an article by Gabriel Pozo in the local daily
‘Granada Hoy’. It reminds me of a photo exhibition I once saw of panoramas of
the Albayzín. 150 years ago, the cypresses, which are
so characteristic of the Albayzín skyline today, simply did not exist. You can
see how they started to get planted towards the end of the nineteenth century
and then became more and more popular as the twentieth century progressed.

SOURCE: El empedrado ‘no histórico’ del Albayzín. Gabriel Pozo.
Granada Hoy. 07.12.2012…

Granada, capital of Spain

Historic Granada Posted on Sun, December 19, 2010 01:10:10

Granada, short-lived capital of Spain … and the Holy Roman Empire

On the threshold of the sixteenth century Granada was the transitory capital of Spain. Ferdinand and Isabel set up court in Granada towards the end of 1499 while the Mudejar rebellion was being put down. ‘Mudejar’ is the name given to those Moors who remained in Christian Spain after the Fall of Granada in 1492 without converting to Christianity. At first tolerated, by the end of the millennium they were under a lot of pressure to convert. (See the blog on book burning.)

Ferdinand and Isabel stayed in Granada until February 1502. It was their longest and last period of residence in the city. Before leaving, one of their major acts was the issuing of a decree – on 11 February 1502 – demanding the remaining Mudejar Moors to choose between conversion and exile; either they adopt over a period of time Christian beliefs and customs or they leave for Africa and beyond. Almost half the population of Granada chose exile it is said. From the date of that decree there was no room for Moslem Moors in Spain any longer, only for ‘Moriscos’, Moors who had converted to the Christian faith.

The Royal Court returned to Granada for a short time in the summer of 1526, when Emperor Charles V decided to make Granada his place of residence. This was just after his wedding on 10 March in Seville to his first cousin Isabel of Portugal. During his brief stay he ordered the construction of his Royal Palace, more comfortable and more spacious and more majestic than the nearby Nazrid Palaces of the Alhambra. For this, he chose the architect Pedro Machuca, who had worked under Michelangelo in Italy, to design one of the greatest works of the Spanish Renaissance, unprecedented in its architectural language. Symbolising the victory of Christianity over Islam, it was largely paid for by taxes imposed on the Moorish population.

It is clear that in ordering the construction of this emblematic and superbly designed palace, on which work started in the following year, 1527, the Emperor intended to make Granada his main seat of residence, the centre of his Holy Roman Empire. Yet Emperor Charles and his queen abandoned the city in December of 1526. It was too cold for Isabella’s warm Portuguese blood is the explanation popularly given. But I think there was another reason.

In November of 1525, Carlos V had issued a decree ordering the conversion of all the Moors in Spain by the end of January 1526. What? Again? But hadn’t his grandparents, Ferdinand and Isabel, issued practically the same decree in February 1502?

Over time the term ‘morisco’ had come to be used in a pejorative sense, implying that the conversion of Moors to Catholicism was a pretence and that in secret they were continuing to practice the Islam religion. In 1526 Carlos V was complaining that ‘seven and twenty years’ after the mass enforced baptisms undertaken by Cardinal Cisneros (see book burning blog) you would be hard put to find seven and twenty Christian Moors in the city, ‘nor even seven’! The Moorish population that remained in Granada had proved itself highly reluctant to take on the conquerors’ faith.

So, apart from the winter cold, Granada had the added inconvenience for a city that was to be the centre of the Habsburgian Holy Roman Empire of having a population that was largely anti-Christian in its secret sentiment.

The expulsion of the Moors led to the steady cultural decline of Granada, so lamented by Lorca and the core of contemporary ‘progressive’ Spansh opinion. Charles V’s decree was no more successful than his grandparents’ in christianising the Moors left behind on Spanish territory. The repressive legislation was repeated in 1567 and the revolt that began on Christmas Eve of 1568 in Granada, with its last stronghold in the Alpujarras, was suppressed, leading to the final ethnic cleansing of the peninsula. Thousands of Moors died and more than 80,000 were expelled forever.

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