The Patio de los Leones, or the Palace and Courtyard of the Lions was the focal point of the private residence of the sultan. According to writings from 1362 it seems that only the Hall of the Two Sisters has been constructed before this date. That would mean that the majority of the Patio de los Leones has been constructed after 1362.
General info Courtyard of the Lions
Opening times Courtyard of the Lions: The Courtyard of the Lions is part of the Alhambra and follows the opening times of the Alhambra
Tickets and Guided Tours Courtyard of the Lions: More information on tickets and Guided tours Alhambra
Accessibility Courtyard of the Lions: More information on accessibility Alhambra
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The courtyard of the Lions – The Hall of the Abencerrages – The courtyard of the Harem – The Hall of the Kings – The Hall of the Two Sisters – The Mirador of Lindaraja – The courtyard of the Grille and Lindaraja
The courtyard of the Lions
The original entrance from the Patio de los Leones was on the corner of the complex leading into the
Harem Courtyard. Visitors were immediately amazed by the gilded pillars which are situated throughout
the Courtyard. The overhanging cared wooden eaves were originally polychromed and protected the arches and columns below.
The Nasrid motto: “The only conqueror is God” can be found throughout the courtyard.
Space and Flowers in the Courtyard
Space in the Alhambra is seen as space in the desert. Intimacy is to be found underneath the stars. The courtyard of the Lions should be seen as a house with a garden. It’s actually a garden with a house.
The courtyard was once filled with flowers and plants which would have given it a beautiful display of colours. Today there are no flower carpets in the courtyard. But the magnificent pillars and architectural design definitely makes it a place of serenity and beauty.
The floor of the courtyard is lower than the pathways. Strong evidence suggest that it’s deliberately done to create a carpet of flowers which would have been at the same level as the pathways.
The fountain the courtyard
The fountain is placed in the middle of the courtyard. The gardens surrounding the fountains have been replaced. The old gardens were damp and the roots of the plants were threatening the structure of the palace. These days a modern sewer system has replaced the old gardens and keeps the palace save from the roots of the orange trees in the garden.
The fountain itself has 12 lions where water comes out of their mouths. It’s remarkable if you think back to the time in which the Alhambra was built that water was flowing in the fountain and came out of the lions mouths. Water plays such an important part in Nasrid culture that the architects of the Alhambra built the palace on the exact height on the hill to allow the flow of water through the palace. The correct pressure of water coming down the mountain made the fountain of the lions come alive. These days the old hydraulic system has been replaced. Nevertheless it’s remarkable that the architects in those days could build the Alhambra in such a way that they had a working fountain.
The fountain as is today has 12 lions and a bowl with 12 sides on it. Back in the days there was another bowl on top of the fountain. Make sure to check the Adarve gardens of the Alcazaba as it’s there that the upper bowl of the fountain of the lions can be found.
According to legend, the number 12 represents the 12 Months of the Zodiac, it’s the 12 Months in which everything exist simultaneously
The Hall of the Abencerrages
According to legend that the Zenete family made a plot to get rid of their rivals the Abencerrage in this
room. They invited thirty-six men into the Alhambra and cut them down on the Abencerrages Hall. The stains in the marble of the fountain are believed to be blood stains of this family that was killed.
The Hall of the Abencerrages is perfect for hot summer days. The high ceiling makes hot air go out on top while the fountain brings in cool fresh air from the bottom. It made it the perfect room to retreat on very warm days. Because of the thick walls the temperature rarely goes above 20 degrees. Even on a hot summer day.
The alcoves on the side were perfect to sit down in privacy. Curtains could separate them from the main Hall.
The courtyard of the Harem
The courtyard of the Harem can be found on the upper level. From here the woman could keep an eye on everything that happened in the courtyard.
Women and men are equal in religion and moral in Islamic culture. However, in public or political life there is no equality. The men should keep the woman save and look after them. The woman’s role is to take care of the affairs inside the house and take care of the children.
Architectures like the Alhambra are in line with Islamic beliefs and the roles that men and women should play. They often have a central area with a lot of rooms opening up to the area. For the women there are rooms upstairs from which they can see what happens in the central area. Only women that are servants are allowed to attend visitors. The wife and children of the family are kept privately when the men have visitors.
The Hall of the Kings
The so-called Hall of the Kings runs along the entire East side of the courtyard. The Hall is divided in five different areas of which three are illuminated from porticos. The Hall of the Kings is a concession of light and shadows. The center room is most likely the room of the sultan, since it give a perfect view on the courtyard where the pillars resemble palm trees and where the fountain is the masterpiece in the middle.
On the ceilings in the alcoves you can find beautiful paintings that date back to XIV – XV centuries. The ceiling in the center alcove shows a painting where ten men are sitting. It’s believed that these are the first ten rulers of the Nasrid Dynasty.
The Hall of the Two Sisters
The Hall of the Two Sisters got it’s name from the twin pair of Macael marble slabs in the center of the room. It’s the oldest room in the courtyard of the Lions.
There are two passages when you enter the room. One leads to the rooms upstairs. The other passages leads towards a water closet. Even in those days the Muslims used lavatories with running water.
The cupola of mocarabes is a composition of 5.416 pieces which creates a magnificent ceiling. Until 1590 the windows in the mocarabes had stained glass. The light that came in creates a beautiful colour movement throughout the room. In that way the room never looked the same. It was a resemblance of the stars which are always shifting in the sky.
An inscription in the Hall of the Two Sisters says: “Have you ever seen such a beautiful garden?” “We have never seen a garden with greater abundance of fruit, nor sweeter, nor more perfumed”.
The Mirador of Lindaraja
The most iconic feature of the Mirador of Lindaraja room is it’s stained glass window which is captured by a nicely decorated wooden frame. It’s believed that the name comes from an Arabic phrase which translates to: “The eyes of the house of Aixa”.
The courtyard of the Grille and Lindaraja
The courtyard of the Grille and Lindaraja were laid out when alterations were made in 1526 to accommodate the visit of King Charles I to Granada. The new apartments have some nicely decorated Flemish ceilings.