Throughout Andalucia, in Southern Spain, every tour and every site tells some part of a story of conquest and reconquest, of Moors driving out Visigoths, and falling in turn over centuries to Christian kingdoms. And yet, when one of those Christian kings, Don Pedro of Castile, decided to build a new palace in Seville, he chose architects from Muslim Granada, who built him a palace fit for a sultan—in fact, some of the inscriptions call him that!
Don Pedro, called Peter I in English and Peter the Cruel in popular legend (or Peter the Just…depends on whether you were for him or against him) became king just over 100 years after his grandfather conquered Seville, and about 150 years before the surrender of Granada, the last Moorish kingdom. His life is a twisted tale, mixed with intrigue, murder, love and a lot more that doesn’t belong here.
What’s here is a taste of the Reales Alcazares de Sevilla, or Royal Alcazar, a complex of palaces and fortifications that dates back to before the Moorish conquest in the 8th century.
In the Hall of Justice
When the Moors came, they built a fort and castle (that’s what “alcazar” means) where a Visigoth fort had been. Over the years up to the Christian conquest in 1248 they added on more. In the 13th century, King Alfonso X added a Gothic palace, and in the 14th century, Don Pedro had his palace built in the “mudejar” style, using parts of the Moorish building and patios. The Gothic palace was redone in the 17th and 18th centuries; you'd think it was newer, not older, than Peter's palace.
“Mudejar” refers to Moorish architectural styles built under Christian rule, and Don Pedro may have carried it to an extreme: It’s not usual for Catholic kings to adorn their palaces with slogans such as “There is no conqueror but Allah.”
The picture at the top is the so-called Baths of Dona Maria de Padilla; they're actually a rainwater pool in the lower part of the palace, used as a water supply, not for bathing. Maria de Padilla was Peter's lover, wife, advisor and mother of daughters married off for dynastic alliances. One became Duchess of York, another Duchess of Lancaster. Thus, Peter's story reaches out into England and the Wars of the Roses.
Below, more pictures for your enjoyment and interest.
MORE TravelGumbo blogs on Andalucia:
- Visiting the Alhambra
- Granada, Spain: A Walk Through the Historic Albaicin Neighborhood
- The Alcazar of Jerez: A Window into History
- Six Tapas Bars in Seville, Spain
- Cordoba's Great Mosque-Cathedral
Following Moorish styles, the buildings of the Alcazar abound in colorful tilework.
Entrance of Peter's palace; the upper floor was added later, and the wooden projection above it is among the few evidences of Christian styles in the building. The upper floor is the official residence of today's King when visiting Seville.
Ceiling of the Hall of the Ambassadors, where important guests were received
Courtyard of the Maidens, where visitors waited for the king
The Alcazar is surrounded by extensive gardens, some in original style, and others laid out "English style" in the 19th century.
Seen from the Alcazar, the Giralda, Seville's symbol. It's the tower and campanile of the Cathedral; the lower portion was originally the minaret of Seville's biggest mosque, located where the Cathedral is now.