Alhambra - Table of Contents....................Architecture Around the World

  Nasrid Mexuar Palace - Alhambra
Granada, Spain

Photos below

This is almost certainly the oldest surviving part of the royal palaces but it has undergone substantial alteration.  Its name is derived from the Arabic term Maswar, the place where the Surah or Counsel of Ministers met. It was here that the royal court of justice is believed to have convened.

The original hall was illuminated by daylight filtering though the stained glass panes of a lantern window in the roof, of which only the four columns and entablature have been preserved.

After the conquest in 1492, the Christian monarchs installed their chapel here, changing the shape of the room.  In the 16th century an upper floor was added and the building was transformed into a Chapel. This was later replaced by an artistically carved, radial, wooden ceiling.

The decorations within the palaces typified the remains of Moorish dominion within Spain and ushered in the last great period of Andalusian art in Granada. With little influence from the Islamic mainland, artists endlessly reproduced the same forms and trends, creating a new style that developed over the course of the Nasrid Dynasty. The Nasrids used freely all the stylistic elements that had been created and developed during eight centuries of Muslim rule in the Peninsula, including the Calliphal horseshoe arch, the Almohad sebka (a grid of rhombuses), the Almoravid palm, and unique combinations of them, as well as innovations such as stilted arches and muqarnas (stalactite ceiling decorations). The isolation from the rest of Islam plus the commercial and political relationship with the Christian kingdoms also influenced building styles.

The decoration consists, as a rule, of stiff, conventional foliage, Arabic inscriptions, and geometrical patterns wrought into arabesques. Painted tiles are largely used as panelling for the walls. The palace complex is designed in the Mudéjar, style which is characteristic of western elements reinterpreted into Islamic forms and widely popular during the Reconquista, the reconquest of the Iberian Peninsula from the Muslims by the Christian kingdoms.

Columns and muqarnas appear in several chambers, and the interiors of numerous palaces are decorated with arabesques and calligraphy.

After the Christian conquest of the city in 1492, the conquerors began to alter the Alhambra. The open work was filled up with whitewash, the painting and gilding effaced, and the furniture soiled, torn, or removed. Charles V (1516–1556) rebuilt portions in the Renaissance style of the period and destroyed the greater part of the winter palace to make room for a Renaissance-style structure which was never completed. Philip V (1700–1746) Italianised the rooms and completed his palace in the middle of what had been the Moorish building; he had partitions constructed which blocked up whole apartments.

Mexuar Hall
Probably built for  Ismail I (1314-1325) although it has suffered many alterations.

Traditional visitors' entrance to the Nasrid Palaces.
It served as a waiting area or ante-chamber when the sultan gave audience.

Noteworthy among the radical alterations to the building are the decorated ceilings.

This is one of four original columns which have slim marble shafts topped by a series of moldings which form a collar beneath the capital which consists of two parts: the lower rounded  and the upper rectangular.
The capitals were restored in 1995 when they were repainted in their original polychromed style.

Wooden ceilings include gilding on strapwork design.

Some of the wooden, polychromatic, coffered ceilings are original.

The Nasrid council met within the square formed by the four columns  (three pictured here) to decide important judicial matters.

The raised area with a present day balustrade is the later added chapel choir (area for singers).
The chapel was later removed, probably in the 19th century.

Also noteworthy among the radical alterations to the building are the curious epigraphic (writing) stucco friezes which run along the top of the ceramic tiling dadoes.

Two of four arched horseshoe windows along the northern wall.


Looking into the Courtyard.   Horseshoe arch

Columns have slim marble shafts topped by a series of moldings which form a collar beneath the capital which consists of two parts: the lower rounded and the upper rectangular.

The arch is decorated with mocarabes (stalactites).

Just above the capital the hollowed out decorations are mocarabes (stalactites).

Photos and their arrangement © 2009 Chuck LaChiusa
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