ALCAZAR

Cordoba
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The Alcazar de Cordoba is a palace-fortress that was built when the Muslim Moors occupied Spain. However, most of what we see today was not constructed until 1328 by order of king Alfonso XI after the successful reconquest of the city. Later, King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella lived in the alcazar. Here they met with Christopher Columbus concerning his voyage to India.

Today, there isn’t a whole to see in the alcazar’s interior. However, the Mudejar gardens are spectacular plus the views from the castle’s towers make the visit totally worth it. Other than the Mezquita, the Alcazar de los Reyes Cristianos is definitely one of the top things to do in Cordoba.

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OPENING TIMES

Tuesday to Friday: 8:15am to 8pm
Saturdays: 9:30am to 6pm
Sundays: 8:15am to 2:45pm
Mondays: closed

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PRICE

General admission: 5€
Under 26 years: 2.5€
0-13 years: free

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ADDRESS

Plaza Campo Santo de los Mártires, 14004 Córdoba

VIEW MAP
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History of the Alcazar de los Reyes Cristianos

Ponds & towers in the Alcazar de Cordoba – Andalusia, Spain
Ponds & towers in the Alcazar de Cordoba

ROMAN & VISIGOTH ERA

Starting in 197 BC, Cordoba served as the capital of the Roman province known as Hispania Ulterior. There was a lot of trade with Rome and the Guadalquivir River allowed easy access to the interior of the province. To deal with trade, a customs house was established on the banks of the river where the Alcazar stands today.

Over time, defensive walls and a castle were built to protect the bridge and the port. Remnants from this early castle were discovered during excavations in 2002 and can be seen in the Patio de las Mujeres.

MOORISH ERA

In 711 AD, southern Spain was invaded by the Muslim Moors of north Africa.

Soon after, the Andalusí Alcazar (or Umayyad Alcazar) was built on top of the foundation of the Roman castle. It was used as a royal residence for several hundred years. With the construction of the new royal city of Medina Azahara, the royal seat of power moved out from Cordoba’s alcazar but only briefly before the caliphate eventually collapsed.

BEGINNING OF THE CHRISTIAN ERA

Christian forces reconquered Cordoba in 1236. The alcazar was then declared the official residence of the king. Alfonso X started the renovations but it was his son, Alfonso XI, who actually carried out most of the building works.

In the 15th century, the Catholic monarchs, Ferdinand & Isabella lived in the alcazar for 10 years. This is why today it is known as the Alcazar de los Reyes Cristianos (Alcazar of the Christian Monarchs). This is the location where they met with Cristopher Columbus (in the Torre del Homenaje) to discuss his trip to India.

Also during their time at the Alcazar de Cordoba, the monarchs organized for the retaking of the Iberian Peninsula. This led to the capture of Granada in 1492 and the expulsion of the Muslims from Spain that soon followed.

Statue of the Catholic Monarchs with Christobal Columbus in the gardens of Cordoba's Alcazar
Statue of the Catholic Monarchs with Christobal Columbus

INQUISITION

The Spanish Inquisition was created by the Catholic Monarchs in 1482 after a papal decree from Pope Sixtus IV. One of its main goals was to curb the Judaizing practices of the Catholic converts. Once the reconquest of Spain had taken place, the Catholic Monarchs turned the alcazar over to the church which converted it into the seat of the Inquisition.

The interior of the alcazar was completely rearranged. The harmonious palatial character of the castle, as it was enjoyed by the previous kings, was turned into a dark and gloomy hellhole. Holding cells for prisoners were built as well as torture chambers.

One of the most horrendous individuals to set foot in the alcazar was the priest Diego Rodríguez Lucero who was named inquisitor of Cordoba in 1499. Besides demolishing houses in the city that he deemed were synagogues, he also tortured his victims and is responsible for burning hundreds of people alive. In just 4 years, he condemned more than 200 people to be burned alive at the stake.

On December 22, 1504, Lucero burned 107 people for being Judaizers in what today is the Corredera Square. Testimony of the event says that “when he burned a hundred and seven men they were shouting to God and the Virgin to forgive them and saying that they never committed the sin of heresy, and called on the scribes to testify that they died as Christian Catholics and in the faith of Jesus Christ.”

Wall of the Alcazar de los Reyes Cristianos, Cordoba – Spain
Wall of the Alcazar de los Reyes Cristianos

For several years, many nobles and knights petitioned King Ferdinand to stop Lucero, but their pleas went unheard. It is not known for sure why the king did not put a stop to the cruelty. But what is for sure is that the monarchy was the sole beneficiary of all the assets confiscated during the Inquisition.

On 9 November 1506, the local population, tired of the Inquisition’s cruelty, invaded the alcazar and liberated more than 400 prisoners. Lucero burned his torture devices and fled to Seville on the back of a mule. He was later tried for his false accusations and found guilty by the Grand Inquisitor. But shortly after he was returned to his position as priest in Seville.

MODERN HISTORY

In 1812, after the Inquisition was abolished, the Alcazar became a local jail. In 1931, it was declared a national monument and was used by the military. Finally in 1955, it was transferred to the local government.

What to See in the Alcazar de Cordoba

Gardens of the Alcazar of Cordoba seen from the Lions' Tower – Spain
Gardens of Cordoba's Alcazar seen from the Lions' Tower

FOUR TOWERS

The alcazar is protected by four walls, with a tower in each of the four corners. The most important of the towers is the Torre del Homenaje (Tower of the Homage). This is where the king gave his proclamations and also where soldiers would swear to defend the castle.

It is in this tower that Christopher Columbus met with the Catholic Monarchs in 1486 to discuss his voyage and to ask for funding.

Right next to the Torre del Homenaje is a smaller tower built on top of the alcazar’s wall. Those found guilty during the Inquisition who were not burned alive, where hung on this balcony so that the public could watch from below.

Torre del Homenaje (Homage Tower) seen from the Lions Tower in the Alcazar de Cordoba, Andalusia – Spain
Torre del Homenaje (Homage Tower) in the Alcazar

The other important tower is the Torre de los Leones (Tower of the Lions). It is the oldest of the four and dates back to the 13th century. Its name comes from the gargoyles on the upper level. From the top of the tower you have some of the best views of Cordoba which include the immaculate alcazar gardens below.

The Torre de la Inquisición and Torre de la Paloma cannot be visited. In addition, the Torre de la Paloma is actually a poor reconstruction from the middle of the 20th century.

Alcazar de los Reyes Cristianos (Alcazar of the Christian Monarchs) in Cordoba, Spain
Alcazar de los Reyes Cristianos (Alcazar of the Christian Monarchs)

GARDENS OF THE ALCAZAR DE LOS REYES CRISTIANOS

Originally the alcazar’s gardens were primarily used for growing vegetables. Waterwheels were built in the adjacent Guadalquivir River which lifted the water and brought it to the castle via an aqueduct. This water was used for irrigating the plants as well as for the bath house.

Today, these impressive gardens are planted with a large variety of local flora and have a distinct Moorish influence. Besides the many colorful flowers there are palms, citrus trees, cypress trees and numerous ponds with fountains.

The alcazar’s garden sits on 13 acres of land which is the equivalent to 10 football fields. The water features line their way from one side of the complex to the other, perfectly framing the castle in the background. This is definitely the place where you want to take photos!

Roman mosaic exhibited at Cordoba's Alcazar in Andalusia, Spain
Roman mosaic in Cordoba's Alcazar

SALÓN DE LOS MOSAICOS

The Mosaics Hall is a small Baroque chapel that was rebuilt in the 18th century. The original was known as the Inquisition chapel. Inside you will find eight Roman mosaics that were discovered under the Plaza de la Corredera during its renovation in 1958.

ROYAL BATHS

The baths are located directly under the Salon de los Mosaicos. Legend has it that King Alfonso XI built these Mudejar baths for his Sevillian mistress Leonor de Guzman, with whom he fathered 10 illegitimate children.

The baths are divided into 3 rooms (cold, warm and hot) and feature skylights with eight pointed stars. However, once the chapel was built above the baths, all natural light entering into the baths was lost. The baths were then transformed into torture chambers during the Inquisition.

Jardines del Alcazar de Cordoba (Cordoba Alcazar's Gardens) – Andalusia, Spain
Jardines del Alcazar de Cordoba (Cordoba Alcazar's Gardens)

PATIOS

The Mudejar Patio is the only space in the Alcazar that has remain unchanged since its construction. It is a pure representation of an Andalusian garden with orange and lemon trees, myrtle and aromatic jasmine clinging to the walls.

The Patio de las Mujeres (Women’s Patio) gets its name from when the Alcazar de Cordoba was used as a prison and this area was reserved for the women. In 2002-04 the patio was excavated and the rooms from the old prison were demolished to make way for a new conference center. However, the project was stopped once archaeological remains were discovered. These include a Roman wall from the 1st century and other remnants from the 5th and 6th centuries. Today, the excavations can be seen from the balcony of the Salon de los Mosaicos.

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