Alhambra: Outer Monuments

Front facade of the Puerta de las Granadas (Gate of the Pomegranates) in the Alhambra, Granada, Spain

Pedestrian Path to the Alhambra Entrance

A site map of the Alhambra located near the city of Granada in Spain
A site map of the Alhambra and Generalife

The Alhambra monuments are on top of Sabika Hill, and there are two pedestrian paths to the main entrance from the foot of this hill. The path explained here is via the Puerta de Las Granadas (Gate of the Pomegranates). If you are walking there from the city center, take Cuesta de Gomérez Street from Plaza Nueva to arrive at this gate.

Note that another entry point is via Cuesta del Rey Chico, but the entry via the Puerta de Las Granadas is more interesting because of the monuments along this path. The distance from Plaza Nueva to the Alhambra monuments via this gate is about 3/4 of a mile.

The image shows a site map of the Alhambra and Generalife placed near this gate.

The paved road from the gate to the main entrance goes uphill, and as you walk up, you encounter the Alhambra forest on both sides. After walking a few hundred feet from the gate, the roads fork into two; The right path goes to the Crimson Towers, the Manuel de Falla Auditorium, and the left path leads to the Alhambra. As you walk further, you arrive at the Washington Irving monument. A few feet from there, you climb the flight of steps to reach the Pillar of Carlos V. Then you go via the Puerta de la Justicia (Gate of Justice) to arrive at the Alhambra.

Once you are at the top, you can see monuments belonging to both the Nasrid and Christian eras. The Nasrid era monuments include Puerta del Vino (Wine Gate), Alcazaba, and Palacios Nazaríes (Nasrid Palaces). The Christian era monuments include Palacio de Carlos V (Charles V Palace) Santa Maria de Alhambra and Church of St. Mary of the Alhambra.

Monuments along the Pedestrian Path

As mentioned before, there are several interesting monuments along the pedestrian path to the Alhambra entrance. Here is a brief description of these monuments.

Puerta de Las Granadas (Gate of the Pomegranates)

The first monument you see is the Gate of the Pomegranates, and as mentioned, it is an entry point located at the foot of Sabika Hill. It is a Roman-style arched gate built in 1526 to commemorate the visit of Carlos V (1500 – 1558), Holy Roman Emperor, and also King of Spain, Germany, and Italy. The architect of this gate is Pedro Machuca, who also built the Palacio Carlos V (Charles V Palace), one of the famous Christian-era buildings at the Alhambra.

As you can see from the image, the door has a lintel and pediment. Situated above the lintel is a sculpture of a two-headed eagle covering the coat of arms of Carlos V, and on top of the pediment are the sculptures of three opened pomegranates, the reason why the gate got its name. This gate replaced the one existed from the Nasrid era, some remnants of which are visible on the right side, i.e., a small arch.

The image on the right side shows the back facade of this gate. Embedded on the wall on the left side is a small tombstone etched with words that pays touching tribute to Alhamar, the founder of the Alhambra. It was installed in 1932 as part of the ceremonies commemorating the 7th centenary of the founding of the Emirate of Granada. The author of these beautiful poetic words is Francisco Villaespesa Martín (1877 – 1936), a famous Spanish poet and writer with close ties to Granada.

Tombstone that pays tributes to Alahmar, the founder of the Alhambra mouted on a wall near the Gate of the Pomegranates in Granada, Spain
Tombstone that pays tributes to Alahmar and glorifies the Alhambra

Here is a rough English translation of these poetic words written on the plaque:
To Alahmar, the most distinguished man of the house of NASAR, the founder of the Alhambra. Because you surpassed the limits of Time and space by making all the beauties of nature pale when by creating the wonders of this citadel to gird the glory and immortality of the divine temples of the distinguished and unique city, you receive the moving tribute from Granada and with it the admiration and respect of the world.

The cry of your banished children who, even in the solitude of the desert, in the light of the stars, dream of the paradise of your enchanted halls.

Do not fear the ravages of time or the fickleness of fortune, because your overflowing zeal was eternalized in the marvel of these enclosures.

Even though the shadows of these walls may not last, their memory, which will always be everlasting, will remain as the only possible refuge of dreams and art.

And then the last nightingale, who flutters over the world, will make its nest and sing chants of farewell amongst the glorious ruins of the Alhamabra.

Statue of Washington Irving

The next important monument you see on the path is the bronze statue of Washington Irving (1783–1859), a celebrated American author and a great admirer of the Alhambra.

Statue of of Washington Irving installed by the side of the pathway leading to the Alhambra in Granada, Spain
Statue of Washington Irving

He visited Granada in 1829 and lived on the premises of the Nasrid Palaces located inside the Alhambra. He authored one of his famous books, Tales of the Alhambra, which is a collection of essays, stories, and sketches related to the Alhambra, some of which were inspired by the legends and stories passed down through generations of families residing in Granada. Beside being an author, he was an American ambassador to Spain from 1842 to 1846.

This statue was installed in 2009 to commemorate Washington Irving’s 150th death anniversary. The plaque at the bottom says “Washington Irving 1783 – 1859” and the pedestal says “Hijo de la Alhambra” (Son of the Alhambra) as he wanted to call himself. The Alhambra forest is behind the statue. The following is one of his famous quotes on the Alhambra:

 “Perhaps there never was a monument more characteristic of an age and  people than the Alhambra; a rugged fortress without, a voluptuous palace  within; war frowning from its battlements; poetry breathing throughout  the fairy architecture of its halls.”

Carlos V Pillar

Carlos V Pillar
Carlos V Pillar

The image shows a beautifully decorated wall located next to the Puerta de la Justicia and below the artillery pieces in front of the Palacio Carlos. As you can see, the wall has three distinct levels of carvings. The bottom level is about Granada. The middle and top levels are about Carlos V, Holy Roman Emperor, who commissioned this wall.

Carved at the bottom level are the three masks, which, according to experts, represent the three rivers of Granada, Darro, Beiro, and Genil. Representing Granada is a pomegranate growing on a tree branch carved on each of the two pilasters in the middle. Note that Granada means pomegranate in Spanish.

At the center of the middle level is an inscription in Latin about Carlos V. The semi-circular block on the top level has his coat of arms enclosed by a double-headed eagle, which represents the Hapsburg Empire. The four medallions carved on sides of this circular block have reliefs depicting scenes from Greek mythology.

Puerta de la Justicia – Gate of Justice

Puerta de la Justicia (Gate of Justice)
Puerta de la Justicia (Gate of Justice)

Commissioned by Yusuf I (1333-1353), the seventh Nasrid ruler of the Emirate of Granada, and completed in 1348, the Gate of Justice is a tower built as an entrance to the Alhambra.

As you can see from the image, there are two doors, one behind the other. The outer door leads to the inner one, which is much smaller. Both of them have a horseshoe type of arches above the doors.

At the center of the circular frieze above the outer door is a marble figure of a hand inset into the frieze. The lintel of the inner door has an inscription written in Arabic. Above the inscription is a niche with the statue of the Virgin Mary with Infant Jesus, which is a duplicate of the original installed in 1501, which is currently on display at the Museo de Bellas Artes (Museum of Fine Arts) in the Palacio Carlos V – Charles V Palace.

Related Pages
Alhambra – Discover the magic of the Alhambra
Palacios Nazaríes – Nasrid Palaces – A Shining Example of Moorish Art and Architecture
Los Jardines del Partal – The Gardens of the Partal
Alcazaba – A Formidable Fortress of the Nasrids
Medina, the Bustling City of the Nasrids
Alhambra – Christian-Era Monuments
Alhambra – Outer Monuments
Heavenly Gardens of the Nasrids
Real Alcázar of Seville:
Pedro I Palace – A masterpiece of Mudéjar art and architecture

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