A masterpiece of Mudéjar art and architecture
The palace of Pedro I is considered a masterpiece of Mudéjar art and architecture and is a testament to Spain’s multicultural roots. It owes its name to King Don Pedro (1350 – 1369), an eccentric ruler of Castile and Leon known for his cruelty and also known for his open-mindedness toward different cultures. Christian, Jewish, and Islamic cultures flourished, and a harmonious relationship existed between these cultures during his reign.
King Don Pedro was a great admirer of Moorish culture and architecture. He built this magnificent palace using Mudéjar artisans from Seville, Toledo, and the Moorish kingdom of Granada. Mudéjar art and architecture, which emerged in Andalusia, Spain, in the 12th century, is a fusion of Islamic and Christian styles, best characterized by horseshoe arches, afarje ceilings decorated with interlaced star-like polygons, decorative motifs on plaster with linear and curvilinear patterns, glazed ceramic tiles with geometrical patterns, beehive ceilings, and stalactites.
The Pedro I Palace is part of Real Alcázar of Seville, a large complex consisting of palaces, administrative buildings, and gardens built/rebuilt by different cultures from the middle ages to the modern era. A part of this palace is still being used as the royal residence. Designated in 1987 by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site – along with the Seville Cathedral and the General Archive of the Indies – the Real Alcázar is one of the most visited attractions in the world.
Path to the Real Alcázar Complex
Puerta del León (Lion’s Gate)
The main entrance to the Real Alcázar is the Puerta del León, a gate built during the Almohad times, located on the Plaza del Triunfo and is close to the eastern end of the Seville Cathedral.
The image below shows the front facade of Puerta del León. Embedded into its wall above the door is a beautiful emblem of a lion carrying the cross, which is responsible for the name Puerta del León, which means Lion’s Gate in Spanish. Although the wall of this gate is from Almohad times, the emblem is recent, made in 1892 of Triana Ceramic tiles in a local factory named Mensaque.
The Puerta del León is not the only entrance to the Real Alcázar; There is another located at the intersection of Calle Menendez Pelayo and Calle San Fernando, used mostly for special occasions.
The Peurta del León opens into the Patio del León, a small courtyard with a path in the middle flanked by several rectangle-shaped hedges of neatly-trimmed myrtle bushes, which enclose tall trees, including cypress, and a variety of plants. The other end of the patio is the ancient Moorish wall. See the image below.
The view of the Patio del León shown in the image is from the Moorish wall. At the far end is the rear side of the Peurta del León.
Ancient Moorish wall
Visitors walk through ancient Moorish wall before entering into the Real Alcázar complex. The three arched doors were carved out of the defensive fortification to allow entry to the newly built Pedro I Palace. As you can see, there is a difference in construction methods. The brick-based archways were from the King Pedro era, whereas the stone-based rest of the wall was from the Almohad era.
The building at the far end of the image is King Pedro I Palace, and the courtyard in front of it is known as Patio de la Montería (Courtyard of Hunting), i.e., the courtyard with the white crisscrossed lines. To the right of King Pedro I Palace is Casa de Contratación (House of Trade). This view is captured from the middle arched door of the ancient Moorish wall, which separates the Patio de la Montería and Patio del León (Courtyard of the Lion).
The Pedro I Palace has a beautifully-designed Mudéjar-style facade and entrance. Mathematics played a vital role in creating beautiful art in the decoration of the facade. As you can see, the design is symmetrical about the vertical axis. The beam above the door has several voussoirs (wedge-shaped blocks) that are placed at regular intervals and slanted outwards. Flanking the door are the blind stilted arches with the space above them decorated with beautiful sebka decorative motifs.
This view was captured from the Patio de la Montería. You can see visitors entering into a narrow hall known as the vestibule, which has passageways at the ends leading to the other rooms.
Decorated by the Mudéjar artisans from Seville, Toledo and Granada, the interior is filled stunningly beautiful artwork containing mesmerizing geometrical patterns on the walls, ceilings and arches.
Layout of the Palace
The diagram shows the ground plan of the Pedro I Palace Note: This diagram is neither accurate nor drawn to scale. The purpose of this diagram is to show different halls and rooms and their locations within the palace.
Here is the list of the halls and rooms:
1. Vestibulo (Vestibule)
2. Alcoba Real (Royal Bedroom)
3. Patio de las Doncellas (Courtyard of the Maidens) – Corridor
4. Patio de las Doncellas – Sunken Garden
5. Salón de Embajadores (Ambassadors’ Room)
6. Salón de los Sevillanos (Hall of the Sevillians)
7. Salón de los Toledanos (Hall of the Toledans)
8. Patio de las Muñecas (Patio of the Dolls)
9. Sala de los Infantes (Infants Room)
10. Sala de los Pasos Perdidos – Hall of the Lost Steps
11. Salón de los Reyes Católicos (Hall of the Catholic Monarchs)
12. Cuarto del Príncipe (Prince’s Room)
13. Salón del Techo de Felipe II (Philip II Ceiling Room)
14. Salón del Techo de Carlos V (Charles V Ceiling Room)
King Don Pedro lived in this palace and conducted his official here. As the name suggests, his bedroom is Alcoba Real (2). The halls he used for the official business are centered around Patio de las Doncellas (4). The queen and children used Patio de las Muñecas (8). The Salón de Embajadores (5) was the throne room, and this was where King Don Pedro received emissaries and prominent people of his time.
The Vestibule (Section 1 in the layout) is the hall where visitors enter the Pedro I Palace. It is a narrow hall with passageways at the ends leading to the other rooms. The left passageway leads to the Patio de las Doncellas, which is the official section of the palace. The right passageway leads to the Patio de las Muñecas, which is the private section of the palace.
The beautiful piece of work in wood shown in the image is on the ceiling of the vestibule. It is classic Mudéjar art. As you can see, enclosed within the central rectangle of the wooden panel is exquisitely decorated artwork containing gold inlaid shapes (medallions and polygons), with beautiful geometrical patterns interlaced around them.
Alcoba Real (Royal Bedroom)
Situated next to the vestibule, the Alcoba Real was King Pedro’s bedroom, which has two rooms, outer and inner. Check section 2 in the layout. As you can see, the inner room has only one door, which opens into the outer room.
All the three images shown above portray the beauty of Mudéjar art. The floor and lower part of walls is ornate with tile work covered with eye-catching geometrical patterns. It appears as though these patterns follow some mathematical equations. The arched door of the outer room opens into Patio de las Doncellas, and the wall surrounding it is embellished with arabesques and Islamic calligraphy. Covering the ceiling is a beautiful piece of artwork in wood. As you can see, this exquisitely decorated artwork contains gold inlaid shapes (medallions and polygons), with beautiful geometrical patterns interlaced around them.
Patio de las Doncellas (Courtyard of the Maidens)
The Patio de las Doncellas (Courtyard of the Maidens) is a rectangular courtyard with ornate corridors on all four sides. In the middle of the courtyard is a pool flanked by sunken garden with trees that include the famous orange trees of Seville.
Legend has it that the sultan of Cordoba demanded 100 virgins every year as a tribute from the Christian kings of the Iberian Peninsula. This courtyard owns its name to the maidens in the legend.
The courtyard was built by King Don Pedro and the upper gallery was a later addition built by Charles V.
This courtyard resembles many open courtyards in the Alhambra and Generalife in Granada. For example, Court of the Myrtles in the Nasrid Palaces, Patio de la Acequia (Court of the Irrigation Canal) in the Generalife. This is because King Pedro I loved Moorish architecture and decoration and had a cordial relationship with the Nasrids of Granada, who sent master craftsmen to help build and decorate the palace.
As you can see, the alfarje ( i.e., wooden panel on the ceiling) is exquisitely decorated with artwork containing gold inlaid shapes (medallions and polygons), with beautiful geometrical patterns interlaced around them. This beautiful piece of work is another excellent example of Mudéjar art. Check the Mudéjar art on the ceiling of the entrance hall.
Salón de Embajadores (Ambassadors’ Hall)
The Salón de Embajadores (Room 5 in the layout) was King Don Pedro’s throne room, and this was where he received emissaries and prominent people of his time. It is the most elaborately decorated room in the Pedro I Palace. Adding to its beauty is the perfect symmetry with which it was built and decorated. The square-shaped room is symmetrical about both the principal axis.
The exquisitely decorated ceiling is an excellent example of geometrical artwork using Mudéjar-style design. As you can see from the image, the view is dazzling and delightful to watch. Enclosing the perfectly circular shape is an octagram, a star-shaped polygon with eight angles, also a hexadecagon (a polygon with 16 sides).
The recessed circular panel is filled with small colorful polygons arranged in a geometrical pattern that radiates outwards from the star-like shape in the center. It gives an impression of the sky with a multitude of twinkling stars. The designers intended to make the people experience cosmic space in this room. It is believed that the artwork on the ceiling represents the cosmos, and the square room below represents the earth.
Each side of the square room looks similar, with a balcony made of wrought iron projecting out just below the ceiling. Below each balcony is a richly decorated arched door opening into another room. These balconies were added later, sometime in the 19th century.
Richly decorated rooms dedicated to the artisans
The Salón de Embajadores opens into Salón de los Sevillanos (Hall of the Sevillians) and Salón de los Toledanos (Hall of the Toledans) on two of its sides. See the sections 6 and 7 of the layout. The Salón de los Sevillanos is dedicated the artisans from Seville who decorated this hall. Likewise, Salón de los Toledanos owes its name to the artisans from Toledo.
As you can see from the images, the triple horse shoe arches supported by marble pillars separate the adjacent halls from the Salón de Embajadores.
Patio de las Muñecas (Patio of the Dolls)
Patio de las Muñecas (Room 8 in the layout) got its name because of the dolls carved into the arches. The image on the left has dolls carved into the arch near its bottom. It is believed that there are nine dolls carved into arches of the Patio de las Muñecas.
During Don Pedro’s time, the queen and the children used this room. The space above the arch is ornate with beautiful sebka decorative motifs. The upper two floors are the newer and built in the nineteenth century.
Note 1: Mudéjars were highly skilled craftsmen of Moorish origin who remained in the Christian areas and worked as masons, carpenters, potters, glass-makers, etc. Their skills were highly sought after to build palaces and luxury homes for the nobility in the Christian and Islamic areas.
Note 2: Arabesque is a repetitive pattern of foliage or geometrical designs found in decorations of Islamic architecture.
Note 3: Alfarje is a wooden painted ceiling decorated with decoration based interlacing star-shaped polygons.
Seville Pages and Posts
– Real Alcázar of Seville: Casa de Contratación (House of Trade)
– Seville Cathedral: An awe-inspiring architectural marvel
— Sala Capitular – The Chapter House of the Seville Cathedral
— Sacristía Mayor – The Main Sacristy of the Seville Cathedral
– La Giralda: A harmonious blend of Moorish and Renaissance architectural styles
– Las Setas of Seville – A modern artistic structure in a historical city
– Discover the Magic of 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
— Alhambra – Christian-Era Monuments
— Alhambra – Outer Monuments
– Generalife – Heavenly Gardens of the Nasrids
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