The Aljafería Palace – Zaragoza, Spain

Bob Borson —  February 23, 2011 — 21 Comments

There are some places where the history is just sitting there right in front of your face – and The Aljafería Palace was just such a place. Thanks to the generosity of The Spanish Tile Manufacturer’s Association (ASCER) and Tile of Spain, I was able to take a private tour of The Aljafería Palace while in Zaragoza, Spain.

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The Aljafería Palace is a fortified medieval Islamic palace built during the second half of the 11th century in the Moorish taifa of Zaragoza of Al-Andalus, which is now present day Zaragoza, Spain. (A taifa was an independent Muslim-ruled principality, usually an emirate or petty kingdom.) Early in the 8th century (711 A.D.) a group made up of Arab and Black African tribes invaded and conquered most of what is now called Spain. In the English language, we call these invaders the Moors, though that’s not a term they used for themselves. They called their conquered territory Al-Andalus, and this group of conqueror’s remained on the Iberian peninsula for nearly 800 years.

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Starting in the 1200s, a coalition of Christian kings drove the Moors from Spain in a 300 year long campaign called the Reconquista. As Moorish territory fell to the Christian kings of Spain, the Moors who stayed behind were allowed to continue to practice their religion. The Spanish called the Moors who remained in these newly conquered territories ‘Mudéjares’. The word itself is a Medieval Spanish reworking of an Arabic term for “the ones who stayed.” Mudéjar is also the name of the architectural style from this period. Mudéjar is widely accepted as a hybrid of Moorish, Gothic and Romanesque styles.

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The Aljaferia became the residence of the Christian kings of the Kingdom of Aragon after the Reconquista and as such, it was the focal point for the outward spread of the Mudéjar Architecture of Aragon. This residence was later turned into the Palace of King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella I of Castille. The only reason I know any of this information is because we had a private guide walking us through the Palace and she pointed out that it would have been this very courtyard that Christopher Columbus walked through when he came to plead for financial support so that he could go on his expedition; the very voyages that led him across the Atlantic ocean and ultimately to the American continents in the Western Hemisphere.

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Aljaferia Site Map - Click to enlarge

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  • http://www.wanderlusting.info Dayna and Kurt

    Nice post.  The place in Spain I would like to see the most is the Basque region.  The architecture from the mix of Islamic and Catholic religions is fascinating.

  • http://twitter.com/boqueronviajero Rusko EBV

    It’s an amazing place!!! We went there and wrote an article about it on our travel webiste too! http://elboqueronviajero.com/index.php/menu-places/91-cat-zaragoza/195-zaragoza-aljaferia I hope you like it!! Greetings from Spain :)

  • Celso

    The “Reconquista” literally “Reconquer” started in VIII century, right after “Moors” arrived at “Asturias”.

    Keep posting : )

  • Emily

    Awesome photos!

    • http://www.lifeofanarchitect.com Bob Borson

      Thanks Emily,
      The glare on many of these photos is brutal! I will upload the balance of the photos from this location into a folder on the Life of an Architect Facebook page within the next few days.

      http://www.facebook.com/lifeofanarchitect

  • http://www.usefulspaces.net Arne Salvesen CKD

    I can’t help but think of the “Bubble Boy” episode on Seinfeld any time someone mentions the Moors. “I’m sorry, the card says ‘Moops’”

    Another beautiful post from the Reign in Spain group. Envious doesn’t even begin to describe it …

    • http://www.lifeofanarchitect.com Bob Borson

      Ha, I wondered if that was going to come up. Thanks for not disappointing.

      Moops. It’s still funny

    • http://twitter.com/Tile_Trends Ryan Fasan

      Thanks for going there Arne… I didn’t want to be the one to have to do it.

      Moops… ROFL! Ahh Seinfeld, thanks for being awesome!

  • http://www.kitchenandresidentialdesign.com Paul Anater

    Great post Bob!

    • http://www.lifeofanarchitect.com Bob Borson

      Thanks Paul, turned out just like yours – you know what they say about imitation…

  • http://twitter.com/TileofSpain Tile of Spain

    Something else that’s pretty cool a la Christopher Columbus – if you go to Granada to the Capilla Real (Royal Chapel), you can see Isabella’s crown, sceptor and her jewelry box. Empty, of course, because she funded Columbus’ expedition with her baubles.

    • http://www.lifeofanarchitect.com Bob Borson

      When I was doing some follow up research it seemed as though Isabella was the one interested in funding Christopher Columbus expedition because Ferdinand didn’t even get mentioned. It’s like he made her use her allowance -

      • Emily

        Isabella totally wore the pants. Ferdinand was just her muscle, riding around the countryside and fighting the uprisings. When she died, Ferdinand usurped his (legitimate) daughter’s crown so that he could finally have his turn at the helm.

        • http://www.lifeofanarchitect.com Bob Borson

          check out the big brain on Emily!! So impressive and can handle a jug of apple cider like a pro. Is there anything you can’t do?

          • Emily

            Two jugs of cider? Just need some practice.

  • http://twitter.com/Tile_Trends Ryan Fasan

    Another Visually stunning post Bob

    • http://www.lifeofanarchitect.com Bob Borson

      Thanks Ryan,

      Sadly I didn’t have any Ryan scale figures in any of these pictures – I suppose that was to come.

      Cheers

      • http://twitter.com/Tile_Trends Ryan Fasan

        I’ll be looking for the mighty Sasquatch shots… I’m still trying to work the one you sent me into a post

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  • http://archialternative.com/ Albert (Archi Alternative)

    Thanks for sharing. Very interesting indeed…

    • http://www.lifeofanarchitect.com Bob Borson

      Thanks Albert,

      I’m glad you found it interesting. I was worried about the private tour, thinking it would be like some cruise ship expedition but it turned out great!

      Cheers