Isabella, the woman who chose to be Queen of Castile

Isabella of Castile, a woman who lived in a man’s world where she managed to reign of her own free will. An intelligent woman who built herself and changed history with her own decisions.

She lived in a time of change between the darkness of the Middle Ages and the enlightenment of the Renaissance. Isabella de Castilla, founded the modern Spain with the conquest of Granada in 1492. A long, difficult but determined road that ended with her death in 1504.

A woman with one foot in the Middle Ages, linked to the Catholic religion and fearing God, installing the inquisition, expelling the Jews and then the Moors.

The other foot was in the Renaissance, opening the vision to the horizon with the discoveries, changing the feudal system into a state, installing a professional army and a police control. A transitional woman, who settled the foundations of today’s Spain.

Isabella, from Princess to Queen

Isabella I of Castile (Madrigal de las Altas Torres, April 22, 1451-Medina del Campo, November 26, 1504) was Queen of Castile from 1474 to 1504, Queen consort of Sicily from 1469 and of Aragon from 1479, due to her marriage with Fernando of Aragon.

Henry IV was called “the impotent one.” In his first nuptials he married Blanca de Navarra with whom he could not have children, that marriage was annulled and married Juana de Portugal in 1455. But the King’s luck had not changed and in this marriage neither did an heir arrive.

However, Juana known as Juana La Beltraneja was born, daughter of the Queen and probably daughter of Beltrán de la Cueva, an influential man in the court of King Henry and supposed lover of Juana de Portugal.

After a civil war, Enrique’s half-brother, Juan, Isabella’s younger brother, was elected king at the age of 11, but good fortune did not accompany him and he died 3 years later, in 1468.

And now, who was going to be the successor? Juana or Isabella. Isabella managed to sign an agreement with her stepbrother; the Treaty of the Guisando Bulls, by which Henry declared Isabella heir, reserving the right to agree on her marriage.

Henry, in fact, tried to marry Isabella with Alfonso V, king of Portugal, the Duke of Guyena, brother of Luis XI of France among others but Isabella did not accept. She had promised herself never to marry someone whom she had not previously chosen. And while Henry continued looking for a husband for Isabella, as agreed, Juan II of Aragon tried to secretly negotiate with Isabella the wedding with his son Fernando.

Isabella and her advisers considered that he was the best candidate as husband but there was a legal impediment. Since they were second cousins, (her parents were cousins) they needed, therefore, a papal bull that would exonerate them of consanguinity.

The Pope, however, did not get to sign this document, fearful of the possible negative consequences that this act could bring him by attracting the enmity of the kingdoms of Castile, Portugal and France.

People around Isabella falsified an alleged bull issued in June 1464 by the previous Pope, Pius II, in favor of Ferdinand, in which he was allowed to marry any princess with whom he was linked by a consanguinity tie of up to a third grade.
Ferdinand crossed Castile in secret, disguised as a merchant’s mule waiter, and thus reached Castile and met Isabella.

Between suspicions and uncertainties, Isabella finally married in secret in 1469 Ferdinand of Aragon, son of King Juan II of Aragon, cousin of Juan II of Castile. But with this marriage, the agreement of the Guisando Bulls was broken and Henry proclaimed his daughter Juana as his successor.

The kingdom fell into anarchy but Isabella and Fernando sought the support of the nobles of Castile and regain the confidence of a Kingdom.

Another unfortunate news came in 1474, the death of Henry. At that moment in which Isabella crowned herself Queen of Castile and thus began the war of succession between Juana and Isabella. In 1479, Isabella and Fernando finally legitimize themselves as Kings of Castile.

Isabel the Catholic, queen of Castile
Isabella the Catholic, anonymous, XVII century

During her reign, together with Fernando, events of great significance for the future of the kingdom occurred, such as the establishment of the Holy Inquisition (1478), the creation of the Holy Brotherhood, the incorporation of the Nasrid Kingdom of Granada, as well as the religious unification of the Hispanic Crown, based on the forced Conversion of the Jews, under pain of death or expulsion (Edict of Granada, 1492) and later on to the Muslims.

It is important to highlight this feature of the personality of Elizabeth I, very visible in her conception of how the government of the recently incorporated Fortunate Islands should be carried out, to understand how the project of Christopher Columbus, which had been rejected by other European kings , found accommodation within Isabella the Catholic to the point of financing the Columbian plan.

Isabella had five children with Fernando who had had other children before her marriage and probably afterwards as well…

She instructed her sons: Isabella, Juan, Juana I of Castile, María and Catalina, that they had obligations for their rank as sons of kings, and they had to sacrifice a lot for that reason. She took them with her during the military campaigns, but she also always watched over their well-being.

At the end of her days, she suffered most of the family misfortunes such as the death of her only son and the abortion of his wife, the death of her first-born and her grandson Miguel who was destined to unify the Kingdoms of the Catholic Kings with that of Portugal.

It was followed by the alleged “madness” of her daughter Juana who openly defied her mother in Medina del Campo or the uncertainty of her daughter Catalina after the death of her English husband. There were several misfortunes that led her to decide to dress in full mourning.

The court was in Medina del Campo, when her serious illness, dropsy, was confirmed, as Pedro Mártir said as a witness. But she finally died of uterine cancer.

Isabella, aware of the outcome, ordered the Masses for her health to be made for her soul, she asked for extreme unction and the Blessed Sacrament. Isabella of Castile, having granted her will on October 12, died shortly before noon on November 26, 1504, in the Royal Palace where she requested …

… My body is to be buried in the monastery of San Francisco, which is in the Alhambra in the city of Granada, in a low grave with no bulk, except for a low slab on the ground, flat, with her letters on it. But I want and command, that if the King chose burial in another church or monastery in any other part or place of these my kingdoms, that my body be transferred there and buried next to him …

Finally, Fernando de Aragon ordered the construction of the Royal Chapel and chose Dominico Fancelli to sculpt the mausoleum of both Kings. Fancelli had previously built the mausoleum for his son Juan in the Royal Monastery of Santo Tomas in Avila and for that reason he met the Kings.

What could have happened if she had married the king of Portugal or if she had let Columbus go and France had discovered America? What if she had not proclaimed herself Queen of Castile? What if in the civil war his niece Juana la Beltraneja had won the throne of Castile? This gives us an idea of ​​the crucial decisions she had to make throughout her life as queen.

Isabella of Castile is called “the Catholic”, a title that was granted to her by Pope Alexander VI through the bull “Si Convenit”, on December 19, 1496. This is why the royal couple is known by the name of Catholic Monarchs, a title that the different kings of Spain used from that moment on.

4 important questions to know the answer to, before visiting the Alhambra in Granada

What?
What Alhambra ticket to buy? When we access the ticket sales portal for the Alhambra at https://tickets.alhambra-patronato.es/en/ we see that there are up to nine options for tickets to the monument and perhaps here we are not clear which one to choose. If what we want is to do a full daytime visit, then the first option is the one that interests us the most. The one that is identified as “Alhambra General”. Its price is 14 Euros per adult to which it will be added a 0.85 Euros fee for management expenses. In addition, this option has special discounts for young people, disabilities equal to or greater than 33%, people over 65 years old (but be careful! Only for citizens within the European Union) and children between 12 and 15 years old. Children between 3 and 11 years old do not pay admission, but they will have to be added when making the reservation because they will need to have a child’s ticket with them. IMPORTANT: If we travel with children from 0 to 2 years old, we will have to go to the Alhambra ticket office beforehand to collect an infant’s ticket and those families with more than 3 children under 12 will have to call 0034 958 889 002 to book their tickets.

Partal Palace in the Alhambra
Partal Palace and Oratory


In addition to following these indications, our advice is that we buy the ticket as far in advance as possible to be able to select the time of access to the Nasrid Palaces that interests us the most. In summer it is highly advisable to visit the monument early in the morning due to the high temperatures and in winter we prefer to start the visit around 3:00 p.m., because there are usually fewer people, the temperature is usually pleasant on sunny days and the light for taking photos is excellent during these hours.
Do not forget to carry your original identity document throughout the visit, which will also serve as access, because the Alhambra has laser readers that identify your document with the one you entered when buying your ticket.

When?
When to visit the Alhambra? Perhaps the best time of the year in our opinion is late spring, around the month of May. As you can see when visiting the monument, the Alhambra is full of vegetation everywhere. Especially in the Generalife gardens we find a great variety of trees, plants and flowers that are replenished depending on the time of year. And obviously for this, spring is undoubtedly the best season. Over the years, a natural landscape ecosystem has been created in the Alhambra with gardens, orchards, farmland and forests. We are talking about more than 150,000 square meters of forest and vegetation, in addition to the famous Generalife orchards that have remained fertile since medieval times. All this biodiversity today forms a fundamental part of the monument, which we obviously visit from a historical and architectural point of view, but also from a landscape point of view.

The best photos can be obtained in this sense, on our walk from the Torre del Agua to the Generalife. We will have a panoramic view of the orchards and gardens with the Alhambra on our left and the Albaicin neighborhood as always so picturesque on our right. An image that allows us to move back in time because what we now contemplate for sure is quite similar to what the Nasrid sultans saw when they walked from their sumptuous palaces of the Alhambra to the recreational gardens of Yannat al-Arif (Generalife) .

Views of the Alhambra from the Generalife
Views of the Alhambra from the “Oleanders Promenade” in the Generalife


It also happens that the month of May is usually an intermediate month between the usual overcrowding of Holy Week and again the crowds with the arrival of summer at the end of June.

Why?
Why visiting the Alhambra? Perhaps we are still undecided and have not yet chosen our destination for our vacation. Is the Alhambra a good option? Well, it is not only a good option, but we consider it an essential monument for all those tourists who visit Spain. The Alhambra is one of the most visited monuments in the world with around 3.5 million people every year and it is the only medieval palatine city of Muslim origin preserved in Europe. The uniqueness of the Alhambra is in its own architecture. While sturdy and cold stone castles were built in medieval Europe, Nasrid architects built their brilliant representation of the Muslim paradise on earth in Granada. His great achievement was undoubtedly turning the Sabika hill, a wasteland, with no water and hardly any vegetation, into a place worthy of the “One Thousand and One Nights” with ponds, fountains, ditches … and therefore full of life. His idea was to bring nature inside the palaces, so the play with light, the reflection of the water, the light columns like palm trunks … make the Alhambra a spectacle in itself. It also happens that its walls are decorated with poems that, when well interpreted, provide us with invaluable information to understand and comprehend the monument. A female poetic voice that guides us and recreates the functions of the different rooms while extolling the beauty of the monument and the power of its sultan.

Court of the Lions in the Alhambra
The Court of the Lions


Around the monument there are countless legends that will fascinate us as they fascinated the romantic travelers of the 19th century, who were captivated by the stories of the gypsies who inhabited their rooms at that time…in an Alhambra that was forgotten until then.
The Alhambra was finally declared a World Heritage Site by Unesco in 1984 and as official guides we recommend your guided tour to really understand everything that the monument offers to the visitor from its history and architecture, to its gardens and legends.

How?
How to visit the Alhambra? The Alhambra comprises about 10 hectares of land and is divided into three parts: The Alcazaba (fortress), the Nasrid Palaces (residence of the sultans) and the Generalife gardens (resting place of the Muslim kings). As it is a monument with a large extension, the visit must be carried out in a leisurely way, with time to understand the function, the decoration and the message transmitted by each of these parts.

The first option is to visit on our own, but perhaps in this way we will not be able to extract all the information that the monument can provide us. The Alhambra hides numerous symbols in its architecture that are incredibly interesting but often go unnoticed by the visitor.

Reading the walls of the Palaces in the Alhambra
Interpreting Arabic calligraphy

There are also guided tours for groups, with a maximum of 30 people for each guide, but we do not consider this to be the best option because it does not allow you to visit the Alhambra in a relaxed way that helps to enjoy the experience with time to take photos, do questions, sit down to admire and enjoy the scenery …

Perhaps the smartest way to visit the Alhambra is to hire a private guide who will dedicate his explanation exclusively to your family. At Granada Selected Tours we have decided to set the maximum for private groups at 6 people because in this way the contact with the guide is much closer and as a result our experience will be much more enriching. We manage the purchase of tickets and advise the perfect day and time to fully enjoy the 3-hour duration of your visit. You can contact us here for any questions to plan your visit in advance or you can make your reservation directly through this link. Finally, it should be noted that, in times of high influx of tourists, if we hire a private visit we will have access to the Nasrid Palaces from a different queue from the rest of the visitors, which will greatly speed up our access and will significantly reduce waiting times.

The fruit of the jewish pomegranate

The pomegranate is a tree that offers a singular and unique fruit the size of a large apple, whose interior is populated with sweet grains.

Its area of origin is established between Kurdistan, Afghanistan, Syria and ancient Persia, there are Latin numbers that express that they are abundant in grains; that’s how the Romans called it a grain apple.

It is a fruit linked to the history of the people who settled in Mesopotamia and the Near East prior to the first millennium BC and who had languages with a common origin.

The legend attributed to the pomegranate the place that the apple occupies in the temptation that Eve induced in Adam and as such it is a fruit of paradise.

In the Rome of the Empire it was a symbol of fertility and wealth and it continued to be considered that way until the Middle Ages when the Andalusians highlighted the culinary qualities of cultivated pomegranates and the medicinal qualities of sour or wild ones.

In Greece it was consecrated to the goddess Aphrodite, while in Syria it was consecrated to the goddess Rimmel.

The Arab historian Ahmad Al Razid wrote that the city today called Granada was known as Garnatat Al Yahud, whose translation means Granada of the Jews.

The pomegranate fruit present in the Jewish New Year.

The truth is that the number of this city is synonymous with a sweet and beautiful fruit, pleasing to the palate and the eye, with a delicate perfume and delicious flavor with a history and a thousand-year-old poetic ritual.

Said fruit maintains a very special and essential meaning for the Jews, to the point of considering it sacred. According to tradition, when you open a pomegranate, whatever its size, the fruit always contains, in all cases, 613 grains. This is the number of precepts that a good Jew must fulfill in order to be an ethical and fair person.

This town also grants the pomegranate the symbolism of abundance, which is why pomegranates should be taken during the celebration of the Jewish New Year in early autumn, when the fruit is ripe and sweet to drink.

Among the various festive celebrations on the Jewish calendar, undoubtedly the most solemn and important is the weekly Shabbat, the Sabbath rest.

During it, no one can work or be worried or sad; It is a day of solace and rejoicing that should be dedicated to study, prayer, and the well-being of body and spirit.

Like all the designated days of the year in the Hebrew year, the festival begins on the eve of the previous day, that is, on Friday, once the first three stars have appeared in the sky and ends on Saturday itself when the same thing happens.

Rosh Ha-shana or New Year is celebrated with a hearty dinner with adaphine, a very popular dish among Sephardic Jews because it is traditionally made in a clay pot on Friday night and eaten on Shabbat, and also an inevitable fruit, the pomegranate, being a vehicle of good omen.

The captive who reigned in the Alhambra

… Spain, at the end of the 15th century, in the last chapters of the long Reconquest, a Christian noblewoman became a slave to the Moorish king of the Alhambra in Granada; She abjured her faith out of love and was accused of destroying the Nasrid Kingdom …

And that woman was Isabel de Solís, converted to Islam under the name Soraya.

The young woman, just over 17 years old, was the daughter of the mayor of Martos in Jaen, Sancho Jiménez de Solis. Isabel had lived a quiet life until then, together with her nurses and caregivers who educated and watched over her since she was orphaned as soon as she was born.

The beautiful Isabel de Solis had been promised in marriage to Pedro Venegas but that marriage could not be carried out because she was captured as a slave by the Nasrid people of Granada and taken to the Alhambra.

It was first sold in the Granada slave market and was bought by Sultana Aixa, the favorite wife of King Muley Hacen and mother of his son Boabdil.

But one day, while the Christian captive was washing shirts, Muley Hacen entered the laundry room and was captivated by her youth and beauty. He fell in love with her and bought her for his wife Aixa. She gave herself so much to the king that Isabel renounced her own Christian faith and converted to Islam. Then she was called Soraya, a name that means “Morning Star”.

… “la Romia” was the name used to describe a Christian woman who converted to Islam …

King Muley Hacen married her, leaving Aixa aside. But life in the Alhambra was not easy for Zoraida. With so many women for one man, the struggles to attract Muley Hacen’s attention were constant.

Little by little and by her influence on the king’s decisions, Zoraida began to play an increasingly important role in the kingdom. Aixa’s misgivings increased when she had two children: Nasr ben Ali and Saad ben Ali, whom she considered possible rivals of her son, the first-born Boabdil, in the succession to the throne.

Muley decided to expel Aixa from the Alhambra, who settled with Boabdil in a house in the Albaicin quarter. This decision triggered conflicts involving Muley Hacen, his brother Abdallah al Zagal and their son Boabdil.

Departure of the Boabdil family from the Alhambra
Departure of the Boabdil family from the Alhambra, Manuel Gomez-Moreno Gonzalez

But between fights and alliances and feeling old and sick, King Muley decides to abdicate the throne in his brother El Zagal, which is why, Boabdil, had rebelled against his father and together with his mother, fueled a civil war.

Given the difficult situation, in 1482 Zoraida went into exile with her husband and children and three years later, Muley Hacen died.

Zoraida, being a widow, made the decision to return to her original culture and asked for baptism, as did her children. The Church accepted that her previous abjuration had been forced by Muley but her future was not easy for her because freed slaves could not always regain their previous life, especially if they were no longer virgins. Honor was very important and the woman had to offer an excellent reputation. If not, another possible option was the convent…

Her children adopted the names of Juan de Granada and Fernando de Granada, but what happened to Isabel is unknown, just as it is not known where or in what year she died.

The social status of women in the Alhambra

The Nasrid Court must have housed a mosaic of women who, from their considerable ethnic, social, physical and cultural differences, filled the many corners and spaces of the Alhambra with diversity and color, from Arab women to imported women as concubines.

The first group in the Nasrid female world was made up of the “legal wives” of the dynasty and was made up exclusively of those women belonging to the royal family itself who were married to emirs of the lineage. These legitimate women were the so-called free women.

Women inside the tower of the Infantas, by Edwin Lord Weeks

The legitimate Nasrid wives were generally paternal cousins ​​of the sovereign in question, since in the Kingdom of Granada the modality of marriage between cousins ​​was practiced with customary frequency.

The first reason that motivated this union was of an economic nature, since the marriage between cousins ​​allowed to maintain the properties within the own family. There are several cases of marriages of emirs with paternal cousins ​​in the Nasrid family environment such as Muhammad I, the founder of the lineage himself.

But an aspect of vital importance in this marriage and especially in the woman to be able to contract marriage, is that of her virginity.

In fact, the Qur’an highlights this quality as desirable, not to say imperative. This chastity was related to her modesty and for that reason, they should always be veiled, hidden from the sight of others except that of her husband and that of her non-prohibited relatives, being considered a symbol of respectability.

“… Tell the believers to look down modestly, to be chaste and show no more adornment than those in sight, to cover their cleavage with the veil and not to display their adornments but to their husbands”

The Harem Dance, by Edouard Richter

But along with the women of Nasrid blood, it is also known that there were slaves and concubines. In fact, the Qur’an alludes to slaves.

Let us not forget the fact that the Arab people consider themselves the son of Hagar, Abraham’s concubine slave, whose son Ishmael, is had by the Arabs father, while Isaac, Abraham’s other son along with his free wife Sarah, it is historically the ancestor of the Hebrew people. Abraham etymologically means “father of many peoples”.

But it should be noted that Hagar was not the true name of this Egyptian concubine, but her nickname. Hagar means the “estranged” due to exile and abandonment by Abraham at the request of his free wife Sarah.

In this culture, educating, freeing and marrying a slave by her master entailed a double heavenly reward and for this, the slave trade flourished in Al-Andalus.

Beautiful, blonde women of European origin could achieve the status of a legitimate woman, but there were also black slave women of African origin highly regarded as good cooks and excellent concubines.

The presence of foreign maids and women, so different in origin, was necessary as a reflection of the economic prosperity of the Nasrid court. Owning slaves of whatever genre was a sign of economic well-being and high position. Luxury increases the strength of a dynasty and women were a fundamental factor in its display, exercising a function that could be described as ornamental among both legitimate women and concubines.

Among the unfree women, there were the slaves turned into concubines – mothers of the Nasrid dynasty and those who, on the contrary, were only used for domestic service or entertainment in the Alhambra.

But the Nasrid sultans confirm the taste for Christian women. And for them, the only way out to freedom was conversion to Islam and motherhood was the means that allowed them, therefore, to climb the social pyramid of the harem and even within the dynasty. As is evident, the great hope of these concubines was not only to have a child, but also to become the mother of the future sultan. And this privilege was actually achieved by some concubines of the Alhambra.

But as was to be expected, free women, that is, legitimate wives, were logically the strongest opponents of concubinage, as they became the greatest victims of such a situation.

Isabel de Solis or Soraya

Along with the concubines of Christian origin, some of whom ended up being sultanas of the Alhambra, there were also other types of slaves in the Nasrid court, employed only for domestic service as cooks, waiters, midwives, doctors and nurses. And it should be noted, among the servants of the Alhambra, there were some women of color.

But it is also worth highlighting another third type of slave alongside concubines and women of color destined for domestic service. These were the singing and dancing slaves dedicated to entertainment and entertainment.

And the slaves of Granada in the Nasrid period excelled in the art of dances with kerchiefs and sabers, decked out with costumes and dressings, and other games, with which they showed their skills. Because they are so versatile, these women were therefore the most expensive.

And among all these concubines, the great favorite par excellence, in the history of the Nasrid dynasty, was Soraya, the second wife of Emir Muley Hacen.

Would you like to know Soraya’s story?

Charles V, king and emperor

Born in Ghent on February 24, 1500 and died in Yuste on September 21, 1558.

A series of dynastic alliances and premature deaths made the grandson of the Catholic Monarchs the most powerful young man in Europe and the new Americas.

He reigned as Carlos I of Spain from the age of sixteen and at the age of twenty, after the death of his paternal grandfather, the Emperor Maximilian I of Habsburg, as emperor of the Holy Roman Germanic Empire and therefore designated as Carlos I of Spain and V of Germany.

But … Was he really an emperor who failed to be King?

In his last days, Carlos had plenty of time to reflect and rethink. In a talk with his sister Maria, he took stock of his years of reign, his achievements and defeats, his strengths and weaknesses, and furthermore, his mind filled with memories as he never forgot his wife, Isabella of Portugal.

“I was the most powerful man but I have found myself unable to fulfill the desire of a tormented woman… The distance between what I set out to do and what I achieved is great and that only has one name… failure. I neither put an end to heresy, nor did I subdue the infidel, nor did I manage to unite Christendom in a universal monarchy”

Many kingdoms succumbed after their kings died, but nothing compared to what happened after the death of Queen Isabella I of Castile.

Since the death of Isabella the Catholic, Ferdinand of Aragon, tried to gain control of the kingdoms, but the francophile policy of Philippe “Le Bel” made them confront them. Ferdinand left Castile and took refuge in Aragon. The sudden death of Philippe and the state of mental derangement of the latter’s wife, Joanna “the Mad”, changed the situation. Nobody ruled in Castile, Philippe dead, Joanna maddened. Then Ferdinand decided to return to Castile to keep the promise that he made to Isabella.

In 1516, after the death of Ferdinand the Catholic, Charles became the legitimate heir to all the states that had belonged to his grandparents.

However, Carlos was six years old, he was a child and Cisneros, regent of Castile, undoubtedly as a political and religious leader, was the key character during the most delicate time of Spain’s transition between the 15th and 16th centuries and his role was decisive for the creation of the Spanish Empire.

Until Carlos was declared of adult age on January 5, 1515, he received a careful education both by his aunt Margaret of Austria and Adriano of Utrech, his most influential teacher, and Guillermo de Croy, lord of Chièvres, as a fundamental piece in his politics.

Throughout his reign, Carlos traveled from one end of his domain to the other and fought on many battlefields, he was an itinerant monarch without having a stable court but he always knew how to surround himself with important artists, thinkers and men of science. And of all the countries he inherited, Spain was the most difficult to consolidate under his rule.

Charles V crowned emperor in Aachen

But why Charles and not his brother Ferdinand I of Austria. The story of two brothers who grew up suspicious of each other.

Paradoxically, whoever was born in Spain reigned in Germany, while the one who had grown up abroad was king of Spain.

Ferdinand, was Charles’s younger brother, was educated in Castile and was viewed with a certain sympathy by the Castilian nobility. After the election of Charles as emperor, Ferdinand became one of his most reliable collaborators but also a possible rival.

Ferdinand I of Habsburg was the exiled brother of Charles, who finally became emperor, and his policy was marked by the fight against the Protestants. However, the two emperors also had four, often-forgotten, sisters:

Leonor, the firstborn. She was handed over to the King of Portugal who was 30 years older than her and had previously been married to two Spanish princesses. She was widowed and married Francisco I, King of France, who was the main enemy of Spain.

Elizabeth, “the loyal one”. She was mistreated by her husband. She went through all kinds of vicissitudes because of an unfaithful husband, as in the case of her sister Leonor.

Maria, governor of the Netherlands. The most outstanding and perhaps the most intelligent of the four Archduchess sisters of Austria. She was the sister closest to the emperor. She ended up becoming an irreplaceable advisor to the most important emperor in Europe at the time.

Catalina, the only Spanish. Together with her brother Ferdinand, she was the only one born on Spanish soil. She was also the longest-lived of them all. She was confined with her mother Joanna in the Palace of Tordesillas. She did not blindly follow fraternal politics and, perhaps because she was queen, she always supported the projects of the Portuguese throne while remaining loyal to her dynasty, the Habsburg.

But the kings never ruled without their queens …

There are not a few women who have had a fundamental role in the history of Spain and who, however, have not been recognized as they should or have simply been fired by the flames of oblivion, as is the case of Elizabeth of Portugal, wife of the King and emperor of the Sacred Roman-German Empire.

She, 23, and Charles, 26 years old, married in the Reales Alcázares of Seville in 1526.

It has always been affirmed that Charles was “more Fifth than First”, more emperor than king; that is, he was much more involved in the affairs of the Empire than in his Castilian-Aragonese subjects.

Elizabeth became governor of Spain in the absence of her husband and many biographers assure that this state of loneliness contributed to her early death.

The princess received a careful humanistic education, learned to read and write, Latin, Spanish, English and French. He did not neglect his artistic training and received a solid musical training. That is why in each childbirth, according to some chroniclers, she always kept her face covered (like Elizabeth the Catholic) to endure her own pains with great composure.

Elizabeth of Portugal died in 1539, when she was only thirty-six years old. There has been much speculation about the causes of his death but, ultimately, part of the historiography agrees that what led to this premature death was nothing but sadness and loneliness in the face of the King’s long absences.

And Charles, did not remarry…

Thirteen years, from 1526 to 1539, Doña Isabel had lived in Spain as Empress and Queen consort.

The sad death was on May 1st at noon, and after the funeral honors, those of a Queen, the procession that was to accompany her mortal remains to Granada was launched by order of the Emperor, to be deposited in the Royal Chapel. But the desolate Emperor did not accompany this procession. Charles V took refuge in the Jeronimo de la Sisla Monastery, where he remained isolated for more than a month

It is here when the end of Carlos begins, the decline of the owner of the world.

Allegory of the abdication of Emperor Charles V in Brussels

Charles and Elizabeth had six children:

  • Phillip II of Spain, Maria of Austria, Ferdinand, Joanna of Austria, John and another John, who was born a year after the previous one died, and who at birth caused the death of his mother due to complications with childbirth.

But Charles V also had an entertaining extramarital life, and as a result the following children were born:

  • Elizabeth of Castile, Margarita of Austria, Joanna of Austria, Tadea of Austria y John of Austria.

It is important to note that each of these bastard sons of the king was the result of his relationship with a different woman. That is, they are all stepbrothers but none of them is the brother of another.

But not even the most powerful of men is immune to disease and death …

In the last stage of his life he ate alone because he was ashamed that his marked prognathism was even accentuated when chewing food. He had severe attacks of gout due to the excessive intake of meat in his diet, he also drank 4 or 5 liters of beer at each meal and was also prostrated on a wooden chair-stretcher until his death, in 1558, due to malaria.

And that is how Charles, King and Emperor, abdicated and went to Spain to never return, choosing the Yuste Monastery to spend the last days of his life.

“The generosity of my mother Joanna of Castile led me to rule at the age of 17, then, while still a boy, I was granted the right to an Empire.

In a short time I was to build Flanders, Naples, Sicily and the lands of overseas. It has perhaps been my life, a string of trips that have not only consumed this body of mine but also frequently ripped me from my most beloved companies, that of my children and my wife, to whom I would have wanted to give all my days.

But not only duty called me, for my torments and my dominions, also wars. Always a forced battle to defend myself from the ambition of others, of whom I believed would be my only enemy, the Turk, and the doom that was for me the King of France.

I also had to combat the outbreak of the heretic in my own empire, a danger that I have not known how to abate as I would have liked … But none of those jobs was more painful or afflicted me as much as the one I now feel when I leave you.

To govern the states that God granted me, I no longer have the strength and the few that I have left will soon be over … being so tired, I can no longer render any service as those who receive my legacy will do …

To my son Philip, to whom I leave Spain, Flanders, the Italian lands and those of the Indies while the Empire will remain in the hands of my brother Ferdinand.

Although there are many enemies, the strength of this family union will manage to defeat them all.

This man who had accumulated unparalleled power for centuries decided to abandon it before his time, affected, like his mother, by bouts of deep depression.

Silence and repose were already the only wishes of a man who had unwittingly suffered the tragedy of dominating the world.

  

Vitor or vitores (cheers)

Cheers on the facade of the Royal Chapel of Granada

• On the facade of the Royal Chapel we can see some curious and ancient graffiti: the student cheers
• It is a tradition that in Spanish universities when a student graduated they celebrated it in a very curious way.
• He painted his name with a mixture of almagra (clay soil), paprika, olive oil, and bull’s blood.
• Where? On the walls of the university itself or adjacent buildings, were the graffiti of the time; the symbol of triumph or victory that was put on was called “vitor” (cheers) and came from the Latin term “VICTOR”
• This was written in the form of an anagram in which the entire word with its letters was composed in a single figure, imaginatively and conveniently arranged.
• As you can see on the façade, the letter “C” for VICTOR is turned upside down at the bottom, in the shape of a “moon”
• Putting someone “On the horns of the moon” meant exalting him, praising him for some achievement and is derived from this type of anagram.

The peculiar death of Ferdinand II of Aragon

Medina del Campo, November 26th, 1.504

Nothing we have achieved together will be lost, I swear … I will keep a memory of the immense love that I have always felt for you and for Castile

This is how Ferdinand said goodbye to Isabela just before he passed away, however, Isabela’s death meant for the King the greatest work that could come to him in this life … the mission of keeping the kingdoms of Castile and Aragon united.

Unfortunate marriages, deaths and illnesses … were some of the misfortunes that describe the lives of the children of Isabela and Ferdinand and ended up diverting the future of the Kingdoms of Castile and Aragon.

Misfortune after misfortune in the lives of the children of the Catholic Monarchs, Isabela always tried to prevent a foreign king taking over the crown of Castile and that her daughter Joanna, married to Philip “The Handsome”, was used by a sick love that dominated her.

The illness of Queen Isabela I of Castile progressed very rapidly and in her will, she named her husband Ferdinand II of Aragon regent of Castile until Charles, her grandson, reached the age of majority to govern, but the lack of support among the nobility of Castile and the arrival of Philip “The Handsome” (Habsburg house) left the Castilian court in a very delicate situation, so Ferdinand reacted and tried to break the promise he swore to Isabela.

Joanna I of Castile, had once again demonstrated her incapacity for government, and her attitude was so anomalous that until her last days, her family sincerely feared that she was possessed by devil.

Joanna’s symptoms of dementia led Philip “The Handsome” to take direct charge of the Kingdom of Castile, alleging the mental incapacity of his wife.

This inability of Joanna I of Castile faced Ferdinand and Philip.

Joanna I of Castile

But the reign of Philip “The Handsome” was very brief, he was the first king of the Austrian dynasty, he settled in Castile to reign and died before becoming king of Aragon. In the town of Castile it did not take long to suspect that Fernando had poisoned his son-in-law, but historians and modern research point out that the most possible cause was The Plague, a disease that had appeared in Burgos a few months earlier.

Joanna, during her husband’s funeral procession, showed that her mental health had suffered even more and Ferdinand locked up his daughter in the Convent of Tordesillas, and he assumed the regency until 1507.

Joanna never reigned, but maintained until today, the title of Queen of Castile, the true sovereign.

Ferdinand, despite the love he kept for Isabela, remarried a year after the death of the Queen, on October 19th, 1505 to neutralize the French threat looking for an heir and thus protect his legacy, Aragon, Naples and Sicily. Ferdinand, 53, married Germaine of Foix, 18 years old, niece of the French King Louis XII.

Germaine of Foix

In the pacts with the King of France, the King granted his niece the dynastic rights of the Kingdom of Naples and granted Ferdinand and the couple’s descendants the symbolic title of King of Jerusalem. In exchange, the Catholic King promised to name heir of the throne to their descendant, thus removing the Austrians from government.

This marriage created doubts among the nobles of Castile and the Habsburg dynasty, a traditional enemy of the French Monarchy, since they interpreted it as a maneuver by Ferdinand the Catholic to prevent the son of Philip “The Handsome”, Charles I, from inheriting the Crown of Aragon and thus separating what had cost so much to unite: the Kingdoms of Castile and Aragon.

The important thing was that, as a result of this new marriage, a boy child had to be born. However, Ferdinand’s advanced age was not going to make it easy …

Ferdinand turned to natural medicine and found the cantharides, a green beetle that once dead, dried and reduced to powder, was used in infusion as a vasodilator substance, whose effects are very similar to those produced by «viagra». The abuse of this aphrodisiac substance had a bad end causing serious episodes of congestion to the monarch, which led to a cerebral hemorrhage and without any offspring with Germana.

Cantharides is a very abundant medium-sized beetle in the Mediterranean region

The king died on January 23, 1516, at 63 years of age, in Madrigalejo (Cáceres) being his last words:

“Forgive me Isabela … Because I wanted to break the promise I made you … but God with great judgment has not allowed me”

Perhaps a new heir would have changed history, but the truth is that after so many games and pacts between Castile and Aragon, the one who finally ruled was Charles, emperor of the Holy Roman Empire.

Do you want to know how Charles became King and Emperor?

Granada is a city of craft

The city of Granada, since time immemorial, has stood out for its crafts, being a reflection of the different cultures that have passed through throughout history, leaving an important legacy of artisans in the Alhambra and Granada.

One of the most deeply rooted cultures in Granada was the Muslim Nasrid, as is the case with inlaid, fajalauza pottery or the quality of its luthery, to mention some of the most relevant trades.

This mixture of cultures has given rise to a multitude of artisan trades reflecting their traditions, customs and versatility.

Taracea

Laguna’s marquetry workshop, in the Alhambra
  • The taracea (a marquetry technique) is the Granada handicraft that best represents us, as it reflects the influence of the Alhambra.
  • The name comes from the Arabic word Tarxia, which means inlay.
  • This technique consists of forming geometric figures or stars by embedding in the wood various types of fairy woods such as mahogany, ebony, palo santo, walnut, fruit tree woods, as well as bone, silver and metals.
  • The designs are the same as those used in the 14th and 15th centuries to decorate furniture, ceilings and doors in the Alhambra.
  • There are two types of finishes for the pieces, the traditional “crankpin” which is matte, and the polyester with gloss.
  • Today this technique still exists in only two places in the world: Damascus and Granada.
  • We this technique we can find jewelers, music boxes, trays, furniture, frames, trunks, chess boards and other more modern items such as magnets and ham holders.

Fajalauza pottery

Fajalauza: Artisan ceramic plates and dishes
  • Granada pottery is of Moorish origin.
  • The name Fajalauza comes from one of the gates in the old Granada wall that protected the potters’ neighborhood in the Albaicin.
  • It has reached our days characterized by its green and blue colors.
  • Also known for decorations and plant motifs such as birds and the presence of the pomegranates as a symbol of the city.

Manila Shawls

Gypsy Dress with Manila Shawl
  • The origin of shawls dates back to 600 BC. when Chinese women of upper classes wore this kind of shawls.
  • In Andalusia, as in Seville, Cordoba and Granada, floral motifs are the best known.
  • The shawls stand out for the embroidery of the rose and in Christian symbols it refers to the Passion of Christ. In Granada, on the Corpus Christi Festival it is very common to see women dressed in shawls.
  • As a general rule, shawls are made of natural silk, although we can find another material such as crepe. There are many traditional shops in Granada that elaborate Manila shawls.
  • The shawl is more beautiful with the fringes, it is usually made by hand, even in those shawls that are machine, the work of this consists of knotting natural silk threads.

Mantillas

Women dressed with mantilla during Easter week
  • The mantilla is a piece of tulle embroidered with a very fine thread, which is the one that is filling in the drawing that is outlined in the tulle.
  • As a general rule, the decorations of the mantillas usually have floral motifs.
  • The hours of work to make a piece of craftsmanship of this level are many.
  • The ladies who have spent their whole lives embroidering mantillas in Granada often have eye problems, losing sight and suffering from tired eyesight.
  • It is increasingly difficult to find authentic Spanish mantillas made by hand, because fewer and fewer people want to dedicate themselves to this trade, but in Granada we can still find traditional artists who enjoy the personal satisfaction of making these garments so that family and friends wear them on the most special occasions.

Guitars

Workshop for the elaboration of “Spanish Guitars” in Granada
  • Granada is where the largest number of leading guitar masters in the world can be found.
  • Great figures from Granada related to guitar making are geniuses of the stature of Andres Segovia and Angel Barrios.
  • The Granada school, along with the Madrid school, is the best in the world: the best world stars who interpret music want their guitars to be made in Granada, like Sting for example.
  • Today Granada and Madrid are, without doubt, the guitar capitals of Spain.
  • There is no other place in the world where so many good guitar makers can be found as those who occupy the workshops of Granada.
  • The construction process begins with the selection of the wood and ends, after months of quiet effort, in the hands of the most important guitar players in the world.
  • Even the climate affects the production of the guitar and apparently the one we have in Granada is ideal for its construction.

Moroccan leather goods and crafts

Leather goods stores in the Alcaiceria of Granada
  • The artisan trade of leather goods also has a wide range of shops in the city, many of them can be found in the Alcaicería de Granada, a souk full of shops and in Calderería street, better known as Calle de las Teterías (Street of Teahouses), even in the ascent of the Alhambra by the Gomerez street.
  • In addition to tea shops, restaurants and pastry shops with delicious Arabic sweets, it is full of shops with artisan products, most of them from Morocco such as leather bags, clothes, lamps, jewelry and costume jewelery, souvenirs …
  • In the lower Albaicín there are several artisan shops where you can find this product, which recalls the Andalusian Granada.

Back combs

Woman wearing back comb and mantilla
  • The comb or tile is the main complement of the mantilla.
  • Its use became widespread in the last century because it favored and somehow dressed women’s face.
  • Bullfighters used them (in a smaller size) to gather the ponytail, since at that time the bullfighter wore his long hair gathered in a braid that rolled and held the comb. In Granada, during the Corpus Christi festivity, bullfighters can be seen with the comb during the bullfight.
  • Originally, the combs or tiles were made with Hawksbill turtles, but to avoid the total extinction of this species, shell combs began to be replaced by others made of synthetic materials.

Figures for Nativity scenes

Figures of Christmas nativity scene, Biblical-Historical style
  • The custom of representing the birth of Jesus Christ with figures originated in the Middle Ages.
  • The first Nativity scene is due to Saint Francis of Assisi, who in 1223 celebrated Christmas mass in a cave in Italy.
  • Carlos III was the one who brought this tradition from Italy to Spain since he had been King of Naples.
  • The Alcaicería de Granada is a typical neighborhood of Muslim culture, formed by narrow streets around which houses were lined and the souk or market where silk was manufactured and sold was located.
  • Nowadays, in addition to being a tourist reference point, you can find an infinity of Arab handicraft products, remembering and taking the visitor to the streets of the Arab bazaars and you can even meet the artisans who still create the Nativity Scene figurines so many years after their first elaboration.

10 essential places to visit in Granada

Granada is one of the most visited cities in Spain due to the large number of tourist attractions it treasures … among which two UNESCO World Heritage sites stand out, such as the Alhambra and the Albaicin neighborhood.

1. The Alhambra and Generalife

It is the best preserved Muslim palatine city in the world. A fortress started to be built in the 13th century and which has miraculously survived to this day to show us its impressive palaces and gardens that were once wandered by the Nasrid monarchs. Every year it receives more than 3.5 million visitors and, being one of the most visited monuments in the world, it is advisable to buy the ticket, or book a guided tour that includes it, well in advance to be able to choose, without problem, the access time to the Nasrid Palaces that suits us the best.

Partal Palace and Oratory in the Alhambra

2. San Nicolas viewpoint

This viewpoint, which is located in the upper part of the Albaicín neighborhood, is known worldwide for its incredible views of the Alhambra and Sierra Nevada. The best time to visit is, as we can see in the image, at sunset because we will have the best sunlight conditions to get the best pictures. In addition, former US President Bill Clinton described it in 1997 as the most beautiful sunset in the world!

Views of the Alhambra at sunset, from the San Nicolas viewpoint

3. Tapas bars in Granada

Going out for tapas in Granada is the most common among locals themselves and there is even a competition between those who value quantity versus those who prefer the quality of tapas. Every year a “Granada de Tapas” tapas contest is organized where a jury chooses those tapas with the best flavor as well as the most original. Our favorite area to go out for tapas is Plaza Nueva and the Realejo neighborhood … although it is already known that there’s no accounting for taste…

Bodegas Castañeda, tapas bar in Granada

4. Cathedral of the Incarnation

It is the culmination of the so-called Reconquest and its construction began in 1505. It is located where the Great Mosque of Granada or Aljama Mosque was located. It is one of the main works of the Spanish Renaissance, but it was never finished because a problem with the foundation of the building prevented the completion of the towers that Diego de Siloé initially planned. To highlight: Its imposing Main Chapel.

Main facade of Granada’s Cathedral

5. The Royal Chapel

The simple fact of knowing that the remains of the Catholic Monarchs rest here, make your visit a must. When visiting the mausoleums of the kings, the impeccable Carrara marble with which they were made is overwhelming. In addition, we can see the personal collection of flemish paintings of Elizabeth the Catholic, as well as original personal objects such as the crown of Elizabeth I and the sword of Ferdinand II.

Interior of the Royal Chapel

6. The Paseo de los Tristes

So called because the funeral processions passed through this street on their way to the San Jose cemetery, located on the same hill as the Alhambra, known as La Sabika. His real name is Padre Manjon. It is perhaps the most romantic street in Granada, located at the foot of the Alhambra and with numerous terraces to enjoy the views while having a snack and being entertained by the many artists and street musicians always acting in the area.

Carrera del Darro

7. Hammam Al-Andalus

They are fundamental in the social life of Arab culture and in Granada we have the opportunity to relax and enjoy these Arab baths that have successfully recreated the atmosphere of a hammam, in which, in addition to performing thermal contrast baths (at style of the Roman baths) while we have a delicious tea, we can also hire a massage with aromatic essences. An experience to forget about the world outside for a while!

Rooms for massage at Hammam Al-Andalus

8. The Carthusian Monastery

It is an authentic baroque marvel, which, being located on the outskirts of the city, in what was an old Arab carmen called Aynadamar, sometimes escapes the usual tourist route. But everyone, who finally visits it, is fascinated by the beauty of its High Altar and Sacristy. Its construction lasted more than three centuries and it is also very interesting to learn more about the peculiar Order of the Carthusians.

Monasterio de la Cartuja

9. San Jeronimo Monastery

Another architectural jewel that we can enjoy in Granada, this time of Renaissance style, where the remains of Gonzalo Fernández de Córdoba, the Great Captain of the Catholic Monarchs, also rest. A man who was a key piece during the Reconquest. Its construction marked a turning point in which the Middle Ages came to an end as the Modern Age began, and a light that illuminated the artistic and urban style of Granada in the following decades.

San Jeronimo Monastery

10. The Sacromonte quarter

Strolling through the Sacromonte is like traveling back in time, one has the feeling that the clock is stopping and in every corner we have a new opportunity to photograph the Alhambra from this other perspective that seems taken from another era. At night we will have the opportunity to visit one of its caves and enjoy a “zambra” – from the Arabic zamra (flute) -, a flamenco song and dance, that was born directly in the Sacromonte, inspired by Muslim weddings.

Viewpoint in the Sacromonte quarter
WHATSAPP

    Solicitar reserva

    Seleccione una fecha:

    This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.

    ×

      Request your booking

      Choose your date:

      This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.

      ×