Granada Alhambra No 3 Patio de Arrayanes y el Haren
(Court of the Myrtles and the Harem)
Published Abelardo Linares, Alhambra, Granada
The Alhambra is Granada’s – and Europe’s – love letter to Moorish culture. Set against a backdrop of brooding Sierra Nevada peaks, this fortified palace complex started life as a walled citadel before going on to become the opulent seat of Granada’s Nasrid emirs. Their showpiece palaces, the 14th-century Palacios Nazaríes, are among the finest Islamic buildings in Europe and, together with the gorgeous Generalife gardens, form the Alhambra’s great headline act.
On looking from the royal villa the spectator beholds the side of the palace of Alhamra, that commands the quarter of the city, called the Albayzin. The massive towers are connected by solid walls, constructed upon the system of fortifications which generally prevailed in the middle ages. These walls and towers follow all the turnings and windings of the mountain; and, previously to the invention of gunpowder and artillery, this fortress must have been almost impregnable.
The Alhamra at Granada
Media Centre for Art History: panoramas
Masterpieces of Islamic Architecture
Court of Myrtles
The Court of the Myrtles (Patio de los Arrayanes) is part of the palace and fortress complex of the Alhambra. It is located east of the Gilded Room (Cuarto Dorado) and west of the Patio of the Lions and the Baths. Its current name is due to the myrtle bushes that surround the central pond and the bright green colour of which contrasts with the white marble of the patio. It was also called the Patio of the Pond or the Reservoir (Patio del Estanque o de la Alberca) because of the central pond, which is 34 metres long and 7,10 meters wide. The patio is divided in two sides by the pond, which receives its water from two fountains. The space has chambers and porticoes around it. These porticoes rest on columns with cubic capitals, which have seven semicircular arches decorated with fretwork rhombuses and inscriptions praising God. The central arch is greater than the other six and has solid scallops decorated with stylised vegetal forms and capitals of mocarabes.
The most important chambers that surround the Patio are the ones in the north side, which are part of the Comares Palace, the official residence of the King.
The Main Canal acts as a mirror that reflects the building structures and breaks the structural horizontal lines of the court.
In the Hispano-Muslim houses, the courtyard is vitally important. It is the core of family life, around which all the other rooms are distributed. It is difficult to distinguish the wealth of a family by looking at the external part of a house or palace, as opposed to its courtyard.
The palaces are like houses but larger and more densely decorated, though with the same structural pattern and functions. The Court of the Myrtles takes its name from the dense bushes of this plant, also called mirth, that grow on the longer sides of the pond. Originally these green areas were placed lower and with a greater variety of short trees to prevent their tops from rising too much.
The Pool plays an important part in the architectural and aesthetic definition of the site, with its surface of water that acts as a mirror and reflects the surrounding structures, generating a geometrical projection that breaks the structural horizontal lines of the place.
The Court was paved with sizable white marble slabs, although at the end of the 16th century the floor was enlarged.
Alhambra y Generalife (offical website)