un recorrido por el arte mudéjar aragonés
webmaster: José Antonio Tolosa (Zaragoza -España-)

THE ALJAFERÍA (ZARAGOZA)

The Palace of the Catholic Kings -Introduction-


The most recent restorations made on the Aljafería indicate that the Renaissance palace of the Catholic Kings was mostly limited to occupying the older rooms of the Mudéjar palace, and modifying them via interior reforms. In this way, they united three small rooms to create the great Throne Room, removing the intermediary ceiling boards, while on the other hand adapting a big salon into three smaller ones, those of the Pasos Perdidos. The palace was completed with two little rooms or bedrooms situated to the north of the Throne Room known as the Room of Deliberations and the Room of Saint Isabel, separated by a light court of Mudéjar origins that was subsequently reformed.

The work on the new palace totally modified the structures situated to the north of Saint Isabel’s Patio and to the west of Saint Martin’s Patio. This adaptation of the new wings also brought about a change in orientation towards the east, through modifying the façade receiving the light from the Patio of Saint Martin.

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The only document that that permits one to have an idea of how the south side of the palace looked, since it disappeared in subsequent adaptations, is the plan, datable around 1593, that is preserved in the Archivo de la Diputación Provincial de Zaragoza, in which one can see on the façade the new construction with a window and upper gallery similar to the one still extant on the western façade. The complex would have had a big gallery that ran above the upper part of the north side of the patio of Saint Isabel. On this plan can also be seen the principal, flat brick doorway with a stone coat of arms of the Catholic Kings without the pomegranate, which was placed over the earlier, Islamic one.

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The hierarchy of spaces in the new palace shows a clear displacement in relation to the earlier Mudéjar chambers, returning in a way to the Islamic plan, where the principal spaces were built around Saint Isabel’s patio, and which now returned to importance.

Work on the new chambers dates approximately between the years 1488 and 1495, and it includes what has come to be called the “style of the Catholic Kings,” with aesthetic characteristics that bridge Late Gothic and incipient Renaissance, and includes local Mudéjar elements. This makes the Alfajería palace the foremost exponent of this style in Aragon.

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The two outstanding elements of this new style are found in its heraldry and ceilings. The first will be treated in detail on the following pages, and the ceilings in pages on each corresponding room. In the palace we will see four types of different ceilings: 1. The ceilings with small vaults painted in tempera on the stairway and in the gallery. 2. Those with coffers decorated among beams and small beams in the Deliberation Chamber and the chamber of Saint Isabel. 3. The big trough-shaped one [Artesonado] in the Throne Room. 4. The decorated wooden moldings in the Salas de los Pasos Perdidos. The principal decorative motifs on all of them are the insignias and devices of Fernando and Isabel, accompanied in some cases with clearly Renaissance motifs, like grotesques and others of thistles and Mudéjar interlace.

As in the case of the Mudéjar palace, the floor plan below will help to situate the different structures and rooms in the Renaissance palace.

 

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