un recorrido por el arte mudéjar aragonés
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THE ALJAFERÍA (ZARAGOZA)

Heraldry in the Palace of the Catholic Kings


In the new Renaissance palace, heraldry has a predominant role over other motifs. However, this profusion is not accompanied by variety, since only three emblems are used: the joint royal arms and the personal ones of each monarch, occasionally accompanied by the pomegranate.

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The joint royal coat of arms is divided by a cross that has, in the first and fourth quadrants, again divided by a cross, first and second of gules with a gold castle against blue, second and third, of silver, with a purple lion crowned with gold; and on the second and third, divided: first four stripes of gules over gold, quartered en souter, the 1st and 4th of gold with four staffs of gules, 2nd and 3rd of silver with a sable eagle picked out in gold and crowned with the same. This is the most common version, although there is another with a silver apex and a native pomegranate.

The pinnacle is usually an open crown, although in the window and wooden strip of the first of the Salas de los Pasos Perdidos, the pinnacle is a crowned helmet, with gold mantle and mantlets, with a winged dragon as a crest, also of gold, and on the window in the second of these rooms there is the eagle of Saint John. In addition to these locations, the only place that the arms appear without the accompaniment of the royal devices is on the principal doorway of the Throne Room and in the following tympanum.

This stone tympanum is situated to the right of the access to the palace stairway. On it are the arms of the King Don Fernando dating after 1512, that incorporate the arms of Navarra in the second quadrant and those of Naples in the form of a ribbon containing firstly the palmed carbuncle of Navarre, second, the cross of Jerusalem, and thirdly the sash of Hungary. The shield is topped by an open royal crown, and is sustained by two griffons. Fernando I introduced this chimerical figure into the Aragonese royal emblem. He had adopted it when he was still Count of Lara, and it reappeared in diverse representations of the arms of the Kings of Aragon.

The royal devices are the yoke with the cut Gordian knot, and the motto “Tanto Monta” as King Fernando’s device, and the bundle of arrows from the arms of Queen Isabel, to which must be added, on the crossbeam of the second Sala de los Pasos Perdidos, the pomegranate.

The yoke with the Gordian knot and the motto “Tanto Monta” refers to the beginning of the conquest of Asia by Alexander the Great for whom “It didn’t matter whether he cut or untied [it],” the celebrated knot, the solution of which endowed its possessor power over a continent (in the case of Macedonia), and for the Aragonese their victory over Islam. The yoke is for a pair of yoked oxen, with two twin arms and a hole in the center through which the knot was placed to serve as the center or link, and which are formed by four ends (six in the Chamber of Saint Isabel), and appears cut just below the yoke. The motto is found at the foot of the latter in capital humanistic letters showing the influence of Gothic Lombard capitals.

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As for the bunched arrows, normally they appear as specified by the Queen “with my device, which is eleven arrows tied in the center,” although in some cases less are shown, six or four; but all are bound by a twisted cord, in some cases somewhat below the center of gravity.

The pomegranate shown in the device is in the form of an open fruit, without leaves or branches.

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EThese devices appear combined with the royal arms in the wooden molding of the first of the Salas de los Pasos Perdidos, and on the beams of the upper hall of the Mudéjar palace, though they are mostly found on the ceiling vaults of the main staircase, the upper gallery, the artesonado of the Throne Room, Saint Isabel’s chamber, the Chamber of Deliberations, and the third of the Salas de los Pasos Perdidos, both on the wooden moldings and the crossbeams, the latter also having the pomegranate.

 

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