Courtyard Of The Lions

Come in, traveller, enter the Courtyard of the Lions… you are now in the palace that Sultan Muhammad V ordered to be built in 1377. This courtyard, surrounded by columns, represents Paradise. Small trees and carefully placed flowering plants fill the flowerbeds between the marble flags that cover the ground. If you look at it, you will see that four channels, like the four rivers of Muslim paradise, link the fountain to the other the rooms, symbolically dividing the courtyard into the four corners of the Earth, an idea inherited from Persian tradition, which inspired Islamic culture.

And, in the centre, is the famous fountain. The symbol of the Alhambra. Twelve lions made of marble from Almeria, all apparently identical but each carved with distinct features that make them all different. On their backs rests the central basin, made of a single piece of stone. Do you remember the round fountain we saw back in the Adarves Gardens? For centuries it was thought that its original place was on top of this basin, to make a pair. But no, not at all…

What is true, however, is that in my time, the details on the basin were decorated with bright colours. What most impressed visitors was the hidden mechanism that made water pour out of the basin and into the jaws of the lions. This is described on the basin itself, in an allegorical poem by the minister and poet, Ibn Zamrak. It begins with the verses:

Blessed is He who gave the Iman Mohammed the beautiful ideas for decorating his mansions.

(c) (R) 2013, MUSMon com S.L.
Text (a) Carlos Madrid (2012)

Picture: The Courtyard Of The Lions
Source: Wikipedia
Author: Fernando MartÌn (2005)
Licence: Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic