The Aljafería Palace (Spanish: Palacio de la Aljafería; Arabic: قصر الجعفرية, tr. Qasr al-Jaʿfariya) is a fortified medieval Islamic palace built during the second half of the 11th century in the Taifa of Zaragoza of Al-Andalus, present day Zaragoza, Spain. It was the residence of the Banu Hud dynasty during the era of Abu Jaffar Al-Muqtadir after abolishing Banu Tujibi of Kindah dynasty. The palace reflects the splendor attained by the kingdom of the taifa of Zaragoza at the height of its grandeur. The palace currently contains the Cortes (regional parliament) of the autonomous community of Aragon.
The structure holds unique importance in that it is the only conserved testimony of a large building of Spanish Islamic architecture of the era of the Taifas (independent kingdoms). So, if a magnificent example of the Caliphate of Córdoba, its Mosque (10th century), and other one of the swan song of the Islamic culture in Al-Andalus, of the 14th century, the Alhambra of Granada, must be included in the triad of the Hispano-Muslim architecture the Aljafería of Zaragoza (11th century) like sample of the realizations of the taifa art, intermediate time of independent kingdoms previous to the arrival of the Almorávides. The Mudéjar remains of the palace of the Aljafería were declared World Heritage Site by Unesco in 2001 as part of the "Mudéjar Architecture of Aragon" ensemble.
The solutions adopted in the ornamentation of the Aljafería, such as the use of mixtilinear arcs and of the springers in «S», the extension of the arabesque in large surfaces or the outlining and progressive abstraction of the yeseria of vegetal character, influenced the Almoravid art and Almohad art both of the Magreb and of the Iberian peninsula. Also, the transition from decoration to more geometric motifs is at the base of Nasrid art.
After the reconquest of Zaragoza in 1118 by Alfonso of Aragon "the Battler", the Aljafería became the residence of the Christian kings of Aragon, becoming the main focus of the Aragonese Mudejar diffusion. It was used as a royal residence by Peter IV of Aragon "the Ceremonious" and later, on the main floor, was carried out the reform that turned these paradors into the palace of the Catholic Monarchs in 1492. In 1593 it underwent another reform that would make it into a military fortress, first according to Renaissance designs (which today can be seen in their surroundings, pit and gardens) and later as a quarters of military regiments. It underwent continuous reforms and major damage, especially during the Sieges of Saragossa of the War of Independence, until finally it was restored in the second half of the twentieth century and currently houses the Parliament of Aragon.
Originally the building was outside the Roman walls, in the plain of the Saría or place where the Muslims developed the military fanfare known as La Almozara. With the urban expansion through the years, the building has remained within the city. It has been possible to respect around a small landscaped environment. It has been respected around a small garden setting.
The oldest construction of the Aljafería is called Troubadour Tower. The tower received this name from Antonio Garcia Gutierrez’s 1836 romantic drama The Troubadour. The drama was converted into a libretto for Giuseppe Verdi’s opera Il trovatore in 1853.
The tower is a defensive structure, with a quadrangular base and five levels which date back to the end of the 9th century AD, in the period governed by the first Banu Tujibi, Muhammad Alanqur, who was named after Muhammad I of Córdoba, independent Emir of Cordoba. According to Cabañero Subiza (1998) the Tower was built in the second half of the 10th century. In its lower part, the tower contains vestiges of the beginning of the heavy walls of alabaster ashlar bond masonry, and continues upwards with plank lining of simple plaster and lime concrete, which is a thinner substance for reaching greater heights. The exterior does not reflect the division of the five internal floors and appears as an enormous prism, broken by narrow embrasures. Access to the interior was gained through a small door at such height that it was only possible to enter by means of a portable ladder. Its initial function was, by all indications, military.
The first level conserves the building structure of the 9th century and shelters two separated naves and six sections, which are separated by means of two cruciform pillars and divided by lowered horseshoe arcs. In spite of its simplicity, they form a balanced space and could be used as baths.
The second floor repeats the same spatial scheme of the previous one, and remains of a Muslim factory of the 11th century in the brick canvases, which indicates that, from the 14th century something similar happens with the appearance of the last two floors, of Mudéjar invoice, and whose construction would be due to the construction of the palace of Peter IV of Aragon, that is connected with the Tower of the Troubadour thanks to a corridor, and would be configured as tower of homage. The arches of these plants already reflect its Christian structure, because they are slightly pointed arches, and support unveiled roofs, but flat structures in wood.
Its function in the 9th and 10th centuries was the watch tower and defensive bastion. It was surrounded by a moat. It was later integrated by the Banu Hud family in the construction of the castle-palace of the Aljafería, constituting itself in one of the towers of the defensive framework of the outside north canvas. From the Spanish Reconquista, it continued being used like tower of the homage and in 1486 became dungeon of the Inquisition. As a tower-prison was also used in the 18th and 19th centuries, as demonstrated by the numerous graffiti inscribed there by the p2.
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