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Report 856: The Romance of Moorish Spain

By janie and geoff from Canada, Fall 2004

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Page 12 of 13: Granada and Isabelline Gothic

photo by Geoff Chambers

Capilla Real with spires decorated in brussels sprouts - Isabelline Gothic

Tuesday

We had to pick a few places to see before bolting back to Malaga. We went to the 16th c Cathedral and the Capilla Real. The exterior is very ornamented, decorated in a style called “Isabelline Gothic” which seems to involve spires with stone ornaments reminiscent of brussels sprouts. The Cathedral is just enormous but very bright. They had removed the canvases by Alonso Cano from their niches, restored them and hung them in the arches of the aisles. These were beautiful, and even more remarkable when you realize that Cano was also an architect and sculptor. Outside the cathedral under a magnolia tree in the plaza is a very dashing bust of Cano.

The Capilla Real, royal chapel, has a small museum containing art and personal belongings of Ferdinand and Isabella. All religious art and pretty grim too. There are many schools of thought on Isabella, some of whom are of the opinion that she was a vicious, narrow-minded religious fanatic and that if she and her hubby didn’t exactly decree the Inquisition, created the social and religious structure that encouraged it to happen, and turned a blind eye. There are four marble tomb figures lying in the chapel, the Catholic Monarchs and their daughter Juana la Loca (the mad) and her husband who died young, Felipe el Hermoso (the handsome). There is some debate over whether or not she was really mad or just imprisoned on that excuse for political reasons. If she didn’t start out mad, I’m sure that after 40 years she was at least a bit screwed up. The bodies of the monarchs are actually in a small crypt beneath the marble figures, lined up in simple lead coffins.

Then we went to see the Corral del Carbon, a 14th C Nasrid commercial building that was the coal exchange at one time. The façade is still wonderfully ornate and the interior is now inhabited by the tourism bureau and a few stores. I bought travel guides published by the Andalucian tourism board at a bookstore inside the courtyard. We then made our way back to the Calle Darro to see the Moorish baths. These 11th C baths are some of the best preserved in Spain, with geometrical shaped openings in the roof that let in light. The arches are supported by pillars of various ages: Roman, caliphate, Visigoth. It was quite beautiful, stripped bare of ornamentation with just the bones of the structure left.

Finally, a light lunch at one of the tourist traps of the Plaza Nueva and we put our luggage in the car (brought back from an unidentified parking lot by our porter), and we made for Malaga. For dinner we decided to go to Ojen, since Geoff wanted to try an evening/twilight photo.

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