Granada City - Royal Chapel

The intricate decoration above the door to the Royal Chapel. © Sophie Carefull
The intricate decoration above the door to the Catholic Monarchs' tomb.

The Royal Chapel (Capilla Real) sits inside the Cathedral of Santa María de la Encarnación. The Royal Chapel. The Catholic Monarchs founded the Royal Chapel for their own tombs. They chose to be buried in Granada because they saw its conquest as the crowning achievement of their reign. It was started in 1505 following a design by Enrique Egas and was completed in 1521. The northern fascade is by Garcia Pradas, and provides access to the interior; a plan in the shape of a latin cross with four side chapels.

 

 

 © Michelle Chaplow capillareal39342
Entrance to the Tomb of Fernando and Isabella


The crossing with the royal mausoleums is seperated from the rest of the nave by a wrought iron screen, a real work of art by Master Bartolomé. The tomb of the catholic monarchs on the right was built by Domenico Fancelli, and on the left by Bartolomé Ordoñez using carrar marble. The chapel has a museum in the sacristy with paintings by Membling, van der Weyden, Botticelli and Beruguete. The paintings belonged to the collection of Queen Isabella, whose crown and sceptre, together with King Fernando´s sword are kept here.

History of the Royal Chapel

Isabel of Castille was at heart a woman of the Middle Ages, as demonstrated by her precious collection of Flemish masters on view in the Sacristy. She wanted a small, humble mausoleum for her and all her descendants, befitting the follower of Saint Francis which she was. But she died before the chapel could be built, and, in the company of Ferdinand, spent some twenty years in a provisional tomb inside the Alhambra walls, where a Franciscan monastery had been installed in the shell of the palace mosque (it is now an elegant hotel, the Parador San Francisco, well worth visiting even if you can't afford to stay there).

The architects made the chapel-mausoleum larger and more luxurious than planned, with the result that it is neither humble nor truly grand; in any case, her successor and grandson Carlos V - the master of the new Empire which she had founded - judged it too modest for the masters of a reign on which the sun never set, and the Royal Pantheon for all subsequent monarchs was eventually moved to the blockbuster Escorial Monastery outside Madrid, built by his son Felipe II, who knew how to do things on the right scale!

 








 Royal Chapel decorated in Gothic style. © Sophie Carefull 
Gothic style features of the Royal Chapel.

It may seem strange that Granada's Cathedral should have been built in the new Italian Renaissance style while the Royal Chapel of which it is an appendage is in the earlier Gothic style favoured by Queen Isabel. The explanation is a significant one: after the Reconquest a makeshift "Cathedral" was first set up inside the Great Mosque, creating the same bizarre combination we see today in the Mezquita of Cordoba, with its Christian church in the midst of the Moorish colonnades; but long after the Royal Chapel was finished, the mosque-cathedral contraption was torn down and rebuilt in the "new" Renaissance style.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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