Granada City - Monuments near the River Darro

Monuments near the River Darro

by Lawrence Bohme

El Bañuelo is the name the granadinos give to this hammam or bath, which stands next to the Puente del Cadí. It was part of the Mosque of the Walnut Tree, which stoood at this strategic part of the city wall.

Its columns and capitels were taken from the ruins of Visigothic and Roman buildings, and from the pillaged remains of the palace of the Caliphs of Cordoba, Medina al-Zahara.

The openings in the dome were covered in glass, and opened by slaves to release excess steam when the heat inside became too intense for the bathers.

Pipes made of short segments of terra cotta brought water into the hot, warm and cold tubs where the customers of the hamman bathed, one after the other, in the Roman style.

This view from the Alcazaba, in the Alhambra, shows the domed roofs of the Bañuelo. Of all the city's Moorish baths, only this one was spared from destruction by the Christian conquerors because it was part of a private home, which stood on the site of the house in the foreground, through which visitors enter from the Carrera del Darro.

These two buildings are convents, founded after the conquest. The one furthest upstream (hidden by the trees, here), Convento de Zafra, stands on the site of the Maristan, or Moorish hospital, parts of which still remain embedded in its interior.

The Casa de Castril is a 16th century palace with an exuberant Renaissance façade. It was the private palace of Hernando de Zafra, the secretary of the Catholic Monarchs, and given to him - along with the site of the two adjacent convents - in reward for his services during the conquest of the city. Zafra wrote the text of the infamous surrender treaty, which generously promised the Moors religious and political autonomy, but was soon betrayed.

His coat-of-arms features a military tower with battlements, representing the Tower of Comares - the Alhambra's hall of state. This is significant, given that the secretary had to enter the city under cover of darkness to deliver the controversial document to the Sultan Boabdil, who awaited him in the Throne Room of the tower.

This magnificent 16th century granadino home is built around a graceful courtyard, overlooked by the towers of the Alhambra.

Today, the Casa de Castril is home to the city's Archaeological Museum, with a small but precious collection of relics from the region's past, including the lamp from the mosque of Medinat Elvira, the ancient capital of the Moors, which stood on the plain to the west of Granada.

The Church of San Pedro overhangs the river gorge on the site of a mosque, providing another spectacular scene for the Romantic painters who made the pilgrimage to Granada in the 19th century.