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Granada City - Mirador de San Cristóbal

Mirador de San Cristóbal

by Lawrence Bohme

The Mirador de San Cristóbal overlooks the ancient citadel of the Albaicin. The buttressed walls, built by the Zirid kings in the 11th century to protect their fortress, stretch along the western slope. In the background of the upper left, the towers of the Alhambra are etched against the slopes of the Sierra Nevada. In the upper middle right, the bell tower of the Cathedral overlooks the old city.

This detail from the previous view shows two of the Albaicin's most interesting monuments, the smaller framed against the other.

In the foreground, above the buttresses of the wall, the building with the gable and arched windows is the Palace of Dar al-Horra, the "House of the Honourable Lady". Built in the 15th century, it was the abode of the first wife of the Sultan Muley Hassen, expelled from the Alhambra after he replaced her with a young Christian captive of whom he was enamoured.

The massive construction behind it is the Convent of Santa Isabel la Católica, founded by Queen Isabella after the conquest of the city. When the nuns took over the grounds of the Moorish palace, the exquisite Nasrid palace at the western edge became a ruin, and was not restored to its current state until our times. The white tower in the upper right hand corner is the steeple of the Church of San Miguel Bajo.

In this view of what was once the fortress of the Zirids, we see, on the right, in the background, the Torre de la Vela, the Alhambra's great watchtower, standing high on the far side of the river valley, against the Sierra Nevada. The gardens and villa in the center of the photo have an interesting story of their own.

It was here that the Romans built their forum and theatre, when the city was called Iliberis. In the 16th century, the ruins of these buildings were discovered underneath the old Moorish medina. Some noblemen bought up the houses and had the honeycomb of passageways cleared away, turning the site into a great pit. After dragging out numerous columns and statues, the hole was filled in and sold to one of them, who later built the private palace or carmen on it, surrounded with gardens, which, in its modern version, we see today.

The church of San Cristóbal was, like all the churches of the ancient medina, once a mosque, and its bell tower was adapted from the original minaret.

The neighbourhood which huddles at its feet is the Barrio de San Cristóbal. Here, we can see the parapet of the Mirador, in front of the church. Among the cactus plants on the far left, below the parapet, is the Cueva La Retama, where one of Granada's finest flamenco dancers teaches her art.

You can walk up to the mirador, if you have good legs, from the Albaicin. Go up the Cuesta de la Alhacaba, the slope which begins behind the Puerta de Elvira, and take the second turn to the left. This picturesque staircase is called the Cuesta de San Cristóbal.

The time to come to the Mirador, whether it be to paint or simply to gaze in wonder, is before sundown, when the light glows on the Albaicin, in Lorca's words, "like ancient gold".