Granada City - Mirador de San Nicolás

Mirador de San Nicolás

by Lawrence Bohme

There is no more popular place, among tourists and granadinos alike, than the Mirador de San Nicolás, because of its view of the Alhambra, on the other side of the river valley.

And in the light of the setting sun, the towers turn pink and then coppery, reminding us that, according to tradition, the Arabic words calat al-hamra mean "the red castle". But historians disagree, because it would have been whitewashed under the Moors, as all buildings were. Since the founding Emir was called Alhamar, it is most likely called for him.

The Mirador in the morning...

...and seen from below.

...and the Alhambra, piece by piece

The tower at the far left is virtually all that remains of a palace known as El Partal. Next to it, the tower with the hooded roof is the Peinador de la Reina, built by the Christians as the temporary residence of the wife of Carlos Quinto. The massive tower that follows is the Torre de Comares, the Alhambra's Hall of State, which eclipses the Nasrid Palaces (Courtyard of Lions, Hall of the Two Sisters...). The pointed steeple above, and slightly to the right of it, belongs to the church of Santa María de la Alhambra, built on the site of the palace's Great Mosque. The large building in the background is the Palace of Carlos Quinto, and the smaller ones in front of it include the Mexuar, the Alhambra's public reception hall, and its mosque. The large towers on the right hand side of the citadel are the military fortress, dominated by the broad tower with the flag flying overhead, the Torre de la Vela. Down on the far right, the solitary Torres Bermejas (Vermillion Towers) peek up above the trees.

Below, at the foot of the Albaicin, the tower jutting up in the center foreground is the church of San Pedro, built on the site of a mosque which once overhung the River Darro. The great slash in the mountainside, framing the tower, is the result of a man-made catastrophe: in 1590, a powder-house in the ravine exploded, damaging much of the Alhambra.

The Generalife - which I have inserted in the corner - was a hunting lodge and retreat where the Sultan could flee the hustle and bustle of the palace - in the company of his harem, of course.

The church of San Nicolás, like several other temples of the quarter, was set afire in the Civil War, when the poor people of the Albaicin, in support for the Republican cause, rose up against Franco's troops.

The fountain of the mosque, reconstructed in the 18th century, stands next to the church, reminding us of its original calling.

To the north of the Mirador stands Granada's new mosque, La Mezquita Mayor de Granada, completed in July 2003. Everyone can enter the gardens and the lobby, and see the Muslim rites through the broad gate of the Prayer Room.

All of the unrestored walls of Moorish Granada bear strange rows of holes, like this one. They are the traces left by the Moors' building technique for casting the argamasa or primitive form of concrete between two big wooden boxes until it hardened. The boxes were used on one segment of the wall after the other so had to be easily moved. To keep them together, with the exact gap in between for the concrete, long wooden poles were inserted in them and fixed at either end, like braces or ties. Today we would use cables, but wood was the best thing they had at hand (ropes would be soon frayed away or rotted). After the concrete was poured and just before it hardened completely, the poles were pulled out and the holes covered over with a final, coat of smooth concrete. With time, this finishing layer eroded away and left the holes uncovered.