Name of Monument:
Aljafería Palace (Islamic part)
Calle de los Diputados, s/n, Saragossa, Spain
Date of Monument:
Hegira 437–73 / AD 1046–81; part of the Torre del Trovador dates from the AH 3rd / AD 9th century, pre-Hud era
Period / Dynasty:
Taifa kingdom of Banu Hud
Abu Yafar Ahmad al-Muqtadir (r. AH 437–73 / AD 1046–81).
The Aljafería Palace is a complex group of structures that have been built around one another from the Islamic age until modern times, including Christian modifications during the Middle Ages.
The Muslim palace is the best-preserved palace complex from the epoch of the Taifa kingdoms on the Iberian peninsula. The quadrangular enclosure still retains part of its original adobe perimeter wall. It is reinforced with large semi-circular towers and a rectangular tower on the north side called the 'troubadour's tower' (Torre del Trovador), the lower part of which is the oldest part of the complex.
This closed, fortress-like enclosure contains the residential buildings of the palace, which are accessed from the western side through a horseshoe archway.
The Aljafería Palace was built using traditional models in Islamic palatine architecture: a large open central courtyard leading to all of the living rooms with two pools on the north and south sides. The ceremonial and private rooms, also located on the north and south ends of the building, are preceded by porticoes made up of mixtilinear and poly-lobed arcades that stretch the length of the central courtyard to serve as visual screens.
The best-conserved part of the complex is the north wing. In this area, on the east side of the portico and next to what is believed to have been the great audience chamber of al-Muqtadir, known as the 'Golden Room' or 'Marble Room', there remains a small octagonal mosque, whose location, intimate character and small size suggest that it was designed as a private oratory for the king and his family.
In the south wing of the palace, as on the north side, there was another large hall with side rooms and a porticoed area that served as an antechamber. Sadly, this hall was demolished in the 14th century to make way for the Chapel of St George, which in turn was destroyed in 1867. Nonetheless, before the demolition, a number of arches, capitals and other decorative elements were salvaged from this area, which has enabled the portico and two of its side rooms to be reconstructed in recent times.
The architectural and decorative elements of the palace are inspired by Córdoban models but embellished for the Aljafería. The curious combination of intertwined mixtilinear and poly-lobed arches and the opulent vegetal decoration greatly complicate the decorative scheme.
In contrast with its austere, fortress-like exterior, the palace interior presents great ornamental beauty and refinement that reflect two entirely different worlds: a defensive exterior with a refined and cultured interior where the sovereign and his court lived.
View Short Description
This is the only palace from the Taifa period that has retained its main elements: a large central rectangular courtyard with pools on the short sides in front of porticoes leading to the rooms. Built on the banks of the Ebro River as a recreational residence, its original name was the palace of joy, although it has always been known as al-Ya’fariya (Aljafería) after its founder Abu Ya’far.
The interior decoration was inspired by the art of the Caliphate of Córdoba, although a taste for exuberance gave rise to a baroque combination of interlaced poly-lobed and mixtilinear arches
How Monument was dated:
Surviving archaeological remains show that part of the Torre del Trovador may date from the end of the 3rd / 9th century. The bases of the towers and the remains of the wall belong to the Hud period (432–503 / 1040–1110). This dynasty used the tower and integrated it into the north wall of the palace, which they built from scratch.
Ewert, C., “Tradiciones Omeyas en la Arquitectura Palatina de la época de Taifas: La Aljafería de Zaragoza”, in España Entre el Mediterráneo y el Atlántico. Actas del XXIII Congreso Internacional de Historia del Arte, Vol. 2., Granada, 1977, pp.62–75.
Ewert, C. “Hallazgos Islámicos en Balaguer y la Aljafería de Zaragoza”, Excavaciones Arqueológicas en España, 97, Madrid, 1979–80.
Gómez Moreno, M., El Arte árabe Español Hasta los Almohades: Arte Mozárabe,Ars Hispaniae, Vol. III, Madrid, 1951.
Citation of this web page:
Margarita Sánchez Llorente "Aljafería Palace (Islamic part)" in Discover Islamic Art, Museum With No Frontiers, 2021. 2021. https://islamicart.museumwnf.org/database_item.php?id=monument;isl;es;mon01;4;en
Prepared by: Margarita Sánchez Llorente
Copyedited by: Rosalía Aller
Translation by: Laurence Nunny
Translation copyedited by: Monica Allen
MWNF Working Number: SP 04