Andalusia is the southern region of the Iberian Peninsula and also one of the southern parts of Europe. It is the most populated and the second largest autonomous community in Spain with Seville as its capital.
Strategically situated close to the African continent and guarding the strait of Gibraltar with both a coast on the Atlantic and a coast on the Mediterranean Sea, the region soon became a developed colony successively owned by Tartessos, Iberians, Phoenicians, Greeks, Carthaginians and Romans. Cities like Seville or Cordoba date back from the Antiquity. Cadiz is even one of the oldest towns in Europe. The name "Andalusia" is derived from the Arabic word Al-Andalus.
TREASURES OF HISTORY
The Muslim caliphate extended across almost the whole Iberian Peninsula and at times, up to the kingdom of France. Since, the very beginning and until the 13th century, Cordoba became the great capital of the caliphate. The city was strategically situated: inland and far from any sea invasion, but still on the Guadalquivir river that constituted the backbone of commerce in Andalusia and connected Cordoba with Seville or Cadiz.
For centuries, the Moors developed Cordoba into a rich and prosperous city. They created sumptuous fountains and gardens like a crown around their Alcazar, the Arab palace. They built the great mosque that later became the famous mosque-cathedral when it was transformed by Christians. They gave Cordoba large and solid stone walls to protect it from invaders.
After centuries of Muslim domination, the Moorish caliphate was slowly reconquered by the Christian crowns of Castile and Aragon. Later, Cordoba was regained in 1236 and Seville in 1248. The Nasrid province of Granada remained the last standing Arab caliphate in the peninsula.
In the city of Granada, at the bottom of the Sierra Nevada Mountains, the Nasrid dynasty built one of the world’s most magnificent cities crowned by a sumptuous palace: the fortified complex of Alhambra, meaning the red in Arabic due to the colour of its stones. The Alhambra is not just one palace but a whole fortress with the Nasrid palace, the Alcazaba (the military fort), the Generalife (that served as summer residence to the Nasrid caliphs) and the palace of Charles V that was later built after the Christians retook the city.
THE DOOR TO THE NEW WORLD
The reconquest of the Iberian Peninsula by the Christian crowns of Castile and Aragon started in the 10th century but really accelerated in the 13th century with the fall of Cordoba and Seville. The Muslims were completely defeated in 1492 with the conquest of Granada. The same year, Christopher Columbus, a Spanish navigator who set sail from the port of Cadiz discovered the Americas. Since then, the Christian Andalusia (with Seville as its capital) became the entry point for every wealth coming from the new world. Thanks to its colony, Spain regains its place as a major power in Europe and Andalusia became one of richest region in the continent.
PLAZA DE ESPAÑA, A TRIBUTE TO THE SPANISH EXPANSION
Built in 1929 for the Ibero-American exposition, the Plaza de España of Seville pays tribute to the Spanish conquest of the New World that started since 1492. Each of the Spanish regions and Andalusian provinces are represented on the columns of the monument. The square is oriented toward the Quadalquivir river, from which all the boats from the New World would arrive. The building has a semi-circle shape to symbolize Spain welcoming its former colonies and embracing them in its arms.
TREAURE OF RELIGIONS
THE MOSQUE-CATHEDRAL OF CORDOBA
The history of this place is believed to date back to the 5th century when a first Christian church dedicated to Saint Vincent the Third was established.
When the city was conquered by the Arabs in 785, Cordoba became the political capital of the Muslim caliphate as well as the centre of the Islamic faith in the peninsula. The small Christian church was destroyed and a mosque was built in its stead. Over the centuries, the mosque was extended mixing Roman and Gothic-style columns.
When in 1236, Cordoba was conquered by King Ferdinand III of Castile; the mosque was converted into a Catholic cathedral. A huge chapel was built at the centre of it, the one-floor roof being elevated for this purpose. Though many Muslim traits were kept, a lot of Christian details were added such as the minaret of the mosque which was extended and converted to the bell tower of the cathedral. Other kings, who followed, added further Christian features making this building into a strange and exotic mix of Islam and Christianity.
ANDALUSIA, HOME OF THE CATHOLIC KINGS
In 1949 Pope Alexander VI officially bestowed King Ferdinand and Queen Isabel of Castile the title of "Catholic King and Queen" IN recognition of their defence of the Catholic faith within their realms,. True to their new motto, Ferdinand and Isabel heavily invested in making Andalusia a fully Christian place and many cathedrals flourished all over the region. Most of these monuments reused Moorish elements from previous mosque, such as in Seville and Cordoba, as well as architectural traits from Roman, Gothic and Mudéjar styles.
The Cathedral of Saint Mary of the See, better known as Seville Cathedral
Top right and clock wise: Church of Santa María la Mayor, Ronda - Cathedral of the Incarnation, Grenada - Cathedral of Málaga - J. Christ in the Cathedral of Seville
TREASURES OF CULTURE
HYGIENE UNDER THE MUSLIM CALIPHATE
In the Islamic culture, being clean has always been of a great importance. None could pray without being cleaned and purified. No stranger was allowed in any city without bathing first.
Hence, many baths were built at the entrance of every Andalusian city to allow newcomers to clean themselves before being allowed into town. Other baths for the locals could also be found in every neighbourhood of the inner cities (below pictures were taken in Grenada).
RONDA, HOME OF BULLFIGHTS
Though bullfighting was not born in the South of Spain but dates back to the prehistoric era in Mesopotamia, the world first bullrings appeared in the 1700s in Ronda, quickly followed by Seville and Málaga. Until this day, though the practice of fighting bulls is more and more controversial in Andalusia and all over the world, the greatest bullfighters consider coming and winning a fight in the Ronda bullring as the one of the most important milestone of their carrier.
JEREZ, LAND OF HORSE RIDERS
Andalusians consider themselves to be the best horse riders in the world with Jerez de la Frontera being the capital of horse training. The fame of Jerez horses is still vibrant today and one can enjoy the charming dance of horses and caballeros at the Royal Academy.
TREASURES OF ARCHITECTURE
THE ART OF GEOMETRY AND ARABESQUE
Moorish architecture is an architectural style which historically developed in the western Islamic world, both in Spain and Portugal between 711 and 1492 as well as in Northern Africa. This style blends influences from Berber culture in North Africa, pre-Islamic Iberia (Roman, Byzantine, and Visigothic) as well as contemporary artistic currents in the Middle East to elaborate a unique style recognizable by its arches, courtyard gardens with a symmetrical four-part division and elaborate geometricarabesque sculpted in wood, stucco and tile work.
THE ISLAMIC WATER GARDENS
Water has a special place in the Islamic culture. As already said, bathing and hygiene is paramount in the Muslim world. But more than that, having a huge garden full of pools and fountains was an important sign of wealth and power in a dry and hot region such as Andalusia.
Gardens of the Alcazar of Cordoba
Garends of NAsrid Palace in Alhambra, Grenada
Alcazar of Seville
WHITE TOWNS OF ANDALUSIA
All of the white villages are characterized by whitewashed walls and red or brown tiled roofs. They also commonly present narrow alleyways, steep earrings, lookouts, picturesque town centres with a square, a church and a town hall. The reason for the white colour has been assumed to be a chemical result of the limestone used.
White town of Ronda
White town of Vejer
White town of Concil de la Frontera
Plaza de España, Vejer
White town of Setenil de las Bodeguas
THE MUDEJAR ARCHITECTURE, A TESTIMONY OF RELIGIOUS COEXISTENCE IN ANDALUSIA
Mudéjar art, a style which is native and unique to the history of Spain, was a meeting point between Christianity and Islam. The term Mudéjar refers to the Muslims who continued to practice their religion and their customs in the territories that became part of Christian dominions as the Reconquista advanced into southern Spain.
Aspects of Muslim architecture and design were incorporated into the dominant European styles at the time such as Romanesque, Gothic and Renaissance. Some of the most obvious features to have been borrowed from Muslim art and design are the use of geometrical patterns, intricate tiles and brickworks, and the use of calligraphy as means of decoration.
Plaza de América, Seville Plaza de España, Seville
A TESTIMONY TO THE SPANISH DOMINIONS
For centuries and after the discovery of the Americas, Spain has dominated most of the new continent. Architectural influences coming from the new world have started to spread all over Andalusia.
Many remains of the colonial architecture can still be seen in every city, easily recognizable by its vivid yellow, red and white colours, its round doors and windows and its sturdy pillars.
Colonial Style building, Seville Alcazar of Seville
Real escuela andaluza del arte eecuestre, Jerez City Hall of Málaga
SEVILLA, CAPITAL OF MODERN ARCHITECTURE
Modern architecture received a boost when Seville hosted the international exposition. Many innovative designs were introduced at this time, like the five bridges spanning the Río Guadalquivir, but the most famous of all remain “Las Setas de la Encarnación” (the Incarnation's Mushrooms).
“Las Setas”, officially named the Metropole Parasol by its creator, is 150 meters long entirely made of wood. The monument consists of six parasols in the form of giant mushrooms, whose design is inspired by the vaults of the Cathedral of Seville and the ficus trees in the region. With its 26 meters height, it dominates the city of Seville to offer a spectacular view on the churches and the roofs of Andalusia’s biggest city.
TREASURES OF NATURE
ANDALUSIA, BREAD BASKET OF SPAIN
Andalusia is one of the most important agricultural regions of Spain, with Castilla-La-Mancha and Léon. Olive trees and lavender constitute the most important crops in the region and one of the reasons why Andalusia is famous even beyond the Iberian Peninsula. But many other warm-weather crops, such as cotton, tobacco, and sugarcane, as well as wine and table grapes, are also produced there.
Lavendar field in Grenada Agricultural field in Vejer
THE SIERRA NEVADA MOUNTAINS, GUARDIAN OF GRANADA
Though tourists usually think of Andalusia for its sun and its beaches, the region also have one of the highest mountain range in Spain, the “Sierra Nevada” (the snowy mountains) was people can come and ski in the winter.
Top right: Málaga
All other: Costa de la Luz, Zahara de los Atunes