The city of Granada is located near the southern tip of Spain, on the hills at the foot of the Sierra Nevada mountain range. An important city during the period of Umayyad rule (756-1031 AD) and under the Almohad and Almoravid dynasties of the twelfth and thirteenth-centuries, Granada is most famous for the palaces within the palatine city of the Alhambra.
Founded by Muhammad ibn Yusuf ibn Nasr, who escaped to Granada after the Castilian conquest of his native Zaragoza, Granada was the capital of the Nasrid Sultanate, and as such became the last Islamic kingdom of the Iberian Peninsula following the Castilian conquest of al-Andalus in the thirteenth-century.
The medieval city was composed of separate quarters, each with its own mosques and baths. Granada's suburbs developed along the banks of the Darro River, on the plain and hills below the Alhambra. The government functions of the Nasrid rulers were concentrated in the Alhambra, while commercial, religious, and civic institutions were concentrated in Granada proper.
The Albaicín, a walled suburb on the hill opposite that of the Alhambra, is the best-preserved section of the medieval city, but retains only a fraction of the mosques and celebrated courtyard houses that once existed there.
Dickie, James. 1992. "Granada: A Case Study of Arab Urbanism in Muslim Spain." In The Legacy of Muslim Spain, edited by S. K. Jayyusi and M. Marín. Leiden ; New York: E.J. Brill, 88-111.
Hermann, Elizabeth Dean. 1996. Urban formation and landscape: symbol and agent of social, political and environmental change in fifteenth-century Nasrid Granada. Harvard Univ.: PhD. Dissertation.
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Roca Roumens, M., Moreno Onorato, M. A. & Lizcano Prestel, R. 1988. El Albaicín y los orígenes de la ciudad de Granada. Granada: Universidad de Granada.
The hospital, or maristan, of Granada is the sole remaining example of this type of civic institution to have survived from the Nasrid period. One of the most important projects associated with the Nasrid sultanate, construction of the hospital was begun during the reign of Muhammad V in 1365 CE and completed two years later. The hospital is located in a prominent position within the Albaicín, Granada's medieval quarter, adjacent to an eleventh-century bath below the walls of the Alhambra.
Constructed of brick and finished with plaster, the two-storey rectangular structure is organized along a north-south axis and measures thirty-eight by twenty six and a half meters. A monumental entrance portal on the northwest side provided access to the interior. Plans drawn by Francisco Enríquez Ferrer and Jules Gailhabaud in the middle of the nineteenth century show four long halls (crujías) with square rooms and staircases at the corners, all disposed around the spacious central courtyard and separated from it by the arcaded portico. Shallow alcoves within the entrance hall were probably used for storage. Excavations conducted within the last few decades indicate that the spacious halls on both levels were divided into smaller rooms (each measuring about six square meters) which could be accessed directly from the portico or the upper gallery. The courtyard measured twenty-six by fifteen meters, and boasted a long rectangular pool at its center. Water issued from two lion-shaped fountains centered on each of the pool's long sides. While the pool's aesthetic qualities are clear, its presence can also be understood on a pragmatic level. In addition to regulating the temperature within the building through the process of evaporative cooling, four sets of steps descending into the pool suggest that it was used for therapeutic bathing.
While very little of the hospital's decorative program has remained in situ, archaeologists have discovered fragments of glazed tile mosaic, carved stucco, and marble which hint at the former richness of the hospital's interior. The entrance portal was also richly decorated. A late nineteenth-century view of the portal by Juan de Dios de la Rada y Delgado shows a set of wooden double doors topped by a flat ornamental lintel of geometric brick ornament. Surmounting the entrance, a niche in the shape of a pointed horseshoe arch, surrounded by a lobed frame and vegetal and geometric ornament, contained the building's foundation inscription executed in glazed ceramic with golden letters on a turquoise ground. The foundation inscription and the two lion fountains are currently on display in the Alhambra Museum, housed within the Palace of Charles V.
In the sixteenth century the hospital came to be known as the Casa de la Moneda (mint), reflecting a change in function which probably occurred after the Castilian conquest of Granada in 1492. By the middle of the nineteenth century the structure was nearly in ruins, and it was partially demolished in 1844. Archaeological excavations and the stabilization of the hospital's remains have been ongoing since the nineteen eighties.
J. A. García Granados et. al. 1989. El Maristán de Granada: un hospital islámico, Madrid: Asociación Española de Neuropsiquiatría.
Elizabeth Dean Hermann. "The Maristan of Granada." Urban Formation and Landscape: Symbol and Agent of Social, Political and Environmental Change in Fourteenth-Century Nasrid Granada. Unpublished dissertation, Harvard University. 1996, p. 150-58.
Antonio Orihuela Uzal. 1995. "Granada, Capital del Reino Nazarí." Arquitectura del Islam Occidental. Barcelona: Lunwerg, p. 208
Leopoldo Torres-Balbas, "El Maristán de Granada." Al-Andalus, vol. IX. Madrid-Granada, p. 481-498.