By Geri L. Dreiling

Who can resist the spell of the Alhambra? Painters, writers, poets and kings have succumbed to its magic. Washington Irving was bewitched by it when he wrote, “Tales of the Alhambra.” Joaquin Sorolla was inspired to paint the Alhambra’s archways and reflecting pools. Francisco Villaespesa penned a collection of sonnets titled, “The Charm of the Alhambra. ” 

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Located at the southern edge of Spain in Granada,  the Alhambra is a palace and fortress that dates back to the 13th century, when much of Spain was under the control of the Moors. During the reconquest of Spain, Granada was the last stronghold of the Moorish empire.

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In 1492, the same year that Isabel financed the expedition of Christopher Columbus, she and her husband, Ferdinand, defeated the Moors at Granada. Legend has it that when Muhammad XII of Granada looked at the Alhambra for the last time, he wept. His mother’s response:  “Thou dost weep like a woman for what thou couldst not defend as a man.”

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The conquerors were also moved. Soon after the fall of the Alhambra, the Catholic Kings began extensive repairs to the Arabic palace. In 1526, Charles V built his own palace near the Alhambra after visiting it. Napoleon’s troops inhabited Granada from 1808 to 1812. The French restored some of the Alhambra but, according to legend, they tried to blow up the entire complex as they retreated in 1812.  Jose Garcia, a disabled Spanish soldier,  is said to have singlehandedly thwarted the attempt.

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A day after touring my tour of Alhambra, I am still struggling to process all that I saw. A plaque quoting Villaespesa  can be found at the Alhambra’s Gate of Pomegranates. Villaespesa praised the creator of the Alhambra and pays tribute to its eternal beauty.

A portion of the plaque reads:  

“Though the shadows of these walls have long since gone, the memory of them will live on as the final refuge of dreams and art. And then the last nightingale to breathe on this earth will build its nest and sing its farewell song among the glorious ruins of the Alhambra.”

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