The Alcazares Reales of Sevilla, or the royal palace complex, is one of the hidden treasures of this intoxicating city. Overshadowed by the internationally renowned splendor of the Alhambra, few people realize before they step foot inside the complex that it is, in fact, a sublime and gorgeously well preserved example of the Moorish architectural tradition, as well as the Christian one that followed. The photograph to the right shows the entwining of these civilizations in the foundations, as well as columns from the original Roman site. The left shows the medieval fortress entrance; the entire complex is surrounded by walls dating back to the 11th century.
The palace compound began to take shape during the 711 conquest by the Moors, who used the compound as their primary royal residence from 720 onward. When King Fernando III conquered Sevilla in 1238, it became a Christian palace and fortress. Such famous Spanish kings as Alfonso X the Wise, Pedro the Cruel, and Isabella of Castile all resided in the Royal Alcazar of Sevilla. The palace was the scene of Charles V's marriage to Isabel of Portugal, and the Infanta Elena, daughter of Spain's current King Juan Carlos I, held her wedding reception here. The photo to the left shows the gold-vaulted and embossed ceiling of the grand salon, or hall, where many of the palace's pivotal events took place.
The entire palace complex exudes mystique and sensuous echoes of the past; I could well believe that the infamous King Pedro preferred this residence above all others, creating a haven of silk and cinnabar within the royal apartments where he sought to escape the ceaseless intrigues of his nobility. With splendid gardens, painted ceilings and corridors, festooned with stalacite tracery and cool watery passageways, the Royal Alcazares of Sevilla are a world apart, permeated by a long-gone majesty that reminds us of a time of blood and luxury, iron and alabastar; a time when the fractured kingdoms of Spain created some of the most beautiful buildings ever seen.