The city which is today Granada was founded by the Romans under the name of “Illibris.” It was the Moors, who invaded in the eighth century A.D. and stayed on for seven centuries, who deemed the city “Granada.” Ferdinand and Isabella, Spain’s revered “Catholic Monarchs,” conquered the Kingdom of Granada in 1492, culminating the Reconquest of the Iberian Peninsula for Christiandom.
It was during the siege of the city that Isabella of Castille conceded to Christopher Columbus the resources necessary to launch his expedición to the West Indies. This long and colorful history has left numerous imprints on Granada in the form of palaces, churches and other noble buildings which proclaim the rich cultural heritage of the city. The monumental duo comprised by the Alhambra and the Generalife, fortress, medina and palace of the Nazarí monarchs, is world renowned both for its evocative architecture and for its privileged vantage point overlooking the city of Granada. Within the same complex lies the Renaissance Palace built there in the 16th century by the emperor Charles the Fifth, grandson of the conquering Catholic Monarchs.
A Backdrop So Beautiful It’s Almost Kitsch
On the opposite side of the valley of the River Darro lies the Albaicín quarter, a fascinating collection of narrow white-walled streets which half hide the traditional town houses with gracious gardens which the Granadinos call “cármenes.” Here in the Albaicín is located the Mirador de San Nicolás, the famous plaza where visitors are feted with one of the most renowned views in the world, that of the Alhambra and Generalife, with the snowy Sierra Nevada providing a backdrop so beautiful it’s almost kitsch.
Adjacent to the Albaicín, just a bit farther up the River Darro but still with a commanding view of the Alhambra, is Sacromonte, with its hallowed abbey and traditional Gypsy-cave residences (most of which are now occupied by astute foreign residents). It is here that Granada’s “zambra” flamenco shows have traditionally been staged in elaborate cave settings, and it is here that the Granada town hall has recently installed the Centro Flamenco de Estudios Escénicos. The new flamenco studies center is under the direction of flamenco dancer, Mario Maya, who initiated his distinguished career here in the zambras of Sacromonte at the age of nine.
Granada’s Illustrious Resting Places
Granada also offers visitors a Renaissance cathedral considered the first of its kind in Spain. Adjacent to the cathedral is the Royal Chapel (Capilla Real), commissioned by Ferdinand and Isabella as their last resting place. (Their first resting place was a tiny chapel on the Alhambra hill which is today subsumed by a hotel, the Parador de Turismo de Granada.) The city is also blessed with a score of historic churches built by the Christians after the Reconquest in a unique style which incorporated Moorish architectural themes and came to be known as “mudéjar.”
Another obligatory stop on anyone’s discerning Granada itinerary is the Casa-Museo Federico García Lorca in the Huerta de San Vicente, located in the municipal park dedicated to Granada’s best-known and best-loved poet. The intimate little museum occupies the house and gardens where Lorca spent his summers as a child.
Besides this opulent monumental legacy, Granada offers a wide gamut of contemporary cultural attractions, starting with the city’s annual International Festival of Music and Dance, with concerts and recitals staged in the Alhambra, the Palace of Charles the Fifth and the gardens of the Generalife. Other annual festival events in Granada are devoted to jazz, theater, and the tango. Add to this the stable offerings of Granada’s museums, art galleries, public exhibition halls, theaters and auditoria and you have one of Europe’s most evocative and best endowed destinations for cultural tourism.
Chronology of Granada
First and Second Centuries A.D. – After having hosted the Phoenician, Carthaginian and Greek settlements (the Greeks called the place “Elybirge”), Granada is occupied by the Romans who call it “Illiberis.”
Fifth Century A.D. – Visigothic occupation, the city maintains its civil, military and religious importance.
711 – Tarik, deputy of the North African governor, Musa ben Nusayr, leaves Tangier at the head of an army of 9,000 men and lands in Gibraltar. The total occupation of the Iberian peninsula takes them just five years.
713 – Definitive occupation of Granada by the Moors, who call the city “Ilbira,” (“Elvira” for the Christians).
929 – Abdelrahman III proclaims himself Prince of the Believers and declares independence from Bagdad; the Cordoba caliphate is born.
1010 – Internecine strife among groups of different cultures and ethnias lead to the destruction of the city, after which it comes to be known as “Garnata,” from which “Granada” later derives.
1031 – With the fall of the Omeya dynasty, independent kingdoms-“reinos de taifa”- begin to arise in all of al-Andalus
1212 – The united armies of the kingdoms of Castille, Aragon and Navarre defeat the Almohades in the battle of Navas de Tolosa.
1231 – Al-Ahmar ibn Nasr, founder of the Nazari dynasty, is named governor of Arjona, the city of his birth, and shortly afterwards extends his power over the cities of Jaén and Guadix. He establishes his capital in Granada.
1237 – The construction of the Alambra begins, under the direction of al-Ahmar.
1314 – Work begins on the construction of the Generalife.
1482 – The War of Granada begins. Prince Boabdil siezes the throne from his father.
1491 – Boabdil, the last Nazarí king, capitulates before Ferdinand and Isabella and negociates the surrender of Granada on November 25.
1492 – The Catholic Monarchs enter Granada triumphantly on January 2.
1492 – Cardenal Cisneros decrees obligatory baptism for all the Moriscos.
1568 – Led by Aben Humeya, and due to the repression they endure, the Moors of the Albaicin rebel. Don Juan de Austria puts down the rebellion and the Moriscos are expelled from Granada.
1883 – The first concerts are staged in the Palacio de Carlos V during the Corpus Christi celebrations, concerts which are the foundations of Granada’s International Festival of Music and Dance.
1922 – Federico García Lorca and other intellectuals promote Spain’s first Flamenco Song Contest (Concurso de Cante Jondo).
1936 – The Spanish Civil War breaks out. Federico García Lorca is assassinated outside the city.
1939 – End of the Civil War. Francisco Franco is autoproclaimed “generalísimo,” 36 years of dictatorship follow.
1975 – Franco dies, the so-called “Transition” period begins.
1977 – First democratic elections after Franco regime. The centrist UCD party wins and Adolfo Suarez is named president.
1978 – The new Spanish Constitution is adopted.
1980 – First edition of the Granada Jazz Festival.
1982 – Failed coup d’etat in the Congreso de los Diputados, the Spanish legislature.
1995 – Granada named starting point of the Rally París-Dakar, a position it will retain in the years 1996, 1998 and 1999.
1996 – Sierra Nevada organizes the final of the World Alpine Ski Championships.