A few minutes walk from the hotels of the Alhambra brings one to an iron gateway, which opens into the grounds and gardens of the estate now owned by the Italian Grimaldi-Gentili, better known as the Pallavicini family of Genoa. The name of the palace is Generalife, a word derived from the Arabic Gennatu l’Arif, meaning, “the Garden of the Architect.” A long, level walk through vineyards and an avenue of cypresses leads to the villa, which is so situated as to command wide views of Granada and of the broad and fertile valley of the Xenil. These lovely landscapes have been highly extolled by travellers, but I cannot agree with those who prefer them to the prospects from the palace of the Alhambra. They are more distant and from a higher point, and include the Alhambra, which lies just beneath; they embrace the distant horizon of mountains, and form a dreamy world, all glittering to the eye in summer sunshine. The charms of the Generalife seemed to lie in its gardens and sparkling waters, and in its quiet and retirement from the neighborhood of a great city. The pure stream of the Darro has been conducted in a deep canal to this villa, and pours a full and rushing river through its court. The rapid waters flow beneath a series of evergreen arches, formed by yew-trees cut and bent into curious shapes. Shining orange and lemon trees, with their golden fruit, grow in the gardens of the court, contrasting with the spear-pointed and sombre cypresses as laughing maidens beside stiff and grim warriors. A long gallery, decorated with slender pillars and seventeen graceful arches, forms the left side, overlooking the Alhambra, and were it not for the whitewash, which is thickly daubed over walls and ceiling, the beautiful Moorish work of long ago might add its ornamental arabesques to the natural loveliness of the place and its surroundings. There is one room, an exquisite boudoir, with a dome, a decorated ceiling, and stuccoed walls which look like the openworked leaves of a Chinese fan, that gives a hint of what might be found beneath the lime-wash of the other rooms. Beyond the uninteresting chapel are some modern rooms, and in one long ball are hung a number of portraits of rulers and warriors who were famous in the conquest of Granada. Most of them are wretched daubs, but we were asked to believe that they represented Ferdinand and Isabella, Ponce de Leon, the gallant marquis of Cadiz, and Garcilsaso de la Vega, the legendary hero of a hand-to-hand encounter with Tarfe, a giant Moor. The portrait of Boabdil is also offered to the faith of credulous visitors, and if he looked like his picture I do not wonder that he lost his throne. The place has descended to the present proprietor, the Marquis of Campotejar, of the Grimaldi family, by marriage, from the house of Avila, to which it was given by Ferdinand and Isabella, to whom the ancestor offered his services. An elaborate genealogical tree of the Grimaldi family hangs proudly beside a portrait of Don Pedro de Granada Venegas, the first proprietor, and his son is also represented in the act of trampling on the Moorish flags.
Beyond the first court of the Generalife is a staircase, leading to the Court of the Cypresses, where is a pond surrounded with rose hedges, and a garden full of vines and flowers. Waters fall with soft murmurs down marble slopes, and these ancient cypress-trees are said to have witnessed the love scenes of Ioraya and the Abencerrage. At the summit of the marble stairs there is a mirador, or lookout, where, amid flowers, fragrance, sweet sounds, and glorious landscapes, an artist or poet may dream the hours away. Beyond this palace, in the Moorish times, were others, beside which even the Alhambra was insignificant – the sumptuous Alijares, the farfamed villa Dar-laroca, Palace of the Bride, and the Palace of the River on the slope towards the Xenil. Even the ruins of these are gone, except some remains of a mosque and of several tanks, and scattered stones. Everything speaks of a wonderful and romantic chapter in the history of mankind which will never be rewritten, of a unique and brilliant race which has forever passed away, of a sensual civilization whose day is done, and which doubtless’ is more bewitching as we see it in the moonlight of the past than it would be if we were gazing upon it in the full glare of the noonday of the present.
A short walk from the gateway of the Generalife brings one to the Campo Santo and into the hills, where the gypsies live in huts and caves dug out of the steep slopes. The funerals in the Campo Santo are not specially different from the same class of funerals in all the Roman Catholic countries of Southern Europe, and the horrible stories of fights among the relatives of the deceased for the clothing of the corpse, of robberies by gypsies, and the assassination of travellers in the graveyard, may be dismissed as doubtful legends which have no semblance of truth now. Those who have seen the careless burials of the poor in any save Protestant lands, and sometimes even in these, would see nothing novel or sensational in the Granada cemetery. The better part of the place has streets of tombs, and there are crypts along the walls with family names over them and shelves or niches in front, as in Italy, for wreaths and pictures and votive offerings.
The gypsy quarter is unique in its suggestions of all that is disgusting and repulsive. They have burrowed into the hillside, and cut out holes in the rock. In these ” dug-outs ” they herd with pigs, chickens, and goats; and from such dens they come forth to prey by all the arts known to their cunning and unscrupulous race upon travellers and strangers in particular, and indiscriminately upon all whom they can deceive and plunder without too serious risk. The tourist who enters their holes might well expect to leave, not “hope,” but all articles of value behind; and, if he should be cajoled into buying the wretched stuffs which the gypsies sometimes offer as ancient and rare, he will repent of his folly for more reasons than one. They beg, tell fortunes, and steal; and the doorways of their innumerable caves are surrounded by half-naked children, grovelling in the dust, quarrelling and chattering, when they are not persecuting the passers-by for money.
The gypsies are persistent, keen, and shrewd, and doubtless practise begging as one of the fine arts. A story is told that illustrates their originality and cleverness, even in their vices. A gypsy man was at confession one day, and, whilst he was confessing, he spied in the pocket of the monk’s habit a silver snuffbox, and stole it. “Father,” he said immediately to the priest, “I accuse myself of having stolen a snuffbox.” “Then, my son, you must certainly restore it.” “Will you have it yourself, my Father?” “I? certainly not,” answered the confessor. “The fact is,” proceeded the gypsy, “that I have offered it to the owner, and he has refused it.” “Then you can keep it with a good conscience,” answered the priest, and the gypsy went off with his confessor’s snuffbox and a clean bill of spiritual health.
The gypsies are not the only cave-dwellers, for Mrs. Bishop, in her recent book of travels in Persia, frequently alludes to riding over whole villages which were excavated in the mountain sides, and tells of the methods of living in these earth dwellings; but they are in all things a peculiar people, in looks, in habits, and in their relation to the rest of mankind. They seem far more at home in Hungary and Spain than in any other part of Europe, but they belong of right to the Orient, and are Ishmaelites in any thorough civilization.
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Spain Travel – Granada
( Originally Published Early 1900’s )
We had given most of our time in Granada to the Alhambra, the Generalife, and the beautiful gardens of the Casa de Calderon, a private villa, commanding, lovely views of the vega, and affording delicious retreats in shady bowers, by rippling fountains, and orange orchards. Yet we made occasional excursions into the town, and saw the people in their velvet jackets and bright sashes, the markets, and the silk bazar, the churches, and, above all, the Cathedral, with its historic and magnificent Chapel Royal.
The Cathedral was built in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, being begun by Diego de Sioloe, and continued by his pupils. It is at once a noble and peculiar structure. It stands between the Plaza de Bibarrambla and that of Las Pasiegas, the main entrance being in the latter -square. It was built on the site of the great mosque, most Spanish Christian temples having a similar origin. The interior is grand, the pillars massive but in perfect keeping with the ideas of vastness and height which pervade the rest.
There are two aisles on either side the nave, which is of great width, – forty to fifty feet, -and ends in a majestic dome which rises two hundred and twenty feet and opens with a noble arch (one hundred and ninety feet) into the choir. This dome is ornamented in white and gold. The groined roof of the nave and double aisles is supported by Corinthian pillars, the choir is in the middle, and the high altar stands by itself with kneeling effigies of Ferdinand and Isabella at the sides.
The Royal Chapel adjoins the Cathedral, and is an object of special interest. An inscription around the cornice states that “this chapel was founded by the most Catholic Don Fernando and Dona Isabel, King and Queen of Spain, of Naples, of Sicily and Jerusalem, who conquered this kingdom and brought it back to our faith; who acquired the Canary Isles and Indies, as well as the cities of Oran, Tripoli and Bugia; who crushed heresy, expelled the Moors and Jews from these realms and reformed religion. The Queen died Nov. 26, 1504. The King died Jan. 23, 1516. The building was completed in 1517.”
This chapel was built by Philip of Borgona, and his style is evident in the groups of slender pillars terminating at the capitals in palm branches that spread over the roof. A magnificent reja by Bartolome of Jaen screens off the tombs of the kings from the rest of the building.
In this royal chapel we read the story of the conquest from the bas-reliefs of the retablo. Here is Queen Isabella riding on a white horse, with King Ferdinand on one side and Cardinal Mendoza, riding a mule, upon the other side, going to receive the surrender of Granada. Boabdil presents the keys. Ladies, knights, and spearmen are just behind, and in the distance the dispirited and defeated Moors are issuing from the gates. In another marble scene a crowd of Moors are receiving baptism from a company of tonsured monks. In front of these sculptures are the alabaster tombs of Ferdinand and Isabella upon the right, and those of Philip and Joanna, known as “Crazy Jane,” upon. the left. These mausoleums of Carrara marble are superbly wrought by Italian artists. Ferdinand and Isabella lie side by side upon a lofty sarcophagus. The four doctors of the church adorn the corners, and twelve apostles the sides; while figures of children, and foliage, and delicate ornamentation enrich every portion with exquisite details. The figures of the king and queen, in soft cream, colored alabaster, are noble and beautiful. Ferdinand wears the garter, and Isabella the cross of Santiago. The figure of Isabella is a fitting memorial to one of whom Lord Bacon declared that “in all her relations of queen or woman she was an honor to her sex and the corner-stone of the greatness of Spain,” and whom Shakespeare called “the queen of earthly queens.”
She died far from Granada, but desired to be buried here in the brightest pearl of her crown. Her people worshipped her and Peter Martyr, writing from the chamber -where she lay a-dying, thus gives utterance to the universal anxiety and grief: “You ask me of the state of the Queen’s health. We all sit in the palace all day sorrowing, and tremblingly await the hour when religion and virtue shall quit the earth with her. Let us pray that we may be permitted to follow whither she is now going. She so far exceeds all human excellence that there is scarcely anything mortal left in her. Hers can hardly be called death – it is rather the passing into a nobler and higher existence, which should excite our envy instead of our sorrow. She leaves a world filled with her renown, and goes to enjoy a life everlasting with her God in heaven. I write in the alternation of hope and fear, while her breath is still fluttering within her.”
Beside the mausoleum of Ferdinand and Isabella is an equally elegant one of their daughter and her husband, Philip of Burgundy. It was his coffin that ” Crazy Jane ” carried about with her everywhere, as jealous of his lifeless dust as she was of his handsome body in the lifetime of her husband. For forty-seven years she never allowed the body to be removed from her, travelling with this curious luggage, watching it, and often embracing it with the wild passion of a disordered mind. The restless widow, who thus madly mourned for nearly half a century, lies at last peacefully in her coffin, beside the travelled casket, now at rest also; and the dust of Ferdinand and Isabella is, with that of their children and a grandchild, in the vault beneath the sarcophagi.
In the sacristy we were shown many relics and memorials, such as standards, swords, crowns, ecclesiastical garments, and missals. Much uncertainty always attaches in my mind to this kind of collections, and though the traveller who believes all that he is told enjoys much more than the doubter, I am sometimes obliged to choose between credulous pleasure and self-respecting incredulity. There are fourteen other chapels in the cathedral, with paintings of more or less interest, superb marbles and carvings; but after one has seen the historic Capilla Real, the appetite for less important and beautiful things is stayed.
So we went forth into the square, and, nimbly avoiding a host of beggars, secured a wretched carriage with excellent horses, and drove off to the Alameda and beyond. It was towards sunset, and the irrigations were beginning. A rush of waters filled the ditches and channels which are made in all the fields, and we could hear the thirsty earth suck up the refreshing and life-giving liquid as we drove along. One region was flooded for a certain length of time according to the sum paid for water, and then the sluice was closed and another opened. Peasants were in some fields, directing the waters with rude hoes or shovels. Other fields seemed left to take care of themselves.
The Alameda, near the meeting of the waters of the Darro and the Xenil, is the public promenade. Here, while a military band played, well-dressed people walked and lounged about, the ladies flirting their fans with a dexterity and meaning not seen outside of Spain, and the gentlemen attending with punctilious etiquette. At one end of the Alameda there are gardens and fountains, and the place must be a delightful resort in the summer evenings after the hot sun has sunk and a gentle breeze begins to blow from the snowy Sierra.