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Bath of the Mosque

The Alhambra should be seen as a citadel and complex of palaces that was planned from the outset and developed according to parameters based on town-planning principles. In this regard, from the records that survive on the inhabited Alhambra, we should mention calle Real Baja, the line of which is partially intercepted by the Palace of King Charles V, and calle Real Alta, which served as the backbone of the entire medina. Taking the puerta del Vino (the Wine Gate) as the starting point, it stretched to the eastern edge of the fortified site, allowing internal communication since it encompassed a variety of buildings such as the mosque, the hammam and the adjoining Nasrid house, among other buildings. As is the case with the rest of the Nasrid complex, calle Real is intertwined with the design of the Acequia Real, a system of aqueducts that ran through this artery and supplied water to private homes and magnificent institutions in the fortress.

It so happens that the section at the start of calle Real, to the east of the Palace of King Charles V, is one of the best-documented areas of the Alhambra complex and we know that it was here that the royal mosque, commissioned by Sultan Muhammad V in the early 14th century, was located. Given the terrible state of repair of the mosque by the second half of the 16th century, it was demolished around this time, and the church of Santa María built on the site several years later. In this regard, Ibn al–Khatib tells us that Muhammad III had a public bath built in front of the mosque, the income from which helped cover the cost of maintaining it. It is quite possible that the Bath of the Mosque and the adjoining house comprised a single complex during the Muslim period, although Torres Balbás believes that the house was attached to the east wall of the bath. When the two buildings are combined, there is just one entrance, in the south, from calle Real, with the bath facing west and the house east. It therefore had a single façade with the level of the roofline varying. The building entrance has not survived, but the passageway leading to the bath has, and historians therefore consider it part of the original structure. As pointed out earlier, the building was accessed from calle Real, via a passageway between the bath and adjoining house that led to the changing rooms (al–bayt al–maslaj), which were decorated with a beautiful lantern and elevated resting beds separated by double horseshoe arches. From here, bathers would move to the cold room (al–bayt al–barid), a covered transit area with a vaulted roof, and from here to the warm room (al–bayt al–wastani), followed by the hot room (al–bayt al–sajun), with a rectangular plan and of which only one water basin survives today. Finally, we come to the area where the boiler was kept (al–burma), in a space parallel to the hot room, where we can see the pillars that supported this space. To conclude this brief introduction to the Bath of the Mosque and of El Polinario, we can add that its layout is similar to that of Comares Palace, in that they both have a central lantern; however, the layout of the former is very peculiar, given that the rooms are not parallel to one another. The layout of this space was most likely altered over the centuries, especially when it was converted into a home for the Barrios family during the second half of the 19th century.


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Presentación de la nueva web de la Casa-museo Ángel Barrios

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