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The Barrios family home

In the mid-19th century, the first hotel establishments and an unusual space that had been created in the old Bath of the Mosque began to appear in calle Real. We are referring to the tavern of “El Polinario”, which became the great cultural centre of the Alhambra at the turn of the 20th century. Antonio Barrios, a peculiar character and an avid flamenco enthusiast, who was painted by numerous artists, including his good friend Santiago Rusiñol, almost always with his inseparable guitar, ran the tavern. He was the father of the famous musician Ángel Barrios, who carried on the family tradition of bringing together painters, writers and musicians from a variety of geographical backgrounds in his father’s tavern. The family home was therefore closely linked to the cultural environment of the time because of the tertulias held in the main courtyard of the home and rear garden. This, together with its use as a home and the fact that it had a tavern on the roof top, influenced the arrangement of the interior spaces, and led to the original layout of the Arab bath being altered. The residence of Antonio Barrios and his family was expropriated by the State in 1934, with the required formalities being handled by Torres Balbás, the architect of the Alhambra at the time. It has been possible to locate the deed of sale of the building, which provides valuable information such as a description of the property, abutments and area, excerpts from which are cited here: “(…) in the interior there are three small courtyards, as well as a garden to the east. The building abuts calle Real de la Alhambra on the south; Alamedilla, land which also belongs to the State, on the north; and the callejón de la Sacristía, which separates the property from the church of Santa María de la Alhambra, on the west.” The deeds also specify the surface area of the Barrios family home: “two thousand, five hundred and sixty-five constructed square feet, containing a basin with drinking water and its own sink with running water; it also comprises a walled vegetable garden with an area of three hundred and thirty-five square yards, with the surface area in feet being one hundred and ninety-nine square metres and thirty decimetres, and that of the house, two hundred and eighty square metres and six decimetres”.

Thanks to the visual and written documentation compiled while researching the sector, and the valuable contributions of Ángela Barrios, we know that there was a large balcony with two entrances in the main façade, one leading to the house and the other to the tavern. It was a large building comprising three floors and three courtyards. At the entrance, the main courtyard was paved with small pebbles; to the southwest of the courtyard was a small - now defunct - fountain basin at ground level. To the north of the courtyard was a fountain, which is still there today. At the time the Barrios family lived there, the house hid the wooden balustrade that can be seen on the upper floor of this space today. To the right of the aforementioned basin, there was a small hall, to the left of which was a staircase that led to the second and third floors. The latter had a corridor with windows that encircled the main courtyard and provided access to the different rooms of the home (of which there were more than twenty). We would like to draw your attention to an architectural element located beside the staircase, which is of considerable importance as it testifies to the existence of an Arab bath: an arch with a Nasrid capital and behind it, the cocinilla (stove room), which had a small cistern, and was in turn connected to the wine cellar. To the east, the stove room led to what the inhabitants of the house called the “courtyard of the arches”, so named because of the three arches on the left-hand side, decorated with large flower pots, and adjoining the coal cellar. Going back to the main courtyard, the west wall connected to El Polinario’s business, which was a cross between a tavern and a store. One window overlooked calle Real and the other callejón de la Sacristía, with the latter wall also containing a small door. In the late 1970s, part of this space was used to house the Ángel Barrios Museum designed by Prieto-Moreno. 

There is a photograph in the Alhambra Archives that shows a door at the north end of the courtyard, which led to a small toilet. To the west of the courtyard and adjoining the tavern was the sala baja (lower room), so named because it was built on a lower level than the courtyard. Ángel Barrios’s studio overlooked the rear garden, taking advantage of the quietness of the Alamedilla and seeking shelter from the hustle and bustle of calle Real. Going back to the courtyard of the arches, to the east of this was a large gate that led to the rear garden, and which provided a view of the wooden door that opened onto callejón del Guindo straight ahead. This door, embedded in the interior side of the wall, still survives and shelters the area on the west. There is an old photograph showing this door that opens onto callejón del Guindo — which in turn led to El Partal (the Partal Palace) — and allowed access to the back of the living quarters at El Polinario. The photograph in question is extremely valuable because it also shows a little pond beside the aforementioned door, which was used for irrigation and which had an irrigation ditch to channel water to the crop areas around the three little squares, which dropped in level as they approached the Alamedilla. These were separated by a water pipe system, and it can be seen that at the time the level of the ground was higher than it is today on account of the landfills needed for the flower and vegetable gardens, etc., which concealed some of the archaeological remains that were later discovered behind the northern wall of the Nasrid house adjoining the bath. Finally, a garden sheltered by tall poplars bordered the Alamedilla area and completed the outdoor space.


June 12 2014 08:08

Ángel Barrios. Creatividad en la Alhambra

La Alhambra rinde homenaje a la figura del compositor, músico y guitarrista granadino, con una gran exposición en el cincuentenario de su muerte. Read more


June 12 2014 13:01

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

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June 12 2014 07:07

La Alhambra creativa de Ángel Barrios

Una exposición, organizada por el Patronato de la Alhambra y Generalife y el Centro de Documentación Musical de Andalucía, recorrerá la vida y obra... Read more