What is the Alcázar de los Reyes Cristianos?Originally a Visigoth fortress, then rebuilt by the Umayyad Caliphate, where Abd ar-Rahman I established the independent Caliphate of Córdoba which used the Alcázar as their palace until 1236. During this period the city flourished, and the palace was renowned for its baths, gardens, and large library. The current structure began to take form in 1328 when it was rebuilt by Alfonso XI of Castile. The building was then used by Isabella and Ferdinand as their military headquarters during their campaign against the Nasrid dynasty in Granada, and it was there that they met Christopher Columbus before he undertook his first voyage to America. Isabelle and Ferdinand also gave the Alcázar to the Spanish Inquisition, and it was one of the longest-running permanent tribunals of the Inquisition in Spain. In more recent history, the building was used as a garrison by Napoleon in 1810 before becoming a prison. It’s been a national monument and tourist attraction since the 1950s.
What was the Spanish Inquisition?The Spanish Inquisition was one of the institutions founded by Ferdinand II of Aragon and Isabella I of Castile in order to enforce religious orthodoxy in their kingdoms, replacing the existing Papal Inquisition, which was directly run by Rome. The kingdoms in question had laws in place requiring Jewish and Muslim residents to convert to Catholicism, and the Inquisition played a part in policing these conversions. Individuals accused of heresy were convicted of false conversion, of being Christian heretics, or of committing some other crime against Roman Catholic doctrine, and were often subjected to torture. Córdoba was the site of one of the earliest permanent tribunals of the Spanish Inquisition, founded in 1482, and the Tower of the Inquisition in the Alcázar housed the archives of the Tribunal of the Holy Inquisition for several centuries. Between 1540 and 1700 there reportedly 883 trials and 8 executions in Cordóba, though the real numbers are considered to be at least 5000 trials and 27 executions. At least 26 people were also executed ‘in effigy’. During the autos da fé between 1701 and 1746, it’s estimated that 161 people in total were executed (in person or in effigy) and ‘penanced’. But don’t think that being burned in effigy was the soft punishment - common reasons victims were executed in effigy is because they’d escaped into exile abroad or had already died while imprisoned. The Spanish Inquisition was eventually abolished in 1834 after a century of declining influence and power, and today its era is usually remembered as a time of extreme religious intolerance and persecution.
What’s there to see inside the buildings?The interiors of the Alcázar’s buildings are interesting due to the mosaics and other architectural features. The main hall of the Alcázar is referred to as the Salón de los Mosaicos, or Hall of Mosaics, due to the artworks which are kept there, which were discovered in the 1950s in Plaza de la Corredera. The reception hall also contains intricate mosaics, and visitors can also see the Royal Baths of Doña Leonor, mistress of Alfonso XI, which were built in 1328. Visitors can also climb the tower walls to get a stunning view of Cordóba.
How long should I plan for a visit?It will take you at least an hour to explore the buildings and gardens, and up to two hours to explore with a guided tour. There’s no time limit, so if it’s a nice day then you can savor a stroll through the stunning gardens.
Is a trip suitable for children?It depends on your children, as nothing inside the attraction is particularly designed to appeal to children. Some kids might enjoy imagining themselves living in the Alcázar, or running through the gardens, but others may not find it so engaging.