Medina Azahara (Arabic: مدينة الزهراء “the shining city”) is the ruins of a vast, fortified Moorish medieval palace-city built by Abd-ar-Rahman III (912–961), the first Umayyad Caliph of Córdoba, and located on the western outskirts of Córdoba, Spain. It was a medieval Moorish town and the de facto capital of al-Andalus, or Muslim Spain, as the heart of the administration and government was within its walls.
Built beginning in 936-940, the city included ceremonial reception halls, mosques, administrative and government offices, gardens, a mint, workshops, barracks, residences and baths. Water was supplied through aqueducts.
The main reason for its construction was politico-ideological: the dignity of the Caliph required the establishment of a new city, a symbol of his power, imitating other Eastern Caliphates. It was built in Córdoba because it had been the capital of the region (Betis) in Roman times; this made it easier for the Emirate and Caliphate of Cordoba to rule, while they existed, over al-Andalus. Above all, it demonstrated his superiority over his great rivals, the Fatimids of Ifriqiya in Northern Africa, as well as the Abbasids in Baghdad. Legend also says it was built as a tribute for the Caliph’s favorite wife: Azahara. The complex was extended during the reign of Abd ar-Rahman III’s son Al-Hakam II (r. 961-976), but after his death soon ceased to be the main residence of the Caliphs. In 1010 it was sacked in a civil war, and thereafter abandoned, with many elements re-used elsewhere. Its ruins were excavated starting from the 1910s. Only about 10 percent of the 112 hectares (0.43 sq mi) have been excavated and restored, but this area includes the central area, with “two caliphal residences, with associated bath complexes, two aristocratic residences, and service quarters… spaces associated with the palace guard; some large administrative buildings… the extraordinary court complex presided over by the reception hall… the great garden spaces, and just outside this area, the congregational mosque”. A new museum on the edge of the site has been built low, with much of the space underground, to minimize disruption to the views of the landscape from the ruins, which are also beginning to be affected by modern housing.
The archaeological site of Medina Azahara has been declared a Site of Cultural Interest in the monument category since 1923. On January 27, 2015, “Madínat al-Zahra” was inscribed on the Spain’s Indicative List of World Heritage Sites, in the category of cultural property (nº ref 5978).
On July 1, 2018, the site was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site with the inscription name “Caliphate City of Medina Azahara”.
In 2016 received 181,653 visitors, being the fourth most visited cultural space in the city of Córdoba.
The set of Madínat al-Zahra
It is located about 8 kilometers west of Córdoba, in the last foothills of Sierra Morena, on the slope of the Jabal al-Arus, facing the Guadalquivir valley and oriented from north to south, on a spur of the mountain range, between two ravines, that goes into the countryside is Medina Azahara or Madínat al-Zahra. It has been described as the Versailles of the Middle Ages. It was chosen by the extraordinary values of the landscape, allowing to develop a program of hierarchical constructions, in such a way that the city and the plain extended at its feet were physically and visually dominated by the buildings of the Alcázar. Its implantation in the territory generated a road network and hydraulic infrastructures and supply for its construction, preserved in part to the present in the form of remains of roads, quarries, aqueducts, almunias and bridges.
Taking advantage of the unevenness of the terrain, the palatine city of Medina Azahara was distributed on three terraces; the city precinct adopts a rectangular layout, in contrast to the labyrinthine and chaotic idea characteristic of Muslim urbanism. Of 1500 m of side in east-west direction and about 750 m of north to the south, it is only deformed in the north side by the needs of adaptation to the difficult topography of the land. The topography played a determining role in the configuration of the city. Its location on the slopes of Sierra Morena made it possible to design an urban program, in which the location and the physical relationship between the different constructions would be expressive of the role of each one of them in the whole of which they are part: The palace is located in the highest part,
Following the arrangement in terraces we find that the first corresponds to the residential area of the caliph, followed by the official zone (Casa de los Viziers, body of guard, Rich Hall, administrative dependencies, gardens…) to finally house the city properly said (homes, artisans…) and the Aljama Mosque, separated from the two previous terraces by another specific wall to isolate the palatal complex. The investigation has revealed an urban morphology characterized by the existence of large unbuilt areas, empty that correspond to the entire southern front of the Alcázar, thus ensuring its isolation and maintaining its visual openness over the landscape of the countryside creating an idyllic landscape. In fact, the only spaces built on this lower level are two broad extreme fringes: the western, with an orthogonal urban layout, and the eastern, with a less rigid urbanism.
The Caliphate of Cordoba was an Andalusian state proclaimed by Abderramán III, of the Umayyad dynasty, in the year 929 AD With greater political, social and economic splendor of Muslim Spain, making the city of Córdoba the most advanced in Europe and the amazement of the world.
In 750 AD, the Umayyad dynasty was overthrown by the Abbasids from the Damascus Caliphate. Abd el-Rahman ben Humeya (Abderraman I), being a surviving member of the Umayyads, flees to Al-Andalus proclaiming the Emirate of Cordoba in 756 AD independent of the new capital of Abbas, Baghdad. Abderramán I did not proclaim Caliph but one of his successors did it, Abderramán III, after finishing with the political instability of the emirate (mainly the revolt of Ómar ben Hafsún). The creation of the caliphate meant rising to the status of the Caliphate State of Baghdad with all that entails, both religious and political, in competition with the Abbasid Caliphate.
Under the reigns of Abderramán III (929-961) and his son and successor Al-Hakam II (961-976) the Cordovan state was consolidated. It is now when Abderramán III lacks a symbol of its religious and political power that represents the caliphate as it is a palatial city where to reside next to its court. In 936 AD he ordered the construction of the luxurious Medina Azahara next to the capital, Córdoba. Emerged from nothing, the royal city concentrates all the political power of the caliphate.
Diplomatic relations focused on the Christian kingdoms of the peninsula, with intense dialogues and some warlike confrontations; North Africa, against the Fatimids who controlled key trade routes with sub-Saharan Africa from where the gold arrived; and the Mediterranean where diplomatic relations with Byzantium were maintained.
With the reign of Hisham II (976-1016) the real protagonism had the ” Hayib ” or Prime Minister Almanzor, a military genius in his struggle that kept in check the Christian kingdoms of the north arriving to enter León, Pamplona, Barcelona or Santiago de Compostela where he took the bells of the pre-Romanesque temple dedicated to Santiago to Cordoba.
When Almanzor died in 1002 AD, succession problems led to a “fitna” or civil war in 1010 AD, until 1031 AD, when it was decided to put an end to the Caliphate, which now became Al-Ándalus, a compendium of different small kingdoms or kingdoms. of taifas, losing its hegemony and giving place to a greater push on the part of the Christian kingdoms.
It was during the “fitna” when Medina Azahara was abandoned and began its progressive destruction with looting and finally its total oblivion. The Almoravids, who stormed from North Africa in Al-Andalus in 1086 and unified the Taifa kingdoms under their power, developed their own architecture, but very little has survived, since the next invasion, that of the Almohads, it imposed an ultra-Orthodox Islamism and destroyed practically all the important Almoravid buildings, along with Medina Azahara and other Caliphate buildings.
Foundation of the city
Medina al-Zahara was built by the first caliph of Al-Andalus, Abd al-Rahman al-Násir (891-961) -or Abderramán III -as part of the political, economic and ideological program set in motion after the establishment of the caliphate. It is said that its foundation is related to a favorite of the caliph who would be called al-Zahrá (Azahara) but the main reasons for its construction are rather political-ideological: the dignity of Caliph requires the foundation of a new city symbol of its power in imitation of other oriental caliphates and also to show its superiority over its great enemies, the Fatimids of Ifriqiyya, the northern area of the African continent.
Regarding the origin of the name could come, as has been said above, the name of his most beloved wife Azahara, which means “The Flower” who suggested to build a beautiful city outside of Cordoba, a city that would bear the name of the beloved and it would become the “City of al-Zahrá”, the “City of Orange Blossom”. But this is more legend than reality since al-Zahra also means “The Brilliant”, a word that is related to others that, in that language, mean “Venus” or the same “flower”, so you can simply refer to the new and brilliant city of the caliph itself.
Although the origin of the city is not without its legendary elements, it is known that construction began at the end of 936 of the Christian era, being the works by the master alarife Maslama ben Abdallah, and continued for the next forty, reaching times of his son and successor in the caliphate, al-Hákam II. In 945 the transfer of the court occurs to this city, which at that time has the mosque (941), although the Mint or Mint does not translate to 947 – 948. When erecting this majestic city, the Cordoban caliph tried to annul, and even surpass, the oriental caliphs of the Abbasid, and especially the famous city and court of Samarra.
The literary and historical texts echo the very large sums dedicated to its construction, the enormous works carried out for this purpose, its monumentality and artistic splendor – even in the smallest detail – and the luxury and ostentation that the Caliph displayed in the receptions and ceremonies that were held there frequently, as in fact the administration and the court moved to the new headquarters. Among others, in its rich halls would be received Hispanic Christian kings dispossessed of his throne, ambassadors of the Emperor of Germania, emissaries of Borrell II of Barcelona… Torres Balbás(one of the fathers of the monumental restoration in Spain) refers to these ceremonies: “After climbing among tight rows of soldiers in uniform uniforms, equipped with bright weapons and in perfect formation, monarchs and ambassadors arrived at the eastern hall of Madinat al- Zahara, open to a terrace, whose walls covered rich carpets. In the background, sitting on cushions and surrounded by all the dignitaries of his brilliant court, appeared the caliph. Similar to an almost inaccessible deity. Before him they prostrated themselves on the ground, and the sovereign, with insistent fervor, gave them to kiss his hand. ”
The painting by the Catalan painter Dionisio Baixeras, in the Auditorium of the University of Barcelona, intends to recall a reception of ambassadors from Byzantium in Medina Azahara, based on the resources and conventions of Orientalist painting of the time, enforced in a forced picturesque reconstruction of the audience of the Cordovan monarch to the Byzantine emissaries accompanied by monks, who are overwhelmed by the magnificence of the ostentation and splendor of the sumptuous Caliphate court seated in such an extraordinary site. Although its place of origin, the court of Byzantium, was not exactly an example of austerity.
Destruction and abandonment
After less than a hundred years of the city’s foundation, all this monumental and magnificent set was reduced to an immense field of ruins, as it was destroyed and looted by the Berbers in 1010 as a consequence of the civil war (or fitna) that He ended the Caliphate of Cordoba. 9 Looting, fighting and burning destroyed the most beautiful city in the West.
After the civil war (“fitna”) that brought its destruction, the looting and dismantling of the palatine city continued in successive centuries, as it was used as an artificial quarry for the construction of other later buildings in the city of Córdoba, falling progressively in oblivion until it disappeared, on an imprecise date, from the collective ideology.
20th century: Rediscovery and first excavations
Before the rediscovery of Madínat al-Zahra, the hillside where the site is located was known as Old Cordoba, since during the Middle Ages it was thought that on this point rose the first Roman Cordoba erected quickly and semiprovisionally by the praetor Claudius Marcelo and that later, and for reasons of health, would move to the banks of the Guadalquivir. The reason for this original belief about a foundation Cordoba was due to the large number of architectural pieces scattered around the hillside, remains that multiplied endlessly with just lifting a foot of land.
It would be from the sixteenth century, in full rebirth, when the humanists began to discuss the true origin of the so-called Old Cordoba, although it was not until the seventeenth century when Pedro Diaz de Rivas intuited that there were too many current Cordoba Roman remains when it was proceeded to maneuver on some ground, which evidenced its Latin origin, and therefore, what really was under the floor of what they called Cordoba the Old was not a Roman city, but the Moorish castle of Abderramán III. Despite this intelligent evidence, the debate was not concluded.
It would not be until the early years of the twentieth century, specifically in 1911, during the reign of Alfonso XIII, when the first excavations began officially, clearing any kind of doubt about it, if there was still, of what lay low soil. From this moment, and until the long break caused by the civil war, the excavations were produced regularly. The work began at the points where the ruins were most evident, which was understood as the central axis of the Caliphate complex. From this moment until the death in 1923 of Ricardo Velázquez Bosco, architect responsible for the excavation, there were consistent tastings in parallel ditches from north to south to delimit the perimeter of the city, an ambitious goal that was not achieved. After 1944, after the end of the armed conflict, the archaeological campaigns were resumed after a few years of interruption, highlighting those carried out by the architect Félix Hernández who excavated the central part of the fortress with an area of approximately 10.5 hectares. defining the basic lines of urbanism of the palace and undertaking, also, important restorations such as those carried out in the rich hall or Abderramán III. In 1985, after the creation of the autonomies a few years before, the management of the site is passed on to theJunta de Andalucía, an organization that from this moment on would be responsible for the task of continuing the work of excavation and recovery.
At present, only 10% of the total intramural surface of the city has been excavated, corresponding to the central nucleus of the citadel, although the last excavation works carried out in the site during the last years are focusing for the first time on areas not corresponding to the palatial complex. Specifically, the new archaeological campaigns that started in April 2007they have been happening with new findings that have made rethink the dimensions of the whole, focusing especially on the southern sector of the city walls, a point where the most important findings of the last decades are appearing. Thus, campaign after campaign, the new morphology and conception that was had about the city is changing little by little. In November of 2007 an exceptional find appeared, a mosque located more than a kilometer from the noble zone of the city, later an impressive Islamic road was located, unique in its kind in Spain, as well as the plants of what is intuited like slums of houses destined to the popular class, next to those that were found innumerable fragments of ceramic rest of daily use. You are also trying to find out,
Restoration campaigns (2001-2004)
Among the most outstanding interventions of the set stand out those made on the so-called zone of the fortress. The house of Yafar, where it is believed that the caliph’s prime minister lived, was one of the most successful integral restorations that have been made in the site. The delimitation of the house was carried out after an exhaustive investigation on the marble, where more than 200 paving slabs, wall paintings, a pile and, above all, the monumental portal were recovered. It also intervened on the so-called House of the Pool, where it is believed that the dependencies of the Crown Prince could have been, and where the bathroom has been studied with great precision in the face of a future restoration.
Restoration of the Rico Salon (since 2009)
The interventions planned in the Rico Room consist of three phases. The first phase was awarded by the Junta de Andalucía to the company Estudio Methods of Restoration SL with a budget of 1,099,400 euros. 10 This first phase began in February 2009, when the entrance to the public was closed. The objective of the same was to solve the problem of dampness of the building, which had already been tried to solve in 2001 with the glazing of the access arcade. October December also fell within this phase substitution soil cement by one of marble quarry from Estremoz (Portugal) as it was originally. November December This phase was suspended due to irregularities in the award of the work.
In March 2014, the second phase began, without the first one having been carried out, with the aim of cataloging, cleaning and consolidating the more than 5,000 atauriques for their subsequent replacement on the walls in their original positions. The World Monuments Fund contributed 600,000 euros to undertake these works. This second phase has also been incomplete due to lack of budget.
Currently, the Rico Salon continues to be closed to the public pending the completion of the interventions initiated.
The pool located in front of the hall will also be recovered, and once the restoration is finished, the characteristic Andalusian sheet of water will be added, thus recovering the first hydraulic complex of the palatine city.
Due to the topography of the land, which is in slope, the city was built on three overlapping terraces, which corresponded to three parts of the city separated by walls. The caliphal residence dominated the entire area from the upper terrace to the north. The middle esplanade harbored the administration and the homes of the most important officials of the court. The lower one was intended for the people of the town and the soldiers, there were the mosque, the markets, the baths and also the public gardens.
There is also a noticeable separation between public and private spaces, even though both sectors offer a similar scheme: an open space, porticoed, acts as a monumental antephase of a small door in which a broken street or corridor begins. reaching the different rooms. The most dazzling spaces are those integrated into the official zone, destined to political activity and to the reception of foreign personalities, especially the Ambassador Halls, which are two: the Western Hall and the Oriental Hall, both associated to their corresponding gardens.
The Great Porch was the eastern entrance to the enclosure of the quarterdeck, located in front of the parade ground. Originally it consisted of fifteen arches, with the central horseshoe arch and the other fourteen arches. Later it was remodeled, eliminating several of the most northern arches of the portico. The porch had approximate dimensions of 111.27 meters long, 2.92 meters wide and 9.46 meters high.
High Garden and Low Garden
The fortress of Medina Azahara has two landscaped enclosures with an axial planimetry and adjacent to each other, called High Garden and Low Garden. The easternmost, the High Garden, is just in front and at the same height of the Rich Room. In its center there is a building known as the Central Pavilion, which is surrounded by four swimming pools for both decorative and functional use for watering the gardens. This garden is surrounded by walls on its eastern, southern and western side. Adjacent to the western wall but at a height several meters below is the Lower Garden, which has not yet been excavated in its entirety.
The north door opens in the center of the northern wall, it is the point of arrival of the so-called Nogales road, the communication route with the city of Córdoba in the Caliphate era. The door has a bent arrangement to facilitate the defense of it, to which was added the passenger compartment of the guard from where the access was controlled. The north gate, as well as the rest of the wall, is constituted by well-formed stone ashlars placed by rope and blight.
Popular culture also says that the caliph’s favorite woman was built as a tribute: Azahara. The north gate, as well as the rest of the wall, is constituted by well-formed stone ashlars placed by rope and firebrand.
Upper basilical building
The function of this building is not clear, which is why it receives many names: military or army house (Dar al-Yund), house of the viziers (Dar al-Wuzara) or, more generally, upper basilical building. 18 19 This building, located in the eastern part of the quarterdeck, has basilical plant consists of five ships, plus a sixth ship perpendicular to the above on its south side.
The floor of the enclosure, which is still preserved, was brick. The walls were painted white and the socket was made of red ocher, both colors also used in the decoration of the arches. Columns alternate shafts of red and gray colors, while the blue crowned avispero capitals and red by composite capitals.
Rich Hall – Palace
The so-called Hall of Abd al-Rahman III, oriental hall or simply rich hall is the most valuable part of the whole archaeological site, both for its artistic quality, as for its historical importance, being considered without any discussion the authentic symbol and emblem of the entire Caliphal complex of Madínat al-Zahra.
Nobody doubts at present that this hall was the central axis of the palatial enclosure, considered unanimously among specialists as the hall of the great palatine ceremonies, parties, ceremonies, reception of foreign ambassadors and throne room, therefore, no we should miss the sumptuousness and richness of its decoration, from which it has derived the nickname of rich lounge. Abd al-Rahman III, a lover of courtly pageantry, liked to impress his visitors, whom he generally received here, that’s why the luxury and virtuosity of Caliphal art reaches its climax in these rooms.
The construction of the hall lasted only three years, as researchers have been able to find out by the epigraphic inscriptions appeared in the bases and pilasters inside, which give us a chronology that goes from 953 to 957. On the other hand, the chronological brevity and the ephemeral life of Madínat al-Zahra nevertheless assure us of being in the presence of a very unitary decorative and architectural ensemble, which allows us to admire in this hall, without further additions, the Umayyad Caliphate art of Abd’s reign al-Rahman III in all its splendor.
The rich room is not really a single diaphanous space, as its name may lead us to believe, but in fact it is a set of spaces and compartmentalized rooms, forming all together the morphology of a single room divided by arcades Structurally, the room has a basilica floor plan with three longitudinal naves, with a transversal one at the entrance that acts as a portico, with external measurements of 38 × 28 meters. The heads of these three longitudinal naves are topped by blind arches of horseshoe, in one of which, the central one, it is supposed that the throne would be located from where the caliph directed the palatine ceremonial. The central axis of the set is the longitudinal central nave, separated from the other side naves by a set of six horseshoe arches on both sides, while of the transversal, it is separated by three horseshoe arches. Along with these three central naves and in parallel, flanking both sides, there are two outer naves divided into three chambers of unequal size.
If something stands out in the rich room, as we have said before, it is for its lavish decoration. First of all, we must highlight the constant use of the caliphal horseshoe arch with two-colored polychrome and with the characteristic alternation of voussoirs in reddish and flesh tones from the original sandy stone used for construction, very similar to those existing in the mosque (current cathedral) of Córdoba. The arches are supported in turn by marble columns of the highest quality that alternate between pink and light blue, thus producing a curious play of colors. The shafts of the columns appear topped by the characteristic hornet’s capitals.
The rest of the surface of the wall was covered entirely with fine decorative panels carved in marble. The theme chosen for the panels had a high cosmological symbolism, something very much in agreement with the wooden roof that covered the room, where the stars were represented in a clear allusion to the sky. The motif carved on the panels represented the tree of life, a motif exported from the Old East. The boards were executed symmetrically on an axis. On the other hand, the vertically cut relief gave the decoration an abstract graphic quality, while the internal decoration, also cut in a hard way, consisted of facets and buds of leaves, as well as flower chalices, which are very typical motifs. of the Hispanic-Umayyad art.
The Aljama Mosque is located outside the walled enclosure, located east of the Alto Garden. According to various sources, its construction took place between the years 941 and 945.
The building has a rectangular floor plan, with approximately 25 meters long and 18 meters wide. The temple, unlike the Mosque of Cordoba, was built well oriented towards Mecca. Its plant is divided into two main parts, the prayer room and the ablution yard. The prayer room consists of five longitudinal naves, separated by arcades each formed by eight horseshoe arches perpendicular to the wall of the quibla. The patio of ablutions is porticoed on three of its sides. The minaretIt has a square floor plan seen from the outside and an octagonal floor plan, located next to the north door of the patio.
House of the Pool
The house of the Pool is to the west of the house of Ya’far and to the south of the patio of the pillars. The core of the building is a central courtyard with a pool, which gives the building its name. Two of the arcades that overlook the courtyard are conserved, each one formed by three horseshoe arches that were profusely decorated with atauriques. bath house, about 80 square meters is also conserved. It is believed that Caliph Alhakén II resided in this house.
House of Yafar
The House of Yafar receives its name from Ja’far ibn Abd al-Rahman, designated Prime Minister (Hayib) in the year 961. Despite the denomination, we have not yet assured with certainty that the residence of this character was here, based only in the intuitions and investigations of the specialists. Its structure is articulated around three spatial areas, organized around their corresponding courtyards, all of them of different character: one public, one intimate and one of service. The official space is constituted by a building of plant similar to the basilica, which has three longitudinal naves that communicate with each other through doors topped by horseshoe arches, as well as a transverse nave open to the patio, where the existing correspondence between the buildings is interrupted. longitudinal ships the facade, in order to adapt the latter to the space created by the construction of an adjoining bathroom. The facade is organized by a triple horseshoe arch supported by communes. As for the decoration of the building, it was paved with thick slabs of white marble, except in the patio, where violet limestone stones were used; It also highlights the decoration of the façade with vegetal and geometric themes, which is also present in the communication bay of the transverse nave and the central one, which has two panels on the fronts and jambs in the span. except in the courtyard, where violet limestone stones were used; It also highlights the decoration of the façade with vegetal and geometric themes, which is also present in the communication bay of the transverse nave and the central one, which has two panels on the fronts and jambs in the span. except in the courtyard, where violet limestone stones were used; It also highlights the decoration of the façade with vegetal and geometric themes, which is also present in the communication bay of the transverse nave and the central one, which has two panels on the fronts and jambs in the span.
The Royal House, or Dar al-Mulk, is located on the highest terrace of the fortress, receiving this name because it is believed that these rooms were where Caliph Abd al-Rahman III lived. The building consists mainly of three parallel bays and a front part in its southern part, not preserved at present, which had a staircase at each end to allow down to the lower terrace of the fortress. Despite the looting suffered, the abundant stone decoration with atauriques of its walls as well as the terracotta floor is still preserved.
After the founding of Madínat al-Zahra and as a result of it, a series of achievements will be made that will give the new city its own and independent road network. They focus on the western territory of Córdoba, and are:
Camino de las Almunias: A direct path between Córdoba and Madínat al-Zahra which, in turn, also connects the palatine city with the road to Seville along the north bank of the Guadalquivir (Cañada Real Soriana and Camino Viejo de Almodóvar), and the routes from the bridge gate start towards the South, East and West.
Camino de Media Ladera: A direct and independent link from Medina Azahara to the Córdoba-Badajoz (Yadda) road. A stretch of about 1 km is preserved, with a roadway width of between 4 and 7 meters.
Camino de los Nogales-Carril de los Toros: A link of Madínat al-Zahra with the main routes located to the East (Mérida, Toledo and Zaragoza) without going through Córdoba.
Way of the West: A secondary road that united Madínat al-Zahra with the main almunias of the West zone (Alamirilla).
The movable art
Madínat al-Zahra is not only architecture, but it housed, in its moments of greatest splendor, an exquisite collection of movable art in the form of pieces of reduced format. Currently, most of the pieces are scattered by collections and museums around the world, since their beauty and exoticism make them very coveted pieces by collectors. Some of the most famous and representative examples of decorative arts of the city of Calipha are exposed here.
Cierva de Madínat al-Zahra
The deer of Medina AzaharaIt is a small piece of bronze that was made as a small water fountain to decorate one of the numerous fountains that the palatine city had, being considered, unanimously, as the masterpiece of the Hispano-Muslim sculpture of the Umayyad period. Regarding its chronology, it is usually customary to date it by specialists between the last decades of the tenth century and the first years of the eleventh century, without being able to provide a more precise date yet. Of this same piece there are three replicas of very similar morphologies, one in the National Archaeological Museum of Madrid, another in the visitor center of Medina Azahara, and one last in the National Museum of Qatar that was bought by an Arab sheik at an international auction, for which he came to pay, in 1997, four million dollars.
The zoomorphic pottery of Madínat al-Zahra
This curious piece, which according to the researchers was part of the gala dinnerware of one of the palace complexes of the city of Medina Azahara, was acquired by the Spanish state on behalf of the Junta de Andalucía in April 2003 after the disbursement of a amount of 220,000 euros to a London auction room. Due to their morphological features, experts have intuited that this piece of small proportions could perhaps be a giraffe. About its specific use, it is thought that it could be used to pour some type of liquid. The decoration is based on white glaze, as well as small fragments of green and manganese. Regarding its chronology, to say that it is dated, by almost all experts, in the middle years of the tenth century.
The ewer of the Louvre
It is a zoomorphic piece that had to leave Spain after the French looting during the war of independence, being currently in the showcases of the Parisian Louvre museum, where it is one of the stars of the halls of Islamic antiquities. It is a ewer in which the figure of a peacock is distinguished without any doubts. On the use of this piece, as its name indicates, it was a container destined to the storage of water for the later washing of the hands. It presents the curiosity of containing on its surface a bilingual inscription (in Arabic and Latin) that indicates the name of the artist and the date of its execution, so we can date the piece without any problems in the year 972.
Another important object found was the ivory box with inscriptions called Al-Mughira pyx, which is kept in the Louvre museum.
In recent years the site of Medina Azahara is being subjected to intense restoration work that, despite the great loss of materials by the medieval plundering, restore the lost splendor with which astonished all who visited it during the Middle Ages, when Medina Azahara was home to one of the most important governmental centers in the world.
Medina Azahara Museum
On October 9, 2009 Queen Sofía inaugurated the Museum of Medina Azahara, with which it is intended to provide the site with services according to its historical-artistic importance. This modern infrastructure, dependent on the Ministry of Culture and Sports of the Junta de Andalucía, is located in the vicinity of the site and consists of a building with three floors, of which two are underground. The center has more than 7700 square meters of parking and a landscaped area; inside there are room for diverse uses such as the reception of visitors, the restoration of archaeological pieces, an auditorium, adequate spaces for the storage of archaeological remains of the whole, offices of historical-artistic research, a library for scholars, a cafeteria, store of books related to the site and Muslim art, and an exhibition area where the most spectacular pieces of the site are exhibited, after many of them, such as the famous Medina Azahara deer, have been moved from the Archaeological Museum of Cordova.Aga Khan Award for Architecture, prestigious international award that is given to the main architectural, urban or landscape projects of the Muslim world, or related to it. This museum was designed by the architects Fuensanta Nieto and Enrique Sobejano.
In May 2012, he was awarded the “European Museum of the Year” prize by the European Museums Forum. This award recognizes each year the new museums that have made advances and innovations in the museum field. The award-winning museum houses Henry Moore’s statue “The Egg” for one year, symbolizing the award.