In 1492 the mosque was converted into a church, the Church of Santa María de la Alhambra, being dedicated to St. Mary, as was decided by the Catholic Monarchs. Later on, the mosque would be extended, with a chancel added at the base. The first seat of the archbishop was set up there. Later on, the decision was made to build a church and the old mosque was demolished.
The Iglesia de Santa María de la Alhambra was built starting in 1576 and was finished with designs by Ambrosio de Vicó in 1607. Previous plans had been drawn up by the royal architects Juan de Herrera, the builder of El Escorial, Juan de Orea and Franciso de Mora, which had been rejected due to their high financial cost and their style which did not fit in with our land’s prevailing Mudejar style.
Its structure is simple, with a single nave of three side chapels in each one, a wide transept covered with a dome and side tower. The exterior was done following the Mudejar tradition, with brick, except for the base which was made of stone. Unfortunately no façades were made, neither the main one at the base, nor the one at the side, remaining undecorated, featuring only the royal and episcopal crests on the main façade, and the tower’s steeple.
Interiors of Santa María de la Alhambra
The interior features a reredos dominated by a Crucified Christ by Alonso de Mena, with Saint Ursula and Saint Susanna beside him, also by Mena, and rounding off the Trinity. La Piedad by Torcuato Ruíz del Peral is also in a chapel which is featured in the procession of the Hermandad (Brotherhood) in Santa María de la Alhambra. This popular virgin is worshipped by many Granada residents and is on display in religious processions through the streets of Granada on Holy Saturday.
In the 19th century the Visigoth inscription by noble Gudiliuva was on the door of the Sacristy, and it is now in the Museum of the Alhambra. Three churches were built in Granada in the Visigoth period and the church San Esteban may occupy the same plot of land as the mosque and later churches, although we do not have the archaeological evidence to confirm it.
In the small square at the foot of the church a cross was raised by Don Pedro de Castro with an inscription in Latin and Spanish where the martyrdom of Franciscan friars Juan de Cetina and Pedro de Dueñas in the Alhambra in 1397 is described.