The Palace of the Lions was called “the Garden of the Lord” or Riyad al-sa’id in the Muslim period and was designed around a main central area, that being the courtyard which gives the palace its name. Around this patio are halls known as the Sala de los Mocarabes, Sala de los Abencerrajesm Sala de los Reyes and Sala de Dos Hermanas.
The Nasrid decoration on this palace reaches unheard of splendour. The lace appearance on the walls, its elegant columns, the exquisite plasterwork on its walls, its colourful tiling, its muqarnas ceiling and its perfect proportions all help create a setting promoting a joyous existence.
Muhammad V was the inspirer of this palace built in his second reign between 1362 and 1391. With him the apogee of the Nasrid sultanate was reached, where the Palace of the Lions represents a synthesis of all of its stages.
Paradise on Earth: Palace of the Lions
It is a symbolic representation of paradise as described in the Christian and Muslim religions, according to which it is symmetrically divided into four parts separated by rivers or canals converging in a central fountain.
Under the overhang there is an endless amount of arches which are held up by 124 columns which follow the proportional layout system starting with the diagonal of a square and reaches the highest degree of perfection. It is interesting for visitors to observe the enormous variety of capitals which can be recognised between the colonnade of the main courtyard.
The longer axis is centred by a main arch which acts as a portico while the minor axis leads into two cube shaped pavilions, covered on the inside with hemispherical domed ceilings, and on the floor there are fonts or recessed fountains.
Even though there are similarities with the Mudejar cloisters, in truth, the main courtyard acts as a connecting and distribution perimeter corridor for the different rooms in the palace as if they were tents surrounding an oasis.
The elimination of the medieval entrance makes it impossible to visit the complex as one was able to in the 14th and 15th centuries. Currently there is an entrance from the Palace of Comares, since in the 16th century the street known as Calle Real Baja was closed in order to make the Charles V Palace, and they were joined from the inside, forming what was dubbed Casa Real Vieja (Old Royal House).