The Justice Gate is also known as the Puerta de la Explanada or bab al-Sari’a. It bears its name in reference to the esplanade that existed in front of it before the walkways of Las Alamedas were made. It was protected on the left-hand side midway through the 16th century by a square artillery magazine.
A commemorative plaque was put on it in the 20th century recalling that the Alhambra being named a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1984: “The UNESCO World Heritage Site Committee has declared the Alhambra and Generalife as WORLD HERITAGE sites in the session on 2 November 1984.”
The Justice gate or Puerta de la Justicia is a masterpiece of military engineering that stands out due to its bold solidity and impressive grandeur contrasted against the fragility of the Casa Real
It is the main entrance for the southern wall, built by Yusuf I in 1348 inside the imposing tower. It was always one of the main access points to the Alhambra complex and is characterised by having been the only entrance to the walled area of Madina Al-Hamra.
The exterior is made up of a large pointed horseshoe arch, with the hand of Fatima on the keystone, which conceals an arch of the same design yet smaller in the entrance on the inside of the door, whose keystone is the key which is symbolic of the power and property of Nasrid sultans.
Inside the Justice Gate
On the capitals of the small arch there is an inscription in italics between the one that cites the sahada or profession of the Islamic faith: “There is no god except Allah, and Muhammad is the messenger of Allah. There is no power or force which is not in Allah”
On the inner arch the Catholic Monarchs placed an image of the Virgin and the Child in the middle of a large panel of glazed tiles.
The Justice Gate has a very sophisticated defensive strategy: The first thing to be noted is the inclination of the path leading up to it which is quite steep and would have prevented enemies from arriving quickly and feeling rested. Secondly, now at the door, between both arches there is a space open to the sky to protect the gate using the terrace above by throwing stones and boiling water down from it. Finally, the gate has a double twist that means enemies also are unable to enter quickly. Inside we can see the arches with their benches for the guards to rest, and a wooden structure where the high lances were stored.
The inner arch provides access to the medina, the pointed horseshoe has beautiful cuerda seca (dry cord) coloured tilework, with a design weave. After the taking of Granada a chapel with a reredos was made in this space.
The Justice Gate, rectangular shaped, is connected on one of its sides to the wall of the aristocratic city and was the Alhambra’s most important gate from the 16th century on.