The public square which is now known as Plaza Nueva square, is the result of a long and drawn out evolution, unique in the history of the city of Granada, which started at the beginning of the 16th century and continued until the middle of the 20th.
It is an urban settlement that has adhered to two premises: the progressive covering over of the Darro river, which starts its hidden trajectory in this square through the historic centre of Granada until flowing out into the Genil river, and the concurrent appropriation of land belonging to a collection of surrounding country houses which, after a number of successive dispossession operations, made way for the continuous growth of the square until it attained its current size. It is not, however, a square which was built all at once, following prior planning, but rather the opposite. Its form has been the end result of diverse historic circumstances which determined its evolution to date.
After the Conquest of Granada and as a result of the heritage bequeathed by Muslim-style urban planning, the city’s design lacked open areas which could satisfy the social needs of local inhabitants. The building of Plaza Nueva was an initiative driven by City Hall, and is therefore the first major city development project which would result in overcoming the lack of open squares and create a space which would be emblematic of Granada’s new image as a Spanish city.
Plaza Nueva Square between Albayzin and Alhambra
The new square was the nerve centre of the modern city since it connects the three main areas which had made up Nasrid Granada: the medina, the Alcazaba Qadima, located in the neighbourhood of the Albayzin and the Alhambra, via the road leading up to it, the cuesta de Gomérez.
However, beyond its undeniable centrality, the main role Plaza Nueva has played in Granada is understood through looking at the important and diverse civic activities occurring there: a recreational area for jousting, tournaments, cane and bull games as well as other celebrations; being a grim location for public executions, as can be noted by the gallows depicted on the Platform of Granada by Ambrosio de Vico; a formal stage for celebrating proclamations, royal weddings and royal birthdays, military victories or religious holidays, and coming and goings from the Royal Chancellery.
A number of decades later, coinciding with the building of the Chancellery, Plaza Nueva del Hattabin was to be expanded with a second vaulted area. The decision to start construction on this was justified on the grounds that the Chancellery would then have the proper urban framework which its high prestige as the legal body of State Administration demanded, providing enough perspective to take in its noble façade.
The public fountain, initially installed in front of the Chancellery, was later moved to its current position. The fountain is completed with a pomegranate.