As I left the Chapel Royal, in the middle of Granada, I noticed a watchman standing at the entrance to the Palace of the Madraza - the old Islamic University established by Yusuf I in 1333. I asked if I could enter and he replied in Spanish which I didn’t understand and invited me in and closed the big iron door.
I was led into a central courtyard in the Moorish style with a balastraded verahdah and cedar eaves. He beckoned me into a locked room and I followed. Before me spread a veritable Arabian night. This was the private temple with the mirador facing mecca, of Yusuf I. Unlike the Alhambra, the decoration was in original condition, the cedar and ivory ceiling intact, the stalagtites still painted and gilded, the decoration of sections of the Koran around the mirador, readable. The cupola was reflected in my glasses from every point in the room, the eight marble pillars the marvelous ceiling. The significance of the decoration was explained slowly in Spanish by my guide who took pains to ensure I understood. ( Remember I don’t speak Spanish). The huge pine cones I had seen previously, were repeated in an archway which led into a room, a symbol of fertility and union. I was told these represented the union of Aragon & Castile by the marriage of Ferdinand and Isobel. The eight columns were symbolic of the Star of David ( which I didn’t know anything about at that time 1983). The Arabic script for Yusuf and Mohammad al Ahmar who was declared soverign in 1238 were repeated many thousands of times, in the finest detail of the plaster and carved wood of the walls. The coloring was red for the skin tones and blue for ?( I was frustrated by an inability to understand the Spanish).
We then climbed an 18th century Baroque staircase and entered the Salle des Commonares. The anteroom had a wrought iron light fitting and carved chairs in the Spanish style. Then we entered a marvelous room which my guide explained was used only for national and international conferences and meetings of the utmost importance. At the end of this room were portraits of Ferdinand and Isobel on either side of a fresco painting of the Virgin with gilded blue robes. The walls were red damisk and my guide explained it was original not renovated. The seating was cedar benches with red velvet cushions and carved rungs on the backs. The floor was black and white marble in offset cubes. The ceiling was the most remarkable. It was dome shaped supported by carved cross bracing at 3 points and the pattern was the Star of David with elongated cross ribs. The lower parts of the dome had the star shaped inserts. I had seen something similar in the Alhambra with intact glass. Around the base of the ceiling was a Spanish inscription commemorating the builder and giving the date of Ferdinand and Isobel’s entry into Granada as 1492.
My guide told me the Universidad de Yusuf I Ajunta miento Viejo was the most important national monument in Spain and of international significance. I was stunned, thanked him profusely and sworn to secrecy, I left.