A Royal Visit to the Capilla Real in Granada

The stories

You'll fall over history with a trip to Granada.  It's everywhere, from the wonderful architecture to the churches and museums.  Not to mention the Alhambra Palace, perhaps the reason for your visit?  Granada is the stuff of legends, with a story for every stop on your visit, be it that romantic palace, or simply a stroll along the river Darro.


The main players

Two main characters in many of the stories are Ferdinand and Isabella, the second cousins from the House of Trastámara.  Married at the dawn of the so-called Modern Era, they had a common goal: to conquer the Muslim kingdom of Granada - and to complete the reconquest of the Iberian Peninsula.  They ordered the expulsion of all Jews and Muslims, and re-introduced the Inquisition.  Even those forced to convert were accused of secretly practising their own regions, and  subjected to imprisonment, torture and death.  In short, they weren't really very nice!  Then again, they did furnish that famous traveller Columbus with his spending money and send him off to discover a New World, so perhaps we should thank them for that.

Ferdinand y Isabella

Jamón, Jamón

Many Muslims banished to the Alpujarra area of Andalucía converted, and to prove their relinquishment of their own religion, displayed a Jamón leg on the doors of their dwellings as a sign of their abnegation. That's why today you'll see the dried hams in the Alpujarra - a speciality of the area.  Or so the story goes!

Jamon serrano

The Final Act

Today, those fearsome Catholic Monarchs can be seen safely tucked away in the Capilla Real, and if you're in that area, then make a point to drop in and see them, it's quite a fascinating place, despite their gory history!  They had originally built their mausoleum in Toledo, but decided on Granada after the reconquest.  Isabella had plan drawn up for the Capilla Real, which wasn't finished until after death, and it was completed under the orders of their grandson Charles V.  He actually wasn't too keen on the building, deeming it too 'simple' for his grandparents, and more like 'somewhere an ordinary merchant would choose.'  However he followed the wishes set before him, and eventually buried his parents there too.

Capilla Real

Where is the Capilla Real?

You'll probably be visiting the cathedral anyway, the Capilla Real is right next door, on the right-hand side of the cathedral entrance, on Calle de los Oficios.  After the Gothic/Renaissance mash up of the cathedral next door, it's reassuring to step inside this purely Gothic building, executed by Enrique de Egas between 1505 and 1521.

On a warm day in Granada city, step inside the cool and dark interior and allow your eyes to adjust to the gloom before you notice the glitz of treasures assembled within.

*Note that there is no photography of any kind allowed inside the Capilla Real.

Queen Isabella


Sceptre and crown, as waxed lyrically by the poet James Shirley. They're all here, gold and silver, swords and fine robes.  Note how tiny the monarchs were in real life!  Art too, Queen Isabella did like her collection of paintings, ranging from Van der Waden to Botticelli.

Look out for the ancient chest with all of Isabella's jewels.  She had once pawned the jewellery in order to finance Columbus's trip to the Americas.  

Creep onwards down to the crypt to see the coffins of Ferdinand and Isabella, their final resting place. Heavily and ornately decorated ornate stands support fairly plain coffins laid on top - also to one side the coffins of their daughter, poor old Juana La Loca (Joan the Mad) and her husband Philip the Handsome. She - Juana - was a bit unfortunate, who was so in love with her husband she followed his funeral cortege all thorough the streets of Granada, weeping and believing he would wake up.  Her son, Charles V, mentioned earlier, had her locked up on his return from Flanders and kept her that way for the rest of her life.

On the other side are the remains of King Manuel of Porugal, and Isabella the Princess of Asturias, who was the catholic Monarch's eldest daughter, she died at the age of just two years old in Granada.


Time for tea

Enough sadness!  Head back into the bright sunshine of this fabulous city, and slip up one of the side streets close to the cathedral.  It's time for something a little sweeter and more pleasant in the form of some Moorish - or moreish - pastries and a pot of refreshing mint tea