Monastery of Santa Isabel La Real – Palace of Dar Al-Horra
The monastery is located in the highest part of the historic Albaicín district, in what was the earliest urban nucleus of Muslim Granada and the nerve centre of the former Alcazaba Cadima (‘Old Fortress’). It formed part of the Palace of Dar al-Horra, a dwelling with gardens that belonged to the powerful Queen Aixa, the mother of Boabdil, the last Nasrid sultan. In 1501, Queen Isabella founded this monastery for women under the rule of St Clare, and six years later Luisa de la Cruz, the widow of the Constable of Castile, took up provisional residence in the old palace with a group of twenty nuns. The new building was constructed in the garden area, and in the course of the 16th century became a monumental complex designed to house more than a hundred nuns. Distributed around the great chapel and the large cloister were the communal areas, with the staircase, dormitories, granary, refectory, kitchen, laundry and infirmary, while the novices were housed in the outlying part of the convent. The chapel is covered with splendid wooden ceilings, forming a repertoire of unusual and extraordinary beauty: a grid framework with double crosspieces and Plateresque paintings in the nave, an ogee vault with pendants in the English style over the high altar, and eight-sided ceilings over the staircases leading to the upper floor and the choir loft. Over the years, the monastery has acquired an extremely important collection of art works of the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries, which have remained unaltered in the places for which they were originally designed. Indeed, time seems to have stood still in the convent as a whole.