Here are some photos of the gardens of the palace – the Alcazar – in Spain. Owing much in style to the Moorish builders of the palace and gardens (like the even more well known example in Granada), it has nevertheless been since the reconquista a palace of the Spanish Royal Family and so has become reflective of something that is a much distinctively Spanish.
I have wonderful memories of visiting this palace and the gardens. I went to Seville for the wedding of a friend to a Spanish lady whose family originated in Seville. The wedding was right at the beginning of September and the weather was almost unbearably hot. In the first two or three days there, we were preoccupied with the wedding and preparations. It was a wonderful occasion but by the time everything was over I was utterly exhausted. The heat was sapping and I was staying in a hostel that didn’t have good air conditioning and so I hadn’t slept well. We had put aside a few days for sightseeing and so the first place we headed for was this palace.
You enter through the main entrance of the palace building and then after seeing the interior move through to the courtyards in the back and then the expansive gardens beyond. Going out into the courtyard was like emerging into a new and wonderful world. First of all the temperature was controlled. The courtyards had little fountains and shade and the evapouration created a natural drop in temperature. It doesn’t always look like it in the photos that I found, but my recollection is that in the gardens every walkway was predominantly shady and cool either through built archways or through high trees creating shade.
The other aspect of the garden that struck me was that the beauty of the garden was created by manipulation of light as much as through the colour of the plant leaves and flowers. So foliage could be dark or light green depending on whether or not they were in light or shade. There were additional effect created by light transmitted through the leave as the sun partially penetrated the canopy above. As well as walking at ground level a high, covered walkway was created just to allow the privileged residents (and now visitors) to stroll out above the canopy and look down on it. This created a whole new range of light effects of great beauty.
In addition, while there weren’t many flowers at this point in September, there were nevertheless enough blooms to create beautiful fragrance at every turn.
I have spoken in the past of how my experience of the liturgy at the Brompton Oratory was so influential in my conversion, here. One of the aspects of this experience was how complete the liturgical experience was with art, music, incense, architecture and so on. In many ways, coming some time later, this reminded me of that experience. This is man sculpting and composing in stone and flora and through its beauty so that all my senses were engaged and even the temperature was controlled naturally.
The painting of the gardens shown above, by the way is by a Spanish artist Manuel Garcia y Rodriguez.