The Salón Rico of the Palace of the Medina Al-Zahra
Abd-el-Rahman III commissioned the Medina Al-Zahra after elevating himself to Caliph of Córdoba and to secure his supremacy in Al-Andalus in the middle of the tenth century. In founding this palace-city, Abd-al-Rahman followed the eastern Islamic tradition of sovereigns founding medinas, or urban centers, which included both private and public quarters. The vast complex, much of which is still unexcavated, was built just west of the city of Córdoba. The complex included pools, houses, gardens, a throne room, a mosque, and reception rooms, and, even in a ruined state, is one of the most important ensembles of medieval Islamic architecture in Spain.
How We Helped
Two reception rooms were used to receive official delegations to the caliphate, and the eastern reception room, the Salón Rico, also eponymously known as the Salón of Abd-el-Rahman III, is elaborately decorated in stone carvings. These carvings represent the tree of life and extend from the walls of the building to the horseshoes arches. The Salón Rico is organized in three aisles separated by two rows of horseshoe arches and an ornamental wall with arches. WMF’s project at the Salón Rico began when new research into the decoration of the structure concluded that past restoration work had replaced decorative elements incorrectly. The current work includes restoring decorative elements to their proper locations and consolidating fragile pieces that have been properly restored. The areas missing decoration will be treated in a way that will harmonize with the restored sections. The first phase of the project will conserve the original elements, followed by restoration of the portico, transepts and ornamental wall. The humidity within the Salón will be eliminated with the installation of an air-conditioning system. The cement floor will be replaced with one of marble, incorporating original fragments. WMF will coordinate activities with the government of Andalusia, and the work will be directed by two architects and two archaeologists. The project will last two years.
Why It Matters
Medina al-Zahra is one of the most unique and important complexes of early Islamic architecture in the Iberian Peninsula, and has greatly influenced later Spanish Islamic architectural styles. Built into the natural slope of a hill so as to create greater height and to have a better view of the neighboring city of Córdoba, the Salón Rico occupies a prominent place in its surroundings, and as part of Medina al-Zahra represents one of the most important Islamic centers of the time. The site serves as a reminder of Andalucía’s Muslim past and influence, and this project will help preserve an important part of Spanish history.