Prior to the founding of the University of Granada already existed in the city a High Studies Center. We talk about the Madrasa Yusufiyya, the only public one that exists in Al-Andalus and, until its closure in 1499, a benchmark for the andalusí academia.
Today Granada Esencial would like to move closer to this fine example of the city heritage, going over the history behind its facade.
As we read in the first entry of this blog, the Madrasa Yusufiyya -named after its founder, the Nasrid Sultan Yusuf I- has changed many times of use since its inauguration in 1349: it was Madrasa at first, then became a City Hall (or Casa del Cabildo), a private house and fabrics store, it also hosted various organizations and, today, is the Center of Cultural Extension of the University of Granada. These changes have affected both its internal distribution as well as its façade.
Originally, following the canons of Islamic architecture, there was a façade with almost no openings to the outside, in wich stood out its beautiful cover access -a large horseshoe arch, according to historical sources- decorated with two carved white marble pieces as windows.
However, between 1722 and 1729, the building was completely refurbished in Baroque style. In fact, one of themost significant changes was the façade renewal. Adjusting to the style of that period, large windows on the lower floor and magnificent balconies on the upper opened. Both floors, divided by a cornice, wen after a painted ashlar decoration in shades of gray -known as trompe-l’oeil– on highlighting the emblems and initials of the Catholic Monarchs. The Nasrid cover, due to its beauty, was dismantled and it is preserved today in the Archaeological Museum of Granada.
In the nineteenth century, to celebrate the visit of Queen Elizabeth II to Granada, the entire city was decked, painting numerous buildings as if theywere scenarios. One of those buildings was the old Madrasa Yusufiyya. Following the general lines of the Baroque, the façade was repainted over with another false ashlar decoration, this time in red and gold, smaller than the previous facade.
Nonetheless, what was conceived as a temporary facade, a simple ornament for the royal visit, was not modified after it, and the materials with which this façade was done -of bad quality- began to deteriorate revealing the baroque decoration beneath them.
The team of architect Pedro Salmeron found it in a significant state of disrepair when it was commissioned the integral restoration project of the Madrasa Yusufiyya in 1999. The University wanted to recover the building as a Cultural Center, and decided to restore the eighteenth century façade, who was in good condition under the deteriorated coating of 1862. Thus, having being hiden more than a century, the old city Hall façade has been recovered for the city.
Now we give you the translation of one of the inscriptions adorning the access to the Madrasa Yusufiyya during the Nasrid period:
“If in your spirit you provide a place for the desire to study and to flee from the shadows of ignorance, you will find in it the beautiful tree of honor. Make study shine like stars to the great, and to those who are not, bring to them the same brilliance”.
Source: Pedro Salmerón Escobar
Source: La Madraza: pasado, presente y futuro (R. López Guzmán y Mª E. Díez Jorge (eds.))