GRANADA, Spain – The modern custodians of a glittering palace dating back to when Spain was home to Islamic kingdoms announced on Friday they were opening one of its darkest secrets to the public.
The overseeing body in charge of looking after the Alhambra Fortress Palace in the southern city of Granada, and its gardens, said it was opening an underground chamber that was once used as a dungeon.
“Alongside the elegant dwellings at the Alhambra there were dark dungeons, housing prisoners,” a statement said.
The underground silo-like prison has been part of a continuous archaeological campaign to restore the palatial Arab fortress.
Its largest subterranean dungeon, known as “Silo-mazmorra Grande del Secano,” which the Moors used to imprison captives and sometimes as a grain or spices silo had been suffering from the ravages of time.
“The purpose of the upgrading that is being carried out in this sector is to protect the underground hollow from infiltrations and collapse, and to improve its interpretation for a better understanding of the visitors,” the statement said.
“There are quite a number of dungeons,” according to Reynaldo Fernández, the director of the body overseeing the national museum which encompasses the Alhambra and its garden, known as the Generalife.
More than 20 of them have been discovered on the grounds of this UNESCO World Heritage site.
Located in an area that goes from the Torre del Agua (Water Tower) to the former site of the Abencerrajes palace, the dungeon is eight meters below ground and includes a 20-meter long gallery.
Access is via a large, circular, 11-meter wide gaping hole in the ground which has the shape of a bottleneck and includes the remains of a stone wall that used to anchor a ladder leading to the dungeon.
It is believed captives would have been hoisted down into the dark space using ropes.
Inside you can still see adobe walls and spaces where captives would lie down and sleep.
From the bottom of the dungeon, you can peer up to see the sky above.
The area of the Alhambra where the dungeon is found nearly demolished during the Napoleonic invasion of Spain and remained in ruins for well over a century, the museum said.