El Baño de Comares
Baths in Granada
The El Baño de Comares or the Baths of the Comares, are turkish baths in the Palacio de Comares. The Palacio de Comares is one of the palaces that make up the Palacio Nazaríes in the Alhambra Complex, in Granada, Spain. These baths were constructed by “Yusuf I”, and still today they keep the original structure of the Arab baths. This bathhouse was also used by the Catholic kings as their private bathing area in the 15th century and was called the Royal Baths. It is the only medieval Islamic bath fully intact in the western world.
The importance of cleansing as a religious rite was not only an important part of daily life but a social activity too. This practice was later prohibited by the Catholic kings soon after their conquest. In 14th Century Granada there would have been many Arab bathhouses but sadly only a few examples remain. All the decoration that remains is from the Christian period, the baths have often been in a bad state of repair, and they have therefore been restored and rebuilt several times.
Where are the Baño de Comares?
The Baño de Comares were built between the and the Palacio de los Leones. To enter the Baño de Comares you have to pass the “Lindaraja” Courtyard.
What do the Baño de Comares look like?
The Baño de Comares follow the model of Roman thermal baths.
The baths are on two levels, you would enter the Sala de las Camas or Hall of the Beds at the level of the Patio de los Arrayanes. The Sala de las Camas is a two-story room, from the entrance level you would descend to the lower floor. This was the resting room and was equivalent to the Roman apoditerium, a place to undress before the bath. Here the room has a central fountain surrounded by four columns space in the middle, and galleries surrounding it. On the sides are two beds to rest on after the bath, with colored tiles.
On the first floor there is a small hall with a Mudejar style interlacing structure and its arches show inscriptions and decorations from the 15th century. The other halls of the apoditerium are quite simple, without decoration on the walls, with marble paving, simple tile skirting boards, horseshoe arches without decoration.
There is also a space open towards the first floor of the Sala de las Camas, from the gallery of which the king was said to look at his naked wives and then to throw an apple to the one he had chosen to spend the night with.
Steam rooms have marble floors under which ducts run to keep warm, so thick-soled footwear had to be used in these rooms.
The next chamber is the bayt al-bārid (Arabic), frigidarium (Latin), or cold room. In Arab baths there would be a cold water basin, instead of a swimming pool like in Roman thermal baths.
The central hall is the bayt al-wasṭānī(Arabic), tepidarium (Latin), or warm room, which was a spacious and heated room with a central area flanked by two arches of slightly pointed triple horseshoes.
Finally there is the bayt al-sajūn(Arabic), caldarium (Latin), or steam room, which was the hot hall of the bath. There were two large basins here and people could poor cold and hot water over themselves at will.
Inside this hall there was a copper boiler where water was first heated and later taken by through underground galleries in order to heat these chambers. The pipe through which hot water came out can still be seen in a niche with tiles.
The Ceilings of the Baño de Comares
The entire steam area of the hammam has star-shaped skylights, which were once closed with stained glass and were used to light the chamber. The holes were also used for regulating the temperature and steam inside the baths and would be opened or closed by the bathroom servers.
Can I visit the El Baño de Comares?
This space is usually closed to visitors to protect its delicate interior. To see it on your visit to the Alhambra you can see parts of the building from a gallery corridor just outside. Some of the pieces in this space can be seen in the permanent exhibition of the Alhambra Museum, located in the Palacio de Carlos V.
El bañuelo in Carrera del Darro is another example which you can still visit today.
Other names of El Baño de Comares
The El Baño de Comares has the following names: El Baño de Comares, Comares Baths, Royal Baths.
Visiting El Baño de Comares
For opening times of the El Baño de Comares see Alhambra Opening Times.
Entrance to this part of the Alhambra is usually restricted and cannot be visited during the ordinary visit of the Alhambra Complex. It may also be included in the “Space of the Month” program, where it will be open one month of the year.
The El Baño de Comares is part of the Alhambra Complex and access it you need to purchase Alhambra Tickets or a Alhambra Guided Tour.