And, I am almost always stunned by some critical piece of history that I did not know. Case in point: The Alhambra (Granada, Spain). Alhambra was a royal playground that is really more like a city of many castles. It has been inhabited (and enhanced) by many different monarchs across thousands of years. I knew that the Alhambra was a beloved residence of the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V, who caused a great deal of trouble for good old Henry VIII of England. (You remember Henry — he was the famous King who had six wives. He beheaded two, divorced two, and was survived by the last of the six). When Henry wanted an annulment from his first wife in order to marry the beautiful (and ill-fated) Anne Boleyn, it was Charles who stood in the way. Charles was the loyal cousin of wife #1, Catherine of Aragon. Unfortunately for Henry, Charles also had control of the Pope, who, after much dancing, stalling, and considering, ultimately refused to give Henry the annulment. This little drama set off a series of events that reverberated throughout England’s history for hundreds of years.
A trip to the Alhambra wouldn’t be complete without seeing the Capilla Real Cathedral in the heart of Granada. Isabella and Ferdinand are buried in this beautiful cathedral, far from their birthplace. They chose Granada as their burial place because both felt that driving the Moors out of Alhambra was the most important thing they had done in their lives (all those heretics they burned at the stake didn’t count for much I suppose). If you don’t care a fig about Isabella and Ferdinand, I should mention that Capilla Real is also notable because they claim to have the arm of St. Paul in their possession (Paul must have had 4 arms though because 3 other cathedrals in Europe make the same claim).