Manuel de Falla, born in Cádiz, Spain, spent some of his last years living in a rented house in Granada with his sister. These days it is possible to visit the house, which is a repository of memorabilia and personal objects. The house is situated in an area that is somewhat hidden from the street, and it took me some time (and effort) to find it. According to the house’s guide, Falla wanted to be in a tranquil place where he’d be able to compose and listen to the sounds of water, and also be near the Alhambra. He didn’t want to be bothered by passerbys in the street.
The house is not big but it had spectacular views of the city, and enough space for Falla, his sister and their activities. There are bedrooms for both of them, a small kitchen, a tiny drawing room for tertulias with Falla’s artist friends, and a small music room which still houses his piano.
In his work “Nights in the Gardens of Spain,” one can hear the sounds of water in the piano part, especially at the beginning of the piece. There is a garden next to his house, and further up the hill, the park “Carmen de los mártires”, and La Alhambra, which are both full of gardens and water fountains.
Everyone knows about La Alhambra, and if not, it’s easy to find information about the palaces and buildings of this marvelous attraction–the old city of the sultan of Granada. However, few have heard of “Carmen de los mártires” before arriving in Granada.
Carmen de los mártires has a curious history. The current architecture was built in the 19th century, following the demolition of other buildings of random uses. For example, in the era of the sultans, nothing was there. It was just a hill. But it was located very close to La Alhambra, so they say that Boabdil (the last sultan of Granada) by way of this hill, made his to way to surrender to the Catholic monarchs on January 2, 1492.
After Boabdil had given them the keys to the city, Isabel la Católica decided to build an hermitage on this land. The Christians called this place “Corral de los cautivos” (The prisoners corral) in homage to the Christians held prisoner by the Muslims. Later, an order of the Descalced Carmelites arrived, and in 1573 they established the “Convent of the Holy Martyrs of Descalced Carmelites.” In 1842 the convent was destroyed and then the current palace and gardens were erected. In 1943 the complex was donated to the city of Granada and in 1944 they added the Nazarí patio in memory of Granada’s Muslim heritage.
The fountains and their flowing waters, are all around Falla’s house. Even today, with many more inhabitants and buildings than in Falla’s time, it is easy to see how the house’s location would inspire him. One just has to stroll along the paths of Carmen de los mártires and in the Alhambra forest to feel the beauty and tranquility–to imagine oneself in another world and in another moment.