Abu Amir Muhammad, better known as almanzorit was him last great ruler of Al Andalus. Born in the year 939, he became strong man from the Caliphate of Cordoba and chamberlain of Hisham II, heir to the Umayyad dynasty, whose throne he could not occupy because he was a minor. Audacious and tremendously ambitious, Almanzor expanded the boundaries of the Andalusian state and amassed extraordinary power, despite the legal impossibility of becoming caliph due to his lack of Umayyad blood.
Precisely for this reason, and to establish himself as the great caliphs of Córdoba, he ordered the construction of a palatine city that would emulate the majestic urban complex of Medina Azahara, founded by Abderhraman III five kilometers west of the capital, today converted into an archaeological complex recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Almanzor challenged the Umayyad dynasty. He wanted a palatial conglomerate of his own and for that he used enormous material and human resources. It is not by chance that he chose the name of Medina Azahira (The Shining City), which shares the same roots with the mega-project Califado de Abderramán III.
The chronicles say that its construction began in the year 978. Two years later, the Bright City was already standing. There he moved his court, the entire administrative conglomerate, the barracks, the grain warehouses and the souks. Almanzor built a “luxurious fortress of extraordinary splendor”, according to the famous archaeologist and architect Leopoldo Torres Balbasrestorer of the Alhambra, in an article published in 1956. In the surroundings, the Amirí, relatives of the military dictator and high personalities of the State built their ostentatious mansions.
“He tried to concentrate the court around him to isolate the nominal caliph Hisham II”, argues Torres Balbás. And he gave himself “sovereign airs”. In the year 997, the Almanzor palace could already be finished. Medieval texts speak of “marble fountains and lush clumps of fragrant plants.” There he received his father-in-law Sancho Garcés II, king of Pamplona, on September 4, 992. “If Almanzor builds a palatine city it’s because he’s thinking about founding his own dynasty,” explains an archaeologist who prefers to remain anonymous.
On February 15, 1009, a popular uprising devastated the palatine city of Medina Azahira.
Almanzor died in 1002. He was succeeded by his son Abd Al Malik Al Muzaffar, who inherited Medina Azahira and all its political attributes. Muzaffar died just six years later and it was his brother who took power. Abderramán Sanchuelo took another step forward in his personal aspirations and was invested with the emblems of the Caliphate, already in open defiance of Islamic precepts. On February 15, 1009, a popular uprising, also instigated by the great-grandson of Abderramán III, overthrew Sanchuelo and razed the palatine city of Medina Azahira. Torres Balbás depicts a “devastating” sack. “Even the doors and boards were torn off.”
The robbers found enormous wealth: 1.7 million gold and 2.1 million silver pieces. “Al Mahdi ordered the city to be razed and set on fire, leaving no stone unturned,” says the chronicle signed by the curator of the Alhambra. The city of Almanzor was savagely plundered. The marble columns, capitals and fountains were scattered, just as happened to Medina Azahara, the palatine conglomerate of Abderramán III, whose remains still decorate many of Córdoba’s stately courtyards.
The wealth of the city of Almanzor
The only material proof that remains of Medina Azahira, guarantees Torres Balbás, is a marble pilebroken and incomplete, which is cataloged in the Madrid Archaeological Museum. Other specialists, however, indicate that pieces of the Resplendent City are preserved in Marrakech and in the Alhambra Museum. In any case, the portentous city was then plunged into a long and dense silence of a thousand years. “Not even the memory of its location remains”, underlines the famous architect.
For two centuries, the hypothesis about its location It happened. The Arabist Francisco Javier Simonet placed it in the eras of Health, west of Córdoba. Ramírez de Arellano, on the other hand, maintained that the buried city was located between the Ermita de la Fuensanta and the Cuesta de la Pólvora. Historian Antonio Arjona places it in the industrial area of Las Quemadas, east of the city. As many as 21 different enclaves were considered, according to a study by Juan Quiles published in late 2021.
No specific material evidence was provided for any of these working hypotheses. Until just three weeks ago, the Córdoba archaeologist Antonio Monterroso presented to the Ministry of Culture of Andalusia a 15-page report with graphic material and technical arguments that presumably would prove the discovery of a huge underground archaeological site located a few kilometers east of Córdoba.
To identify the deposit, advanced aerial laser prospecting techniques were used.
The archaeologist is convinced that the remains belong, with great probability, to the lost city of almanzor. To identify the deposit, which is almost a thousand meters long and covers an area of 40 hectares, Antonio Monterroso’s team used advanced aerial laser prospecting techniques. All of Spain is mapped by the National Geographic Institute and the archives are publicly available on its website. But the documents are hanging raw. For a correct interpretation, the files must be processed and examined in detail to decode the information they contain. Laser sensors are capable of emitting 400,000 points per second and generate highly accurate digital models.
Hypotheses about the location of Almanzor
With this innovative technique, which dispenses with archaeological surveys, Antonio Monterroso’s team has already identified more than 200 deposits in the north of Córdoba. And it allowed them to locate this amazing underground archaeological complex that could correspond to the Palatine conglomerate of Almanzor. The discovery is still in its early stages. All graphic and technical proofs are at the Delegation of Culture of the Junta de Andalucía in Córdoba. The enclave is still kept secret. for security reasons. Not even the farm owners are told. The only thing known so far is that the remains were found in a mountainous area east of the capital, presumably used for livestock or hunting.
The Junta de Andalucía cautiously received the archaeological report from Monterroso and is evaluating the steps to follow from now on, as reported by the digital newspaper Cordopolis. Haven’t thought about launching one yet prospective field inspection and intends to communicate the discovery to the Municipality of Córdoba, since the alleged enclave is within its municipal area. Alberto Montejo, former director of the Archaeological Complex of Medina Azahara, is also cautious in assessing the find. “Now it’s up to us to investigate and check on the ground whether there are remains of pottery from the time, pieces of marble or fragments of capitals”, he says.
For this, it would be necessary to inform the farm owners and request authorization to carry out a prospective visit. The Junta de Andalucía transferred competences in terms of archaeological heritage and holds the guard of your care and vigilance. It has supervisory capacity to intervene in cases like this. The reaction from the archaeological community was cool. Some experts believe that the enclave does not exactly match with coordinates provided by historical sources. And they consider as reasonable the possibility that Medina Azahira was buried in a meander of the Guadalquivir river, whose course would have undergone changes in recent centuries. That is the reason, these sources indicate, that would justify the enigmatic whereabouts of the palatine conglomerate.
The enigma of the Andalusian city enclave
Archeology, in any case, narrows the fence to the buried city of Almanzor. If the authenticity of this discovery is finally confirmed, we will be closer to deciphering some of the most surprising enigmas in the peninsular history. For example, how can the The splendid civilization of Al Andalus reached its zenith at the end of the 10th century and in just three decades it would disappear like sugar in coffee.