Mussulman historians have described, in terms of cloying praise, the "red gold animals contrived with subtle skill and spread with precious stones" which Abderrahman placed at Cordova upon the fountains of his palaces. "Rivers of water issued from the mouth of every animal, and fell into a jasper basin." The words "red gold" are patently an oriental term for bronze. In view of this, and of the fact that the lion of Palencia is hollow-bellied, with his mouth wide open for ejecting water, and with a tail of cunning craftsmanship, which would avail, on being rotated, to produce or check the current of the "liquid crystal," we may conclude that it was intended both to form a part of, and to decorate a Moorish fountain of old days, and is the kind of beast "with precious stones for eyes" so often and so ecstatically lauded by the Muslim writers.
1 Swinburne fell into a comical error concerning these. "In the centre of the court are twelve ill-made lions muzzled, their fore-parts smooth, their hind-parts rough, which bear upon their backs an enormous bason, out of which a lesser rises." - Travels through Spain, p. 180.
Bronze Stag (Moorish. Museum of Cordova)
Similar to the foregoing object, and dating from about the same period, is a small bronze stag (Pl. xxxi.) in the provincial museum of Cordova. It is believed to proceed originally from the famous palace (tenth century) of Az-zahra, and used to be kept, some centuries ago, in the convent of San Jeronimo de Valparaiso.
The museum of Granada contains some interesting Moorish bronzes, found on the site of the ancient city of Illiberis, abandoned by its occupants on their removal to Granada at the beginning of the eleventh century. The most remarkable of these discoveries are pieces of a fountain, a small temple (Plate xxxii.), an almirez or mortar (Plate xxxiii.), similar to one (not mentioned by Riano) which was discovered at Monzon, and a few lamps. The fragments of a fountain end in the characteristic Assyrian-looking lions' heads, with lines in regular zones to represent the eyes and other features. One of the lamps (PL xxxiii.) is far superior to the rest. Notwithstanding Riano's assertion that all of these antiquities are "incomplete and mutilated," this lamp is well preserved, and still retains, secured by a chain, the little metal trimming-piece or emunctorium of the Romans. The small bronze temple is sometimes thought (but this hypothesis seems rather fanciful) to be a case, or part of a case, designed for keeping jewellery. The height of it is two-and-twenty inches, and the form hexagonal, "with twelve small columns supporting bands of open work, frescoes, cupola, and turrets; in the angles are birds" (Riano).
The most important object in this substance now extant in any part of Spain is probably the huge and finely decorated lamp of Mohammed the Third of Granada (Pl. xxxiv.), called sometimes "the lamp of Oran," from a mistaken belief that it had formed part of the booty yielded by this city after her capture in 1509 by Cardinal Jimenez de Cisneros.
Bronze Temple (Mooirish. Museum of Granada)
The material of this lamp is bronze, possibly provided by the bells of Christian churches taken and pillaged by the Moors. It has four parts or tiers of varying shape, delicately wrought in openwork, and reaching a height of nearly seven feet in all. The third and largest tier, corresponding to the shade, is in the form of a truncated pyramid, and shows a different design on each of its four sides. The lamp bears several inscriptions, interrupted here and there through breakage of the metal. The longest of these legends is interpreted as follows: -
"In the name of God the Merciful. (May) the blessing of God be on our lord Mohammed and his kin; health and peace. (This lamp) was ordered (to be made) by our Lord the egregious sultan, the favoured, the victorious, the just, the happy, the conqueror of cities, and the extreme boundary of just conduct among the servants (of God); the emir of the Mussulmans Abu-Abdillah, son of our lord the emir of the Mussulmans Abu-Abdillah, son of our lord Al-Galib-Billah, the conqueror through God's protection, the emir of the Mussulmans Abi-Abdillah; (may) God aid him (praised be God)." Here is a breakage and a corresponding gap in the inscription, which continues, "beneath it, lighted by my light for its magnificence and the care of its xeque, with righteous purpose and unerring certainty. And this was in the month of Rabie the first blessed, in the year 705.1 May (God) be praised."
The history of this lamp has been explored with scholarly care by Rodrigo Amador de los Rios, whose monograph will be found in the Museo Espanol de Antiguedades. He says that the lamp was formerly suspended from the ceiling of the chapel of San Ildefonso in the university of Alcala de Henares. Here, too, he has discovered entries which relate to it in two separate inventories, dated 1526 and 1531, from which we gather that the lamp, excepting the lowest part or tier, which probably proceeded from Oran, was brought to Alcala by Cardinal Cisneros from the mosque of the Alhambra of Granada.
All of the lamp (continues Amador) that properly belongs to it, is the open-work shade, together with the graduated set of spheres which we now observe on top.1 The lowest part is clearly an inverted bell, from which project four decorative pieces. This is believed by Amador to be a Spanish bell, dating- from the fifteenth century, designed for striking with a hammer, and proceeding from some monastery or convent plundered by the Moors. Indeed, one of the two inventories discovered at Alcala mentions "a bell with a hole in it, which used to belong to a Moorish lamp" thus countenancing the widespread supposition that the lamps of the mosque of Cordova were made of the Christian bells of Compostela, which the fierce Almanzor caused to be conveyed upon the aching backs of Christian captives to the Moorish court and capital of Andalusia.
1 September 20th to October 19th, A.D. 1305.
Moorish Lamp And Mortar (Museum of Granada)