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30 mayo 2024

The courtyard of the Infanta, the rescue of a lost jewel

If you visit Zaragoza, there is a place full of magic, memories, hidden complicities, that you can not miss to see, is the Patio de la Infanta: When you enter it, you will feel in another place, one that has many stories to tell, and who, no doubt, you will fall in love.

What does the Patio de la Infanta represent?

The Patio de la Infanta represents a valuable jewel, which, despite being lost, was able to return to its place of origin. Miraculously it managed to remain waiting to be rescued, thanks to the perseverance of those who refused to lose a valuable part of the history of Zaragoza. It should not be forgotten that the Aragonese capital was known, before independence, as the “Spanish Florence”, due to the number of Renaissance palaces that adorned this famous city.

Patio de la Infanta. Zaragoza
Patio de la Infanta. Zaragoza

A jewel that began as a wedding gift

Its origin dates back to the beginning in the 16th century, with Gabriel Zaporta, who was a very powerful merchant in Zaragoza. When he became a widower with two children, he met Sabina Santangel, who became his second wife.
Such was his love for her, that as a wedding gift he had her build a palace, which would remain as a reminder of his great love. So this palace would have to be unique, special, to represent the great love they both professed for each other.
Secretly (as he was a Judeo-convert) he called an astrologer to carefully program the date of the wedding. He wrote the “Marriage Horoscope” in the courtyard, which has endured over time, and today we know that they were married on June 3, 1549 at 6:50 pm. From above, Gabriel and Sabina, carved in wood, preside over the courtyard as accomplices, hidden, watching the secret horoscope of their marriage.

Details of the Infanta Palace

The palace occupied 1,700 square meters, was built around a central open-air courtyard, according to the Roman tradition, its ornaments were in accordance with the Italian fashion of the time, displaying a demonstration of wealth and power.
The courtyard had its four sides decorated with sixteen medallions, where busts of famous historical figures such as Charles I, Ferdinand the Catholic, Philip the Handsome, Charlemagne and Roman emperors such as Marcus Aurelius, Trajan.
Under the parapet, on the columns, there were 28 medallions that look at each other, representing fourteen couples of famous lovers, such as: Paris and Helen, the Jews Abraham and Sarah, Eros and Psyche, Dante Alighieri and Beatrice, Jacob and Rachel, Ulysses and Penelope, and the Greco-Latin Seneca and Pompea. For this reason, the Zaporta House was known in its time as the “Palace of Love”.

Something cabalistic was hidden underneath the sculptures and decorations.

It took several centuries for all the historical sculptures and mythological decorations to unveil the cabalistic and hidden thing they contained, since under the effigies of those kings and emperors, and a frieze with faces of universal lovers were found, carefully hidden the symbols that correspond to the four classical elements: Water, Air, Earth and Fire, these rested on the four central columns, which in turn contained the representation of four planets: the Sun, the Moon, Saturn and Mercury arranged according to the order of the cosmos at a very specific time.

The dynasty is cut short

After some years, Sabina passed away and Gabriel Zaporta apparently could not bear his loss, a year later he followed him, but before that he gave his son the property, including the palace, to his son Luis, but not before ordering him never to sell it.

Why was it called the Patio de la Infanta?

In 1793, Maria Teresa de Vallabriga, already widow of the Infante Don Luis de Borbón, brother of Carlos III, decided to return to her hometown after years at court and moved into the Zaporta house.
This made the house become a meeting place for scholars, artists and intellectuals and from that moment, the palace was renamed Casa de la Infanta and its courtyard, ‘Patio de la Infanta’, the name with which it has survived to the present day.

Fire, demolition, anniversary of the death of its first owner

On September 11, 1894, the Zaporta house suffered an unfortunate fire, only the patio and the staircase were saved. After the incident, the heirs decided to demolish it and sell its walls. Curiously, the demolition began precisely on February 4, 1903, the date of the anniversary of Gabriel Zaporta’s death, a coincidence?
Many efforts were made by the intellectuals of the time to preserve the remains of the house, however, the courtyard was finally sold to the French antiquarian Ferdinand Schultz for the sum of 17,000 pesetas. It was dismantled, moved and reassembled to serve as a showcase for his antique store, which was located at 25 Rue Voltaire in Paris.

Patio de la Infanta

The long-awaited return

In 1958, a news was the center of attention in the world, José Sinúes, who was then director of the Caja de Ahorros de Zaragoza, Aragón y Rioja (today Ibercaja) had decided to buy it back with the firm intention of restoring that old and beautiful memory of Gabriel Zaporta, which had been able to survive to show in some way, the splendor of that Renaissance Zaragoza.
The price paid by José Sinúes was 30 million French francs. The patio remained in storage for more than twenty years, until finally, in 1980, it was installed in the new headquarters of Ibercaja in Plaza Paraíso, it is here, where today, you can still appreciate what remains of the Zaporta house, “Patio de la Infanta” is a jewel full of history, worthy of admiration, a relic that surely still hides many secrets.

A visit designed even for the youngest members of the family!

The visit to the courtyard of the Infanta, certainly can be very lively and fun for children, they will not be bored even though it is a place of monuments, as Ibercaja has taken a very creative initiative with the intention of attracting the attention of this special audience; thus arriving, children are welcomed by none other than the Infanta Maria Teresa, who is responsible for telling them the story of this fabulous jewel.
But there is more, then they can dance a minuet, enjoy games, make drawings on the patio, in short, spend a great day, fun while learning history.
So, if you have the opportunity to visit Zaragoza, be sure to come and visit this hidden gem.

You just have to get to the headquarters of Ibercaja.
You can also enter through a direct access, entering through the street San Ignacio de Loyola 16, there you will see “Patio de la Infanta”. If you arrive and it is closed, you can enter through the offices of Ibercaja, there is also another access that takes you to the “Patio de la Infanta”.

Hours when you can make your visit:
Monday to Friday from 8.30 am to 2.30 pm and from 6 pm to 9 pm.
Saturday from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. and from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m.
Sundays and holidays from 11 am to 2 pm.

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