“The air soft as that of Seville in April, and so fragrant that it was delicious to breathe it”Cristopher Columbus
Seville is the capital of the province of Andalusia with about 700,000 habitants. It is the fourth largest city in Spain and the most important southern city in the country.
Main Airport: Seville Airport
Seville can be accessed through walking, taxis, buses, city bikes, metro, and train. The city has about 50 bus lines.
Originally an Iberian Town, ruled by the Romans, in 711 it fell to the Muslims. During this time, Sevilla enjoyed great prosperity and ambitious building programs, until 1248, when Spanish Christians under Ferdinand III, took possession of it. During this time, the local economy fell into ruin after the exile of the minorities. During the Spaniard Conquista, it was the center of the House of Trade, which brought prosperity back into Sevilla as a consequence of the exploitation of the Colonies. In 1992, the Universal Exposition world fair opened in Sevilla, which brought the construction of new monuments and the modernization of the city.
Seville’s cathedral, Santa Maria de la Sede, is the largest Gothic cathedral in the world and is recognized as UNESCO World Heritage.
The cathedral’s construction lasted over a century, from 1401 to 1506. It is said that when the plans were drawn up, church elders stated, “Hagamos una Iglesia tan Hermosa y tan grandiosa que Los que la vieren Labrada nos tengan por locos.” (Let us build a church so beautiful and so magnificent that those who see it finished will think we are mad).
The basilica occupies the site of the great Aljama mosque, built in the late 12th century by the Almohads, the ruling Moorish dynasty, of which the only remaining parts are the Patio de Naranjas, the Puerta del Perdon (on Calle Alemanes, on the north side), and the Giralda (formerly the minaret, now the belltower).
Its central nave rises to an awe-inspiring 42 meters and even the 80 side chapels each seem tall enough to contain an ordinary church. The total area covers 11,520m2 and according to some, new calculations, based on cubic measurements, have now pushed it in front of St Peter’s in Rome and the Catedral Metropolitana Nossa Senhora Aparecida in Brazil as the largest church in the world. But this is still a subject for debate, and many claims it is still the third-largest in the world.
Sheer size and grandeur are, inevitably, the chief characteristics of the Cathedral, although two other qualities stand out with equal force – the rhythmic balance and interplay between the parts, and an impressive overall simplicity and restraint in decoration (apart from the Retablo Mayor). All successive ages have left monuments of their wealth and style, but these have been restricted to the two rows of side chapels. In the main body of the cathedral, only the great box-like structure of the core (choir) stands out, filling the central portion of the nave.
CAPILLA MAYOR AND RETABLO MAYOR
This opens onto the Capilla Mayor (Great Chapel), dominated by a vast Gothic retablo (altarpiece) comprised of 45 carved scenes from the life of Christ, as well as Santa Maria de la Sede, the cathedral’s patron saint. The lifetime’s work of a single craftsman, Pierre Dancart, this is the ultimate masterpiece of the cathedral – the largest and richest altarpiece in the world and one of the finest examples of Gothic woodcarving anywhere. The guides provide staggering statistics on the amount of gold involved.
At the end of the first aisle are a series of rooms designed in the rich Plateresque style in 1530 by Diego de Riano, one of the foremost exponents of this predominantly decorative architecture of the late Spanish Renaissance.
CAPITULAR AND SACRISTIA MAYOR
Through the ante-chamber, you reach the Capitular (Chapter House) with its magnificent domed ceiling mirrored in the marble decoration of the floor. There are several paintings by Murillo here, the finest of which, a flowing Conception, occupies the place of honor.
Alongside this room is the grandiose Sacristan Mayor (Great Sacristy) which houses the treasury. Amid a confusing collection of silver reliquaries and monstrances are the keys presented to Fernando by the Moorish and Jewish communities on the surrender of the city, sculpted into the latter in stylized Arabic script are the words ‘May Allah render eternal the dominion of Islam in the city.’
THE TOMB OF CHRISTOPHER COLUMBUS
This is one of the main attractions of the cathedral for visitors, housing the remains of the great explorer who died in poverty in Valladolid. The tomb itself is more recent, from 1892, with four bearers presenting the kingdoms of Castile, Leon, Aragon, and Navarra.
Other cities claim to hold the remains of Cristobal Colon, as he is known in Spanish – Havana, Cuba, and Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic – but recent DNA tests proved beyond doubt that this tomb does hold Columbus. The next-door chapel with 14th-century frescoes of the Virgin once contained the mihrab of the mosque.
The stuffed crocodile, known as El Lagarto is always a fun spot for kids. It was a gift from the Sultan of Egypt to King Alfonso X, for asking for the hand in the marriage of his daughter Berenguela. Although the Sultan did not wed the princess in the end, the crocodile stayed and was stuffed. Now it is one of the cathedral’s quirkier relics.
The climb to the top of Giralda is considered well worth the effort for the views alone.
PATIO DE LOS NARANJOS
You walk through this large courtyard contained within the cathedral precinct as you leave the cathedral. The Patio de Los Naranjos dates back to Moorish times when worshippers would wash their hands and feet in the fountains here – under the orange trees – before their five daily prayer sessions. As leave the Patio, you pass through the Puerta del Perdon (Gate of Forgiveness), a stucco engraved horseshoe-shaped masterpiece, also dating from the original Almohad mosque.
The Royal Alcazar
The term Alcázar comes from the Arabic al-qaṣr, (“the castle” or “the palace”, اَلْقَصْر), itself derived from the Latin castrum (“castle”).
The original nucleus of the Alcázar was constructed in the 10th century as the palace of the Moslem governor and is used even today as the Spanish royal family’s residence in this city, thereby retaining the same purpose for which it was originally intended: as a residence of monarchs and heads of state. Built and rebuilt from the early Middle Ages right up to our times, it consists of a group of palatial buildings and extensive gardens. The Alcázar embraces a rare compendium of cultures where areas of the original Almohad palace – such as the “Patio del Yeso” or the “Jardines del Crucero” – coexist with the Palacio de Pedro I representing Spanish Mudejar art, together with other constructions displaying every cultural style from the Renaissance to the Neoclassical. (http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/383)
Then, after Sevilla was Christianized in 1248, King Pedro I built the most famous part of the complex. During Spain’s Golden Age, it was home to Ferdinand and Isabel and, later, their grandson Charles V
The world’s largest wooden structure is located in Seville, Spain. It is in the city center and the basement floor is a museum for ancient roman artifacts while the ground floors are live Markets.
Hospital de los Venerables
This new museum, hosts paintings of Diego Velazquez, and Francisco Varela, among other painters of the Spanish Golden Age. Hours to this place are limited.
Melissa. “Transport & Metro in Seville.” Seville, 12 Feb. 2022, https://sevillecityguide.com/transport-in-seville.html.
EDITOR AND LAST UPDATE
John William Bailly 25 April 2022
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