More from Beautiful Seville
Seville Cathedral - the inside, views from the tower and stopping to rest in the orange tree courtyard
The Plaza de España
When we visited Seville in February, we had looked at the Cathedral from the outside and had only peeked through one set of huge doors to see the orange tree courtyard (see the earlier post Seville - Part 1) -
In September we went inside this vast building and we were awestruck with its grandeur, both in its size and in the wealth of art and religious artefacts in the chapels and on the altars; the views of Seville from the top of the Giralda weren’t too shabby either!
The Seville Cathedral (or the Cathedral of Saint Mary of the See) is the largest Gothic Cathedral in the world. It is built on the site of the great 12th-century Almohad Mosque, and was built to demonstrate the city's power and wealth. Its construction lasted over a century, from 1401 to 1506.
The builders preserved some elements from the ancient mosque such as the mosque’s minaret, which was converted into a bell tower known as La Giralda; and the mosque’s Sahn which was the courtyard for ablutions for the faithful to conduct their ritual cleansing before entering the prayer hall and is known today as the Patio de los Naranjos (Courtyard of Oranges). Today it has a fountain and orange trees and is a peaceful place to linger in the shade of the trees after wandering around the vast and extremely ornate interior of the Cathedral.
Gothic architecture is distinguished by slender columns and large windows to let in more light than earlier cathedrals had done. The windows, tracery, carvings, and ribs make up a dizzying display of decoration and in later Gothic buildings, almost every surface is decorated ornate stone or woodwork. I was captivated by the intricate stonework on the facade of the Seville Cathedral.(some photos of this in the third gallery below)
Giralda Bell Tower
The Giralda Tower was originally the minaret of the mosque (dates from 1184) but became the church tower during Christian Castilian rule. The Renaissance bell tower was added to the top of the minaret between 1558 and 1568.
The tower contains elements from the Islamic as well as Christian periods. Some parts are even older — some of the larger stones near the foot of the tower were recycled from Roman buildings — Latin inscriptions are still evident on the exterior wall.
When the minaret was constructed, the Sultan insisted that ramps (and not stairs) be built to enable him to ascend the tower on horseback to take in the beautiful view. We walked up the 35 ramps to the top and the photographs below show some of the spectacular vistas.
Playing with my camera settings in the Patio de los Naranjos - made for some varied and interesting photographs. Also included below are some images of the stonework on the facade of the Cathedral.
Plaza de Espana
One of the most beautiful public spaces I have ever seen - and like so many of the grand buildings in Seville, it is a blend of Baroque, Renaissance and Moor architectural styles, unlike most of the buildings in Seville, it is actually less than 100 years old!
It was built in 1929 for the Ibero-American Exposition that bought Spain together with its former Latin American colonies to share culture and to promote positive relationships among the participating countries. It also exhibited Spain’s accomplishments in architecture and industry.
A sad story
Unfortunately it fell into a state of disrepair during the later part of the 20th century when during a period of abandonment, its original shape deteriorated due to neglect and vandalism. Vandals ripped off a lot of the tiles and other ceramic ornaments.
.........with a happy ending
In 2008 the City Council (with state funding) led a major renovation project which was completed in 2010 and has returned Plaza de Espana to its original glory, as well as adding improvements such as lighting and a water treatment system for the canal.
A design that is full of symbolism...
The plaza was designed to be a semicircular shape representing the embrace of Spain and its ancient colonies. The building points in the direction of the New World and the countries Spain once ruled there. The idea of this particular form is that if you stand right in the middle of the plaza, taking in the exquisite detail through your own eyes, it will seem like the plaza is hugging you. Supposedly the feeling comes from the central building having two symmetrical arms that end in two towers, named South Tower and North Tower.
In a city of low rise buildings, these towers, like the Giralda of the Seville Cathedral, can be seen from all over Seville).
The beautiful galleries that connect the towers at each end of the complex to the central part of the building, provide welcome protection from the sun; and a large fountain in the centre of the plaza together with a curving canal (where people can float along in boats - pre-covid) provide a break in all the hard paving in front of the buildings. There are also picturesque bridges that cross the canal and these are decorated with colourful locally-made (in Triana) ceramic tiles.
Arches and columns support a patio that extends from the central building and it was beneath these arches and between the columns that we watched Flamenco musicians and a dancer perform.
Today, the buildings house various government offices, including the Immigration Office which we visited every day for a week in March to apply for our Foreigners ID document, the NIE (Numero de Identificacion de Extranjero), the first of many steps in our quest for Residence in Spain!
By the end of that week, our application had been approved and the card was to have taken three weeks to issue. Unfortunately, due to Covid-19, the office closed and then we left Spain to live in Belfast for several months so we weren’t able to collect it!
But... we returned to the office in September in the forlorn hope that the ID document would be there. Gone was the mass of people clamouring to access the office - one of the unexpected positive impacts of Covid-19 was an appointment-only system. A minor problem was that we didn’t have an appointment so Alan had a prepared request in Spanish - but it wasn’t needed as the Security Guard let us into the main office, the staff member there remembered us from March and produced our new ID documents from the pile. Wahoo!
You can check out more photos from an earlier post here