In the 1500’s Sevilla was a gateway to the world with its river harbor; Magellan sailed from here. In the 1600’s Sevilla was Spain’s largest and richest city. Today it is a tourist mecca, famous for it’s cathedral and Alcazar (palace),and equally for its “soul”: the flamenco dance, bar life, and maze-like Jewish quarter.
Any picture of Sevilla should start with a view of the Giralda tower, originally a minaret, built in the late 1100’s and now the bell tower for the Santa Maria Cathedral of Sevilla. Actually, the tower couldn’t be supported by the Moorish brick, so the Moors used Roman stone for the base. And the Catholics added the top bell tower. Note contrasting styles!
The cathedral itself is fascinating. Some walls and doors still remain from the original mosque, but not much. The contrast between the old mosque and “new” church is shown in the pictures below (taken from postcards, the mosque an artist’s conception).
Note the simplicity of the mosque, and its relatively modest human scale; vs the much more vertical, elaborate and complex cathedral. One can see that complexity viewed from above; from the outside, the cathedral is so large I found it impossible to comprehend its overall structure. It is the 3rd largest church in Europe, and the largest Gothic church.
Note from the postcard pictures that the inner courtyard of the mosque was preserved – as was the entrance gate, a gorgeous bronze-coated door saved from the mosque (early 1200’s) as shown below.
Inside, the cathedral is magnificently (and confusingly) large. It goes forever, but there are large structures inside – a choir, a high alter (the largest ever made) – that subdivide the space and work against awe. As seen below, it’s impressive and intriguing, but not elegant.
The cathedral has some nice stained glass.
Spectacular in a different way is an incredibly beautiful fresco, painted into a prayer niche of the mosque after the Christian conquest in 1248 (the mosque was used as a church until they tore it down to build the cathedral). The builders were captivated and saved the fresco for us to enjoy. Artist unknown.
But where the cathedral shines is its riches. Oh yeah! Let’s forget the incredible marble and carved choir and gold gilding (below)
and hundreds of body parts common to many of these churches. We’re talking major flaunt here. How about a Goya painting? Or among the many many many gold and silver crosses and boxes, this crown? It has 11,000 precious stones and the world’s largest pearl (angel’s silver torso, right).
The other major attraction in Sevilla is the Alcazar. Next post!