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Posts from the ‘Architecture’ Category

Seville | The Cathedral

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Patio de los Naranjos (Courtyard of the Orange Trees)

Because it’s that time of year (you know what I mean) and because it’s probably Seville’s best known monument (although in the absence of definitive statistics the Alcázar could make the same claim), it’s time to talk about the Cathedral (the Cathedral of Saint Mary of the See, to give it its proper title).

Facts and statistics can be tedious, but at least a few are necessary for the full appreciation of a visit here. First, of course, is that this is, quite simply, the largest Gothic cathedral in the world, and indeed the largest cathedral, though not the largest church – although there is some argument Saint Peters Basilica in Rome and the Basilica of the National Shrine of our Lady of Aparecida in Brazil are generally accepted as larger. This is quite surprising in itself, as although Seville was an important city in the 15th century, its pre-eminence came a little later, after the discovery of the Americas made it the richest city in Europe.

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Corpus Christi outside the Door of Baptism

The Cathedral was built on the site of the Aljama Mosque (the New Grand Mosque that replaced the Old Grand Mosque on the site of what is now the El Salvador church), constructed on a greenfield site just outside the old city between 1184 and 1198. Despite its fame it only served as a mosque for fifty years. In 1248 the Christians under Ferdinand III conquered the city, and the Mosque was reconsecrated as a Cathedral. In 1356, however, the structure was badly damaged in an earthquake, and in 1401 the Cathedral Chapter took the decision to demolish it and build a brand new Cathedral.

One member is reputed to have said “Let us build a Cathedral so grand that when men see it they will think we were mad”. All things considered they didn’t do a bad job. The main structure was completed in 1506, but in 1511 the dome collapsed, and took another 8 years to rebuild. The main altar (retablo) was finished in 1526, and the building was considered complete in 1528, although the Royal Chapel (completed 1575), and the belfry and statue at the top of the Giralda Tower (completed 1568) came later. Also later is the Church of El Sagrario, built in the 17th century.

Of the original mosque, the minaret, now the Giralda tower, and the Patio de los Naranjos (orange trees) and its outer wall, including the Gate of Forgiveness (Puerta del Perdón), were retained, and the Giralda has become the city’s most emblematic symbol.

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The Crocodile in the Cathedral

For the individual visitor entrance is through the Pavilion from the courtyard in front of the Gate of the Prince in the south facade. The statue here is a life size replica of the one on top of the tower (which is a working weather vane) and represents Faith. There’s often quite a queue for tickets, but you can get a combined ticket at the less busy El Salvador church. Inside, the nave rises to a breathtaking 42 metres in height, and includes the choir loft, and the world’s largest gold altarpiece at the end in front of the Royal Chapel. Some 80 other chapels line the outer walls, and among the famous people buried here are Christopher Columbus and his brother Hernando, Ferdinand III and his wife Beatrice, Alfonso X (see if you can find the crocodile that was given him by the king of Egypt), and Pedro I (who built the Neomudejar palace in the Alcazar).

For most people (which is to say, in my opinion), though, the highlight of the visit is going to the top of the Giralda tower (at 105 metres easily the tallest building in the historic centre) and enjoying the views across the city. No lift, of course, but it’s a ramp, not stairs, so it’s not too arduous. They say that when it was a minaret the muezzin would ride his donkey up to the top to call the faithful to prayer, but this story may well be apocryphal.

For an unusual view of the tower and cathedral, check out what is probably the best holiday apartment in Seville.

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View of the Giralda from Giralda Terrace apartment

Seville | The Archive of the Indies

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Front facade

The Archivo General de Indias, or General Archive of the Indies, is the third of Seville’s World Heritage Sites, and together with the first two, the Cathedral and the Alcazar Palace, makes up the main monumental area of Seville. Although it’s something of a poor relation to its more famous neighbours, the Archives building is worth a visit, and has the added bonus of being free, and there are often special exhibitions, usually on the themes of sailing and exploration. The Archives themselves, comprising some 43,000 volumes and 80 million pages of documents (even back then the Spanish bureaucracy excelled at generating paperwork) are housed partly on the ground floor, but now mainly in a second, specially designed, building across the street, and are still an important primary resource for historians and researchers.

The Archives were not originally constructed for that purpose, though, but to provide a headquarters and a trading house for the members of the Merchants’ guild. Following the discovery of the Americas by Columbus in 1492 Seville was awarded the monopoly of the trade, and the number of merchants operating in Seville expanded enormously, outgrowing their existing facilities. Because of their proximity to the port, the Palace, and, a little later, to the Ayuntamiento, the steps of the Cathedral became a favoured place for them to conduct business (next to the Puerta del Perdón one of the Cervantes plaques mentions them in this context, “lugar de contratación”), causing considerable friction between civil and ecclesiastical authorities. Finally, in 1572, Philip II commissioned the architect Juan de Herrera to design and build the Casa Lonja (Commodities Exchange). Construction began in 1584, and by 1598 the building was ready for use (though not fully completed until 1646).

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Rear facade from Plaza del Triunfo

Within a hundred years, however, the port of Seville began to silt up, and by the early 1700s the Lonja was seriously underused, and with the transfer of the Consulado de Mercaderes to Cadiz in 1717, it was virtually deserted, and began to be used as a common rooming house. It was saved from further deterioration when in 1785 Charles III decreed that a number of separate archives should be transferred to Seville. The residents were duly evicted, and before the end of the year the first documents began to arrive. Among the alterations and repairs carried out to make the building suitable for its new use was the construction of the Grand Staircase. The gardens at the front were added during the creation of the Avenida de la Constitución in the 1920s.

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Inside the Archives

The Archives building is an impressive two-storeys high square around a large central courtyard, the exterior being relatively simply ornamented in an Italian influence Renaissance style. Inside, the halls that go right around the building are lined with box files, giving an impression of what the place looked like in use, but they’re empty, just for show. There are some charts and other memorabilia, and also a film show in a curtained-off cinema detailing the history of the building. Actually worth watching, and not too long.

Veoapartment has two groups of holiday apartments (Constitución and Alcázar) to let that are just across the avenue, and give a superb view of the Heritage complex.

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View from Constitución apartments

Seville | Metropol Parasol

Most people who come to Seville for the sightseeing, and to absorb the unique atmosphere of the city have in mind its late mediaeval heritage sites, the Cathedral, the Reales Alcazares (Royal Palaces), and perhaps the Archivos de Indias. Throw in the Old Jewish quarter (Barrio Santa Cruz), Plaza España, and a quick visit to Triana across the river, and Bob’s your uncle – job done.

IMG_7554Plaza Encarnación and the Metropol Parasol

Or at least, almost. The Metropol Parasol, to give them their proper name (they’re also known as las Setas or the Mushrooms), are Seville’s contribution to modern, avant-garde architecture and can come as something of a surprise if you stumble upon them unexpectedly. The swooping umbrella shaped lattice structure comprises six parasols, and rises about 26 metres above the ground, and is, in fact, the world’s largest wooden structure. It was designed by the German architect Jürgen Mayer-Hermann, who won the competition for a building to complete the redevelopment of the Plaza de la Encarnación, and after six years of work was completed in April 2011.

view metropol parasolView from the top of the Parasol

The shape was said to have been inspired by the vaults of the cathedral roof, and by the giant fig trees in the nearby Plaza Cristo de Burgos. Predictably, the design, location, delays and cost overruns made it a controversial project, but now it’s completed its eyecatching shape and open spaces have helped to restore the economic and social life of the neighbourhood.

1-038-mar182014 041The Parasols at Night

Like the city itself, the site of the Metropol Parasols is something of a historical layer cake. The name of the square, Plaza de la Encarnación, derives from the Convent of the Incarnation, an order of Augustinian nuns, which was located here from 1591 until its demolition in the early 19th century (the order then moving to its present home in the Plaza del Triunfo). In about 1840 the city’s central provisions market was established here, continuing in operation until 1973, when the building, by then in a ruinous state, was demolished as part of an urban renewal project. The stallholders were moved to “temporary” accommodation in the northeast corner of the square, where they were to languish for the next 37 years.

060-mar182014 019Roman fish salting works – Antiquarium

The site of the original market was left abandoned until 1990, when work on the construction of underground parking for a new market began, only to be halted shortly afterwards by the discovery of Roman ruins beneath. These can now be seen in the Antiquarium, the museum in the basement of the complex, and include a fish salting factory, esidential buildings and some well preserved mosaics. It’s well worth a visit, and is a nice contrast to the modern structure above. At ground level is the market, reinstalled in a modern market hall in its original location, and the main commercial hub of the neighbourhood. The roof of the market hall forms a plaza which holds various public events, such as small concerts and the christmas fair. From the basement take a lift up to the bar and walkways on the top of the structure for great views across the city.

IMG_7553Seasonal mushrooms in the market of the Mushrooms

Almost next door, our holiday apartments in Calle Laraña have views of the Mushrooms and are within easy walking distance of other sights and facilities.

Seville | Casa Pilatos

IMG_7174Main entrance on Plaza de Pilatos

With the obvious exception of the Royal Palaces of the Alcázar, the Casa de Pilatos (Pilate’s House) is the largest and historically most important of the grand palaces of Seville, and is still the family home of the Dukes of Medinaceli. It can be found in the eastern part of the old city, between the Santa Cruz and Santa Catalina, in the Plaza de Pilatos.

Construction of the palace (originally the Palacio de San Andrés) was begun in 1483, at the transition of the mediaeval to the early modern period, by Pedro Enriquez de Quiñones and his second wife Catalina de Rivera, and was continued by their son Fadrique Enriquez de Rivera, 1st Marquis of Tarifa. In 1519 Fadrique went on a pilgrimage to the holy places of Jerusalem, returning in 1520 by way of Italy, both of which experiences greatly influenced him. The following year he instituted the Holy Way of the Cross as a reproduction of the original in Jerusalem, starting from the palace (which became known as the Casa de Pilatos) and leading to the Cruz del Campo (the Cross in the Field), which can still be seen in the modern suburb of Nervion, and which lends its name to the local beer, Cruzcampo, which used to be brewed nearby.

IMG_7180Main courtyard with fountain and statuary

Entrance to the Palace is through an Italian Renaissance style gate of the early 16th century, which leads into the apeadero (a reception courtyard for carriages), and beyond that to the Patio Principal, a typical Andalusian courtyard paved with marble, an Italian marble fountain, and colonnades decorated in the Mudejar (Moorish) style. The courtyard is adorned with the busts of twenty four Spanish kings and Roman emperors, with four of the most important pieces of the Palace’s collection of sculptures in the corners.

On the far side of the courtyard is the Palace chapel, known as the Chapel of Flagellation for its central statue of Christ being whipped. Built and decorated in the Mudejar-Gothic style, it’s possibly the oldest room in the palace. To the right is the Praetor’s room, which although a slightly later product of alterations to the courtyard, is notable for the mudejar decoration of its walls, and the beautiful caisson coffered ceiling with the coats of arms of the family line.

IMG_7222Ceiling of the Praetor’s study

Beneath the tower is the Praetor’s study, which connects the courtyard with the large garden. The walls are covered with ceramic tiles in a number of different patterns and there is a superb ceiling with a ten sided star in the centre.

The grand staircase is probably the most magnificent part of the building, connecting the more public space of the patio with the private family quarters on the upper floor. Sumptuously decorated with colourful tiles, its crowning glory is the mudejar honeycomb ceiling, modelled on the one in the Ambassador’s room in the Alcázar. The upper floor itself recreates the interior of the house palace with mudejar plasterwork and ornate wood ceilings and contains artworks by Francisco Pacheco, Goya and Luca Giordano, among others.

IMG_7229Grotto in the large garden

My favourite parts of the palace, though, are the two gardens. The large garden, originally the orchard, was created in the second half of the 16th century by an extension of the palace to enclose it. The layout and decoration are in the Italian renaissance style, complete with a grotto in one corner, and niches for the archaeological exhibits shown there. The small garden (el Jardin Chico) was created from two small gardens in the early 20th century, and has a pool that was once fed by water from the Roman aqueducts, a rare privilege enjoyed by few, and which made owning a garden a sign of social distinction.

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The charming Jardin Chico

Casa de Pilatos
Plaza de Pilatos, 1
Tel: +34 954 225 298
Website
Opening Times: 9.00 am to 6.00 pm (7.00 pm Apr-Oct)
Price 8 euros including audioguide and guided tour of upper floor

Seville | The Squares of Santa Cruz

The Santa Cruz is the best known of Seville’s old neighbourhoods, and corresponds roughly to the late mediaeval Jewish quarter. It’s a major part of the oldest section of the city, but although it’s still based on the old Roman street layout and has many authentically old buildings, it actually owes much of its picturesque charm to the renovations and general prettifying that began in the Napoleonic era and peaked during the preparations for the 1929 Spanish American exhibition.

river walk 35Plaza Virgen de los Reyes

La Plaza Virgen de los Reyes (Virgin of the kings) is the classic square behind the Cathedral and in front of the Barrio Santa Cruz. It’s enclosed by three of Seville’s most important historic buildings, the cathedral (including the Giralda tower), the Archbishop’s Palace and the former Hospital of Santa Marta that now houses the Convent of the Incarnation. Although these buildings date back 500 years or more, the square itself was only created in the 18th century by the demolition of the Church’s administrative buildings within it, and its modern form was achieved with the remodelling of the entrance to Mateos Gago in the 1920s. The fountain and ornamental streetlight in the centre was added for the 1929 Spanish-American. Spend a few moments in the shade of the orange trees enjoying the view of the tower and doing some people watching.

photo 2 (12)Classic view of the Giralda from Patio de Banderas

From Los Reyes take a short detour into Plaza Santa Marta, the little square at the end of alley behind the statue of the Pope, and discover an oasis of peace and quiet. The cross in the centre dates to 1564, but was only brought here in the early 20th century from the old hospital of San Lorenzo in the Macarena. The door to the right is the back entrance to the Monastery of the Incarnation.

Next to Los Reyes is the “second square”, La Plaza del Triunfo, which is effectively the World Heritage centre, with the Cathedral, the Alcázar Palace and the Archivos de Indias on three sides, and the Casa de la Provincia on the fourth. The walls are over a thousand years old, and were once the outer walls of the city. The square takes its name from the small monument in front of the Archivos, erected in 1757 to commemorate the Cathedral surviving the Great Lisbon Earthquake. Like many others the square was remodelled in the early 20th century, and the monument to the Immaculate Conception was erected at this time.

santa cruz 010Plaza Santa Marta

Through the archway beside the square is the Patio de Banderas (Courtyard of the Flags), where the Kings of Spain once greeted foreign ambassadors. The rectangular promenade around the outside is formed by two rows of orange trees, but the fountain that used to grace its centre has disappeared since the recent archaeological investigations into the earliest stages of the Palace’s history.

Passing up the street alongside the wall brings you to the Plaza de la Alianza (formerly the Plaza del Pozo Seco or dry well), a charming little square with a simple central fountain, and a couple of bar terraces from which to enjoy it.

santa cruz 074Plaza Doña Elvira

Follow the wall to reach Plaza Doña Elvira, possibly the most picturesque little square in Seville, and certainly one of the most frequented by tourists. During the day it seems to be almost full of restaurant tables and chairs, but don’t let that put you off enjoying its ceramic benches, fountain and orange trees. It’s supposedly the birthplace of Doña Elvira, the impossible love of Don Juan.

santa cruz 045Plaza Alfaro 

Carry on along the wall through Life Street and Water Street, and past the Washington Irving house, and you’ll come to the Plaza Alfaro, the little square at the entrance to the Murillo Gardens. Look for the Moreton Bay fig trees just inside the gardens, the water pipes in the exposed end of the old wall, and the circular balcony on the corner of the Casa Palacio.

santa cruz 049La Cerrajería, Plaza Santa Cruz

Just beyond is the Plaza Santa Cruz, which was once the site of one the Jewish quarter’s three synagogues, destroyed in the pogrom of 1391. It was replaced by the original parish church of Santa Cruz, demolished in turn in 1811 during the Napoleonic era to create the square as it is today. The rather strange metal sculpture in the centre is the Cruz de la Cerrajería with its serpents and four book-reading little figures on the corners, moved here from Calle Sierpes in 1921.

santa cruz 051Plaza de los Refinadores

Down Calle Mezquita you come to Plaza de los Refinadores (the refiners). I love the circular benches around the palm trees (sadly, two have recently had to be cut down), which make a quiet and shady spot for a few minutes tranquil contemplation. The statue is of Don Juan Tenorio, the legendary womaniser, and was erected in 1975. Also of interest is the house on the corner with the big window balcony, designed for Luis Prieto by Aníbal González, who also designed the Plaza de España.

santa cruz 056Las Cruces

Through tiny Calle Mariscal you come to Plaza de las Cruces, surprisingly not named for the crosses on the columns, which arrived later than the name, but for the wooden crosses at the far end of the street. Turn left there and walk up the hill, and near the top you’ll find a little alley on your right. Through a door at the end is the tiny Plaza de la Escuela de Cristo, one of my favourites for its sheer unexpectedness.

IMG_7146-001Plaza Escuela del Cristo

For a great base to explore the Santa Cruz, we have a wide range of quality holiday apartments around this enchanting neighbourhood.