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Posts from the ‘Jewish quarter’ Category

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.

Seville | The Jews and the Old Jewish Quarter

santa cruz 030Corner of Agua & Vida (Water & Life)

The Barrio (neighbourhood) of Santa Cruz is perhaps the best known and most iconic in the historic centre of Seville, with its patchwork of small squares and picturesque narrow streets that help to keep the heat of the summer at bay. It’s also the oldest inhabited part of the city, dating back to the time of the Romans and even beyond. Although it was only for some 250 years of its more than two thousand year history, part of its romance certainly comes from the fact that this was the old Jewish quarter of the city in the late mediaeval period of the Christian Reconquista.

No one really knows when the Jews first came to Seville, or Spain (known to them as the Sepharad) generally. The first definitive written record is from the Vizigoths at the beginning of the 6th century, but they seem by then to have already been a substantial and well-settled community, numerous enough to be considered a problem by the Vizigothic kings, especially after the conversion of the Vizigothic royal family to Catholicism in 587. They had probably first settled in number in the diaspora that followed the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem by the Emperor Titus in 70 AD, but some believe that they were here much earlier, equating Tarshish of the Old Testament with the realm of Tartessos in southwestern Spain.

santa cruz 019-001Casa number 6

The Golden Age of the Jews in Spain was under the Caliphate of Córdoba in the 10th century, a period of unusual religious tolerance, when Jews came to the cities of southern Spain from all over Europe and the Mediterranean and mingled with Arab scholars and Christians to create a unique culture. It was all too brief. After the end of the Caliphate a renewed influx of fundamentalist Moslems led to renewed persecutions. Many Jews fled to the Christian realms to the north, where, despite mistrust and sometimes hostility, they were generally welcomed as valuable allies against the Moors, and in 1248, when Ferdinand III captured Seville, it was the Jews who presented him with the keys of the city.

1-juderia wall-001Wall of the Jewish Quarter

It is this event that marks the beginning of the Jewish quarter as it’s remembered today. Although the Jews were confined to the Jewish quarter, which was separated from the rest of the city by its own wall, a short section of which can still be seen in Calle Fabiola, and had to wear a yellow badge to identify them, they enjoyed a century or more of prosperity until the civil war in the time of Peter I. Increasing hostility on the part of the Church, and the anti-Semitism of Peter’s rival Henry, culminated in Seville in the great pogrom of 1391, when a mob broke into the Juderia and murdered some 4,000 Jews. In the aftermath many more fled, and others submitted to baptism and became conversos. Two of the three main synagogues became churches, including the Santa Cruz church (now the Plaza Santa Cruz). Although (or perhaps because) many of the conversos were wealthy, and also suspected of keeping to the old religion in secret, they remained targets of hostility. Finally, in 1478, the Catholic Monarchs Ferdinand and Isabella established the Spanish Inquisition, which claimed its first casualties in 1481, before expelling all unconverted Jews from Andalucia in 1483. The Jewish quarter was no more.

0007_veo-2Plaza Santa Cruz

Much of the area underwent a decline in the following period, but with programs of urban renewal in the 18th century, in the Napoleonic period, and particularly in the preparations for the 1929 Spanish-American exhibition, it gained a new lease of life as a tourist attraction. Today it sees tens of thousands of visitors a year, who come to enjoy its colour and its history. Its little squares, such as the Plaza Elvira, Los Refinadores and the Santa Cruz are indeed among the most beautiful in the city, and the narrow streets with their tiles and balconies work their magic on even the most blasé. Plenty of places to sit outside a bar and watch the world go by too, and some of those little secret places like the Plaza Escuela de Cristo or Santa Marta which you might miss if you don’t know how to find them. The shades of Don Juan and Doña Iñes de Ulloa still walk these streets, brushing shoulders with Carmen the tobacco girl and Cervantes, and many another.

To experience it best rent one of our Santa Cruz apartments, and spend a few days living in one of Europe’s most atmospheric neighbourhoods.

Seville | Plaza España and the 1929 Exhibition

1-IMG_5240Plaza de España

Seville has played host to two major international exhibitions in the last 100 years, the 1929 Spanish American exhibition, mainly intended to promote the commonwealth of Spain and the former Spanish colonies in Latin America (but also including the US, Portugal and Brazil), and the 1992 Universal Exhibition commemorating the 500th anniversary of the discovery of America by Christopher Columbus.

Perhaps surprisingly, given that it’s further back in time, it’s the site and remaining buildings of the 1929 exhibition that are of the greatest interest to the visitor. It is, of course, much closer to the city centre, but the site is also in and around Seville’s largest park, the Maria Luisa. The park was once the gardens of the Palacio San Telmo, but was donated to the city in 1893. Following the 1910 decision to hold an exhibition in Seville, the gardens were remodelled by the famous landscape gardener Jean-Claude Forestier, and in 1914 Anibal González, the architect in charge of the project, began construction work on the pavilions.

1-april102013 162Statue of Anibal Gonzalez

Eighteen countries took part, and although many of the minor buildings have gone, most of the national pavilions, many of which were intended to become consulates of their respective countries after the expo finished in June 1930, are still in use, together with some of the other principal pavilions, and can be found either in or near the park, and along the Paseo de las Delicias.

The park itself is Seville’s largest green space, and was designed as a “Moorish Paradise”, with ponds, pavilions and walkways, and the famous Fountains of the Frogs and the Lions.

The centrepiece of the exhibition was the Plaza España and the surrounding semicircle of the Spanish pavilion. Built in a mixture of art deco and neo-Mudejar (an early 20th century revival of late Moorish architecture), this held the largest Spanish exhibit, the Salon of Discoveries, about the exploration of the New World. Nowadays the building mostly houses government offices, as well as a small military museum. In front of the pavilion are the forty alcoves representing all the provinces of Spain, with illustrations in ceramic tiles of important scenes from their histories. The four bridges across the boating lake to the Plaza represent the four ancient kingdoms of Spain. Everything is decorated in a profusion of tiles showcasing the craftsmanship of Seville’s ceramics industry. Not surprisingly the complex has featured in a number of films, including Star Wars – Attack of the Clones, Lawrence of Arabia and The Dictator.

1-photo 2 (1)Plaza de España boating lake and tower

Other important buildings in the park include the Palacio Mudejar (now the Museum of Popular Culture), the Palacio Renacimiento (now the Archaeological Museum), and the Palacio de la Casa Real, all in the Plaza America at the far end of the park, and the horseshoe shaped pavilion of the Telephone Company (now the Gardening School), just beyond the Plaza España.

mudejarPalacio Mudejar

Prominent among the national pavilions, and worth looking out for, are those of Portugal (next to the Prado San Sebastian), Peru (now the Casa de las Ciencias), and those of Argentina and Mexico (both now used as schools) on the Paseo de las Delicias.

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Pavilion of Argentina

Preparations for the 1929 exhibition also included the building of new hotels (most notably the splendid Alfonso XIII for the Royal family and visiting heads of state), the widening of many streets, including what is now the Avenida de la Constitución, and the refurbishment of the old Jewish quarter as a tourist attraction. This area is a perfect place to rent an apartment to explore the old expo site and Seville’s other principal monuments.

Seville | 7 Secret Corners of Seville

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fountain in Plaza Cabildo

Chances are that if you come to Seville you’re going to do all or most of the standard tourist sights – the Cathedral, the Alcázar, the Plaza de España and the Metropol Parasol are my personal big four, and are worth a few hours of anybody’s time, and there are other well-known attractions, too. But there are other places, each with their own special charm or story, that you quite probably wouldn’t find, or whose significance you wouldn’t realise, unless they were pointed out to you. They’re not really secret, of course, but some of them are hard to find (others are hidden in plain sight), but I think they’re all worth making the effort to visit. There are a few others that didn’t make the final cut for one reason or another, such as the Atarazanas, Plaza Doña Elvira or the Corral del Conde, and other locals could probably add some more, too. But here are my personal seven favourite secret corners of Seville.

Roman Pillars in Calle Marmoles

On the corner of a couple of quiet residential streets between the Barrio Santa Cruz and the city centre you might stumble across three pillars that are all that’s left of a Roman temple. These are the oldest structures still in situ in Seville, though two more columns from here can be seen at the entrance to the Alameda de Hercules. Their rather humdrum location just makes their age all the more impressive.

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pillars of Roman Temple

The Judería Wall in Calle Fabiola

Okay, it’s just an unremarkable short section of ten-foot high wall, with no plaques or memorials to tell you what you’re looking at, but this is, in fact, the only remaining section of the wall that once enclosed the late mediaeval Jewish quarter, separating it from the rest of the city. A good place to stop and ponder on human stupidity for a moment. Then go and have a beer.

 

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the Wall of the Juderia

Plaza Cabildo

The Plaza Cabildo is a half-moon shaped square that can be reached through a covered passageway directly opposite the main entrance to the cathedral on Avenida de la Constitución. The flat side is part of an old internal city wall, but the semicircular building with the decorated “eaves” is from the 1930s. Of interest is a little shop that sells confectionary and other items made in some of Seville’s convents, named El Torno after the little turntable that kept you from seeing the nuns, and on Sundays there’s a collectors’ market.

cabildo

 

detail – Plaza del Cabildo

Plaza Santa Marta

This is another little square that you probably wouldn’t find if you didn’t know it was there. It’s at the end of a little alleyway behind the statue of the Pope in the Plaza Virgen de Los Reyes, which in less time than it takes you to say “Where does this go?” leads you from the bustle of the city centre to a quiet, secluded nook shaded by orange trees. Purely coincidentally the collectors´market was held here before it relocated to the Plaza Cabildo.

Baths of Doña Maria Padilla

This is one of my favourite places in the whole of Seville. They can be found in (or at least under) the Alcázar Palace. They’re rather inappropriately named, being neither baths, nor belonging to Doña Maria Padilla, although she was contemporary, being the mistress of Pedro I, who built the main palace. They are, rather mundanely, rainwater tanks storing water for the gardens, but the long vaulted chambers, the play of light on the water and the muffled quiet make this quite unique.

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Baths of Doña Maria de Padilla

Casa Moreno

This little abacería (a small specialist food shop with a bar in the back) in Calle Gamazo has an atmosphere all its own. Don’t be intimidated by the fact that it looks semi-private and is full of locals, it’s really very friendly. Just go in, and have a beer and a couple of montaditos, and come away with that feeling you’ve touched the soul of Seville.

Plaza de la Escuela de Cristo

This tiny square, not much more than a patio, between the Santa Cruz church and the seminary, is the closest thing to a real secret on this list, as it’s only semi public, the entrance door (at the end of an alley off Calle Ximenez de Enciso) being locked at night. But with its cobblestones, orange trees, fountain and a cross in one corner it has an undeniable special charm.

1-plaza escuela de cristo

Plaza de Escuela de Cristo

In addition to these there are hundreds of buildings with charming courtyards or ornate decoration. Many of our apartments in the historic centre can be found in such locations, making you feel a part of this beautiful city.

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Patio San Isidoro apartment building

Seville | Plaza Doña Elvira



elvira (2)Doña Elvira Square

Even in Seville, a city justly famous for its charming squares and other nooks, the Plaza de Doña Elvira in the Santa Cruz neighbourhood, even today still known as the old Jewish quarter, has to be one of the prettiest and most enchanting places you will ever see. It’s quite small, and is lined by orange trees and colourful tiled benches around an area of cobbled paving, flowerbeds, ornamental streetlights, and a central fountain. It’s reputed to be the birthplace (in what is now the Hotel Doña Elvira) of Dona Ines de Ulloa, the unrequited passion of Don Juan Tenorio, one of Seville’s most quintessential figures, immortalized first by Tirso de Molina, and later by Mozart in Don Giovanni.

elviratypical tiled bench

The approach to the Plaza along Rodrigo Caro street, around the walls of the Real Alcázar, is one of the most picturesque in the city, and anyone visiting the city should take the time to follow it. In Roman and Vizigothic times this area was outside the city walls, and was only enclosed by the Moors the ninth century. The pattern of narrow streets for which the Santa Cruz is famous, and which is typical of mediaeval Islamic cities, was created at this time, and the area of the modern square was probably occupied by a small block of houses.

elvira (3)After Ferdinand III reconquered the city for the Christians in 1248, he allocated this neighbourhood to the Jews and enclosed it with high walls (the only remaining piece can be seen in Calle Fabiola). There was often tension between the Jewish and Christian communities, but in the years following the Black Death (1349) and the great earthquake of 1356, these tensions mounted until in 1391 the Christians went on a rampage through the Jewish quarter, looting, burning and killing. Most of the remaining Jews fled, or were scattered around the city.

After the pogrom, Henry III gave the neighbourhood to Don Pedro Lopez de Ayala, and it was his daughter, Doña Elvira, who gave her name to the square. Their palace occupied part of the modern plaza, and had a small stable yard open to the street, forming a small square known as the Plaza de los Caballos. In the 16th century the yard was rented for the comedy theatre popular at the time (this was contemporary with Elizabethan theatre in England, with which it had much in common), and was known as the “Corral de Doña Elvira”.

Later, after the local authorities had banned the theatre performances, the yard was used as a warehouse, until in 1826, as part of a plan to revitalise the area, it was demolished, and the square enlarged to its present size (it probably acquired its current name at the same time), with the central fountain and benches. In 1924, as part of the preparations for the Spanish-American Exposition of 1929, the streetlights and flowerbeds were added, giving the square its modern appearance.

elvira (4)tiled plaque on the Doña Elvira house

We have a great selection of holiday apartments in this neighbourhood to give you the perfect base for exploring.