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Posts tagged ‘cathedral’

Seville | Giraldas Around the World

cathedral terraceview of the Giralda Tower from our Cathedral Terrace apartment

The Giralda Tower beside Seville Cathedral is beyond doubt the city’s best known icon, and the visitor’s first sight of it, usually from the Plaza de la Virgen de los Reyes, leaves a lasting impression. It was originally built as the minaret of the Grand Mosque in the last two decades of the 12th century by the Almohads, the Moorish dynasty who ruled over southern Spain and Morocco, and who also built the very similar minarets in Rabat and Marrakesh. The belfry and weathervane were added later by the Christians, in a renaissance style that harmonises remarkably well with the Moorish arched windows and abstract patterns of the exterior of the main section of the tower. The overall classic simplicity of effect has inspired numerous architects and builders around the world to copy it, and the fruits of their labours can be seen in some unexpected places.

Kansas City GiraldaKansas City
Perhaps the most famous of these Giraldas is the one in Kansas City. It was built in the 1920s by Kansas City developer JC Nichols, who was so impressed by the original that he added a half scale replica to his new shopping centre, the Country Club Plaza. In 1967 Seville and Kansas City became twinned, and in the Avenida Kansas City in Seville you can find a statue of a Cherokee Indian that is a copy of an original in Kansas City.

miami giraldaMiami and Chicago
Miami has not just one, but two, buildings inspired by the Giralda, both dating to the 1920s. The Biltmore Hotel, after being used as a hospital during the war years, then a medical school followed by a period when it was abandoned, is now once more a luxury hotel. In the 1930s Johnny Weismuller (Tarzan) worked there as a swimming instructor.

The Freedom Tower was built for the Miami News newspaper, and is now a contemporary arts museum. It has a twin in Chicago, the Wrigley Tower, built by the same architects as the headquarters of the chewing gum company.

madison square giraldaNew York
The New York Giralda stood alongside the Second Madison Square Garden from 1890 until 1925, when it was demolished to make way for an office building. It was designed by Stanford White and topped by a statue of the goddess Diana, rather than the representation of Faith on the original.

Other towers in the USA inspired by the Giralda are the Minneapolis Railroad Depot (destroyed in a storm in 1941), the San Francisco Ferry building and the Terminal Tower in Cleveland.

Spain
carmona san pedro church towerAs you might expect there are a number of similar looking, but less grand, church towers in southern Spain that actually date from the same period and like the Giralda, are converted minarets. But there are several more Giraldas in Spain that are deliberate later copies. In Carmona, not far from Seville, is the 18th century tower of the church of San Pedro. Also 18th century is the church tower of Santa Maria in Ecija. More recent versions can be found in Tarragona and in the central square in Badajoz, both from the early 20th century.

For a holiday home with an unrivalled view of the original, try our Giralda Terrace apartments, or our top of the range Cathedral Terrace. You won’t be disappointed.

Malaga | Malaga Cathedral, “La Manquita”

Malaga is one of my all time favourite cities, with a unique combination of sea, mountains, historic monuments, good food, and an indefinable feel-good factor. In recent years it has enjoyed something of a renaissance, with lots of new museums and restaurants, and a complete redevelopment of the old inner harbour as a shopping and recreational area. I love Málaga for the individuality and charm that this mix of old and new gives it, as well as some of its idiosyncracies and the stories behind them. On a recent photo-shoot trip I met up with Victor Garrido from We Love Malaga. Victor has a story for just about every street and street corner in town and one of his favourites is about La Manquita.

malaga cathedralview of the finished Cathedral tower and the unfinished La Manquita in front

If you look above the facade of Malaga Cathedral, you’ll see the cathedral’s north tower, which is 84 metres tall, making it the second highest in Andalucia. But the south tower was never completed, barely rising above the rest of the façade, giving the cathedral an uneven, lopsided appearance. The Malaguenos have a special affection for this “flaw” in the construction, and for this reason the cathedral is popularly referred to as “La Manquita”, the one-armed woman. And of course there is a story behind this. But first a bit of background.

Founded by the Phoenicians, Malaga became a Roman colony (you can see the amphitheatre near the cathedral), and then for more than 700 years it was ruled by the Islamic Moors from North Africa, whose legacy can still be seen in the Alcazaba and Gibralfaro fortresses. Finally, in 1487, it was conquered by the Catholic Monarchs Ferdinand and Isabel. Such a major city naturally required a proper Christian cathedral to mark its new ownership, and Ferdinand and Isabel decreed that it should be built on the site of the Aljama Mosque. Like many cathedrals from those times it was intended to be the most important public building in the city and to show the prosperity and piety of its citizens.

malaga victorVictor Garrido and friend posing in front of La Manquita

In fact, since the necessary funds were not provided by the Crown, and had to be raised by local charitable subscription, work on the Holy Church Cathedral Basilica of the Incarnation (to give the cathedral it’s full proper name) did not actually begin until 1528, following plans laid down by the architect Diego de Siloé, and as with many privately funded major projects, progress was often slow. Construction lasted over 250 years, and when a halt was finally called in 1782, the south tower was still incomplete. Although sufficient funds had been collected to see the work through, it seems that moneys had been diverted from their original purpose.

The central figure in the story was one Bernardo de Gálvez y Madrid, a native of the province of Málaga, who in the 1770s as the Spanish colonial administrator in Louisiana, was active in supplying arms and equipment to the American rebels fighting for independence from England, who were therefore regarded as natural allies by England’s continental rivals. By diplomatic necessity the funds had to be acquired “off the books”, and were siphoned off from the cathedral construction project. Gálvez is, in fact, one of the unsung heroes of American independence, although the town of Galveston in Texas is named after him, and Málaga is the only city in Spain that celebrates the 4th of July – it’s known as Bernardo de Galvez’s day.

In 1998 the city of Málaga received a delegation from Texas, who offered to return the money, as commemorated by a plaque at the bottom of the unfinished tower, but after being left “incomplete” for over 200 years, it was decided that it should stay that way, as the Malaguenos like it.

We have apartments available for your holiday in Malaga, including this one close to the Cathedral.

Seville | A Day Trip to Cádiz

Cadiz Cathedral

Cadiz Cathedral

One of my favourite places for a day trip is the city of Cadiz, which is less than two hours away from Seville by train on Spain’s southwest coast. Founded by the Phoenicians some three thousand years ago, it is probably the oldest city in Europe, and has always been one of the country’s most important seaports. Located at the end of a long, partly artificial promontory, and surrounded by the sea on three sides, it’s also one of the prettiest. And just the right size to walk around in an afternoon.

When you arrive make your way into the old centre through Plaza San Juan de Dios, newly renovated with little fountains, and with the impressive town hall at the far end, and head for Plaza Catedral. Grab an empanada for elevenses at the little shop opposite the baroque façade of the 18th century cathedral, which will set you up for the rest of the morning. From there, go through the Arco-de-la-Rosa into the Barrio del Populi, which is the oldest part of Cadiz, and has quite a different feel to the rest of the city. Although it’s small it’s surprisingly easy to get lost in the maze of narrow streets. Nearby on the seafront is the impressive Roman theatre, only rediscovered under some old warehouses in 1980. From there it’s another short walk to the recently reopened central market, with its impressive displays of fruit and veg, fresh meat, and especially, an enormous variety of fresh fish and seafood. It’s one of my favourite stops in Cadiz.

Urta - a local fish

Urta – a local fish

Time for lunch. Have some starters at Casa Manteca (The House of Lard), making sure to sample that local speciality, “chicharrones especial”, before going to Restaurante El Faro for some topnotch fish and seafood. Try the “arroz negro” (rice with squid-ink) for a special treat.

Back on the sea front turn right and follow the coastal fortifications; Castillo San Sebastian, brooding out in the bay at the end of its causeway, from one angle looking like a great ship, and Santa Catalina on the corner of the headland, looking out over the Atlantic in three directions. Stop for a drink on the seafront terrace of the Parador hotel before visiting Parque Genovése next door, a botanical garden with a wonderful collection of strange trees and an artificial waterfall, and definitely not to be missed.

La Caleta

La Caleta

Time now to be heading home, taking the direct route across the middle of the old city. The pattern of the streets here is quite regular, and it’s not hard to find your way to the two big public squares, Plaza San Antonio and Plaza Mina, monuments to 19th century civic pride.  I love both these places to stop and stare for a while, but they are quite different in character, San Antonio wide and light and airy, surrounded by mansions and San Antonio church, while Plaza Mina is like a garden, filled with trees and exotic plants. It’s also the home of the Archaeological Museum. Other things to see include the Torre Tavira, the last of the old watchtowers from which the merchants would look out to see for the safe return of their ships, and the Oratorio de la Cueva, a 17th century chapel underground chapel.

View of Cadiz from La Caleta

View of Cadiz from La Caleta

How to get there: The best way to get there is by train. You can book online, at the Renfe booking office in Calle Zaragoza, or at Santa Justa station. Trains run approximately every one and a half hours, and the journey time is a little under two hours. A return ticket (ida y vuelta) costs around 25 euros.

Seville | World Heritage Centre

At the south end of the old centre of Seville is an outstanding group of three buildings that were registered as a World Heritage Site by Unesco in 1987, comprising the Cathedral and Giralda Tower, the Alcázar Royal Palace complex and the General Archive of the Indies.

archivo india, cathedral, alcazar

Cathedral and Giralda Tower

The Cathedral stands on the site of the former Grand Mosque built by the Almohad kings between 1184 and 1198. The Mosque was converted to a cathedral when the city was reconquered by the Christian king of Castile in 1248, but after it was badly damaged in an earthquake in 1356, the decision was taken to demolish it, and build a completely new Cathedral in its place. At the meeting of the church council in 1401 where the decision was made one of the members is said to have proposed “Let us build a church so beautiful and so great that those who see it built will think we were mad”. The work lasted for over 150 years, including substantial rebuilding after the collapse of the lantern in 1511, the Capilla Real (Royal Chapel) only being finished in 1575. The result is the world’s largest Gothic cathedral, and the third largest church in the world after Saint Paul’s and Saint Peter’s. Inside there are more than 80 chapels, and a massive gold altarpiece, as well as the tomb of Christopher Columbus. Curiosities include a stuffed crocodile outside the Puerto de Lagarto.

The Giralda Tower, now the bell tower of the Cathedral, was originally the minaret of the Mosque, the bells and upper portions, including the statue that gives the tower its name, being added in 1568. You can climb the tower up the internal ramp, and the view from the top over the roofs of the city is one of the highlights of any visit to Seville, and endlessly fascinating.

Admission is €8.75, €2 for students and pensioners. Free to disabled, under-16s, and those born or resident in Seville.

The Real Alcázar

The first fortress and palace was built as long ago as the 10th century, but little remains from this period. The outer walls that we see today are from the 11th century, but the main palace dates from the time of Peter the Cruel in the 14th century, with later additions. The palace is still an official residence of the King of Spain, making it the oldest palace in continuous use in Europe.

Much of the palace was built in the style known as Mudejar, the mix of Islamic and Christian styles that defined the period.

Highlights include the Courtyard of the Maidens (legend has it that the Moorish kings extracted an annual tribute of 100 young girls from their Christian subjects), with its reflecting pool and sunken gardens, the Baths of Lady María of Padilla, which are actually rainwater tanks beneath the palace, and the Pool of Mercury in the Palace gardens.

Admission is €8, or €3 for students and pensioners.

General Archive of the Indies

The building that now houses the General Archive of the Indies was built between 1584 and 1598 as the commodities exchange for the merchants engaged in the trade with the New World. Before that time the merchants had been in the habit of transacting their business on the steps of the Cathedral, or even inside when it was either too hot or raining, causing considerable friction with the church authorities (the contemporary depiction of the expulsion of the moneylenders from the temple above one of the doors of the cathedral may have been inspired by this).

Later, after the monopoly of the Americas trade passed to Cádiz, the building fell into disuse, until Charles III decreed in 1785 that it should be used to house all the documentation relating to the Spanish American Empire. The archive is still one of the most important in the world for historical research, although many of the documents are now in a building across the street.

Admission is free and there are often interesting special exhibitions.

We have four luxury apartments with stunning views of this very special place, the Catedral Terrace and the three Giralda Terrace apartments.

Seville | Things to do When it Rains

Although Seville enjoys around 300 days of sunshine a year, from time to time, particularly in winter – for example, like this week – you can get relatively long spells of wet weather. But it would be a shame to let that spoil your holiday, so we’ve come up with a list of suggestions for things to do for those rare occasions when the sun isn’t shining.

rainy plazaPlaza de la Alfalfa

Go to the cinema
The Avenida 5 Cines complex in Calle Marques de Paradas shows current movies in original versions. Curl up with your favourite stars and never mind the weather. Check the programme here (it changes every Friday).

The Museum of Fine Arts
One of Spain’s most important art museums with works by all the Spanish old masters including local boys made good Velazquez and Murillo. It’s in a lovely old building that was once the convent of the Order of Merced Calzada de la Asunción. Well worth taking a couple of hours.

The Cathedral
The Cathedral is on your list anyway, and you don’t want to waste good sunshine time indoors, so visit it now. It’s the biggest Gothic cathedral, and third largest church, in the world, but it isn’t just big, it’s actually rather interesting, with the tomb of Christopher Columbus, lots of gold, and a stuffed crocodile.

eating in the rainGo Shopping
Another of those activities that normally keeps you indoors when you’d rather be outdoors. Take advantage of the fact that everyone else is still at home to shop in peace. You don’t even have to buy anything unless you really want to.

Tapas Bars
Find a nice cosy tapas bars and order up a round (or two) of food and drinks. Sit where you can watch the poor unfortunates outside hurrying past with their umbrellas, and feel suitably smug because you’re on holiday. Or put your own umbrella to good use like this fellow and defy the elements.

The Antiquarium and Encarnación Market
Going topside may not be so great in the rain (though there are some nice bars up there), but going down under the “mushrooms” in the Plaza de la Encarnación takes you to the Roman ruins and museum. Marvel at the mosaics, columns, walls and wells while listening to the rain on the roof. If you’re there in the morning you can also take a stroll through the Encarnación market on the main level. This will work up your appetite ready for lunch.

Stay at Home
It may be the last resort, but you’re staying in a warm, comfy veoapartment, and there’s something primevally satisfying about being indoors and listening to the rain outside. So grab a book and a glass of wine, turn on the telly and settle down for an hour or two. The sun will be out soon enough.