Seville | The Corral del Conde
From the outside it looks rather forbidding, an almost featureless city block sized outer wall, with only some small windows to relieve the monotony. Well, those and a big wooden front door with an impressive number of apartment buzzers.
I’m standing outside the Corral del Conde (The name derives from the fact that it once belonged to the Condé Duque de Olivares) in Calle Santiago, reputed to be the oldest and most complete surviving corral de vecinos (courtyard of neighbours) in Seville, dating from the 16th century, and therefore a building of considerable historical and cultural interest. Outside, however, does not give you any real clue as to what awaits inside.
Going through the door you find yourself in a large courtyard formed by three stories of rustic style flats that also form the outer wall of the corral. The courtyard has a cobblestone surface, numerous trees and a central “fountain” which was once the communal washing facility. The flats are quite small, and these days are mostly occupied by youngish singles and couples, and it’s not unusual, particularly when the weather is right, for people to eat, relax or even work outdoors in a social atmosphere.
This communal life, however, is only a shadow of what life would have been like here in the heyday of these buildings. Their origins extend back into Moorish times, but it was in the 16th century, when the promise of wealth from the trade with the new world was drawing people to the city in search of a fortune, or work at least, and its population was growing rapidly, that these communities expanded in both size and number. They were generally home to the lower social strata of society, and a dozen to fifteen people living in each room seems to have been the norm, so that a corral the size of the Conde would have housed around a thousand people, with communal washing and cooking facilities in the courtyard. It’s hard to imagine the press of humanity and the appalling living conditions that such numbers imply, but thankfully those days are gone.
table set for lunch in the communal courtyard
With many corrales now lost, abandoned, or in poor repair, it was fascinating to be able to visit the Conde, and to see how it is entering a new phase of its existence. On this occasion we were there for a social event, a small lunch party being held in the courtyard by a couple of friends who live there, and we were able to enjoy the unique atmosphere of the large courtyard. Even the weather, cloudy in the morning, brightened up for our meal, finishing with one of those bright blue Seville skies that is rarely seen elsewhere.
neighbours add personal touches to the outside of their homes
Veoapartment is fortunate enough to be the agent for two holiday apartments in this complex, a unique opportunity for visitors who want to see the city from a different perspective. The setting is both picturesque and stunningly beautiful, as well as being in a good location for all the other things you’ll want to do on a holiday in Seville.