Tag Archives: metropol parasols

Seville | Roman Seville

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El Salvador church, site of the Roman basilica

Once upon a time, as we all know, the Roman Empire was the largest the western world had ever seen, and ruled most of the then known world, from Africa in the south to Britannia in the north, and from Syria in the east to the Atlantic Ocean in the west. In 206 BC a modest town in the southwest of Spain called Ispal was conquered from the Carthaginians by the Roman general Scipio. Over the centuries, and through a variety of changes of name (Hispalis of the Romans, Isbilya of the Moors, and finally Sevilla of the Spanish) and fortune, it would become the city of Seville that we know today.

Although the physical remains of the Roman period are sparse, Roman civilisation has left an enduring legacy, so much so that Julius Caesar, who was governor here in the first century BC, is credited with being one of Seville’s founders. It was he who built the first stone walls around the city, granted it imperial status, and gave it the Roman name Julia Romula (after himself, naturally). The city that he “girded with walls” was considerably smaller than it later became, but covered most of what we now call the Barrio Santa Cruz, and an area around the Plaza Encarnación.

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Fish salting factory, Antiquarium

The centre of the Roman city was the Forum, and although there is nothing Roman to see there now, its probable location at the Plaza Alfalfa is still a public open space, a continuity spanning over two thousand years. The path of the principal Roman street, the Decumanus Maximus can still be followed along Calle Aguilas (Eagle Street), through the Alfalfa square, and down the Alcaicería de Lozo to the El Salvador church, thought to be the location of the Roman basilica.

Not far from the Alfalfa, in Calle Marmoles, are the oldest man made structures in Seville that are still standing in their original locations. The three granite columns were once part of a second century Temple of Diana, and were brought all the way from Egypt – quite an undertaking in those days, even for Roman engineers! Two more columns from here can be found in the Alameda de Hercules, topped with statues of – you guessed it – Hercules and Julius Caesar. A sixth column was broken during the process of moving it.

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Temple columns, Calle Marmoles

You should also go to see the Roman ruins below the Metropol Parasols, the largest exposed Roman site in Seville, though I suspect that if you dug down five metres or so almost anywhere in the old city you’d stand a good chance of finding more. The remains include residential buildings, mosaics and a fish salting factory, which can’t have made a pleasant neighbour.

Immediately outside the historic centre there are a couple of short stretches of the Roman aqueduct that supplied water to the city. Astonishingly, the bulk of the aqueduct was demolished as recently as the early twentieth century, in a fortunately rare act of civic vandalism.


Roman aqueducts

There are, of course, a plethora of smaller Roman columns dotted about the city, mostly removed from the neighbouring Roman city of Italica (well worth a visit), in the days when such places were regarded as handy sources of building material rather than archaeological heritage. Other remains and objects from here can be found in the Archaeology museum in Maria Luisa park.

As always, we have a range of holiday apartments for rent in the historic centre of the city that make a great base for exploring. See you all soon.

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.