Tag Archives: Naval Museum

Seville | Torre del Oro

This week we have another guest post from former Londoner, long-time Seville resident
and history buff Peter Tatford (aka Seville Concierge)

Although it’s not as grand as some of Seville’s other icons, such as the Cathedral, Alcázar or Plaza España, the Torre del Oro (Gold Tower) is still pretty impressive, and is in a very pretty location down by the river, making it one of Seville’s most popular spots.

torre del oro

The tower has a long and chequered history, and there are lots of stories surrounding it, some true, and some not, despite having wide currency. It was built in around 1220 by the Almohads, the Moslem rulers of the city, to protect the river and docks from the threat of the Christian armies of Ferdinand III, who finally conquered the city in 1248). It was once thought that it served to anchor one end of a heavy chain that could be used to block the river, the other being a tower in Fortaleza (Fortress) street in Triana. The only chain mentioned in the historical records, however, was alongside the Bridge of Boats (Puente de Barcas) where the Isabella II bridge now stands, and the name Fortress street is 19th century – perhaps deriving from the story.

puente barcosBridge of Boats engraving courtesy of El Mundo

It took its name from its golden reflection on the water, a result of the materials from which it was constructed – a mixture of lime, mortar and pressed hay. You may hear that it was originally covered in gold tiles, but this comes from a much later account, and was certainly an invention. It is also sometimes said to have got its name from being used as a storehouse for gold coming from the Americas, but this is also not true, though it was used at various times as a chapel, a prison, and (with scant regard for historical heritage) a gunpowder store.

In 1755 the tower was damaged by the great Lisbon earthquake, and it was proposed to demolish it, but the people of Seville appealed to the king to save it. On the king’s orders the tower was repaired; at this time the stairway from ground level to the main door was removed (the current roadway did not exist at this time, and the ground on this side was at the same level as the river) and the third level round tower at the top was added. Access to the tower was by a walkway that extended from the city wall near the Torre del Plata. The remains of this walkway, and its alignment with the main entrance, can still be seen just inside the modern building opposite.

The tower survived another demolition proposal in 1868 (part of the general removal of the city walls that took place at this time), before becoming the Naval Museum in 1936, with further restoration work as recently as 2005 – 2008.

torre oro from bridgeTorre del Oro seen from the Isabel Bridge
(our Betis Blue apartments are on the far right)

It still houses the Naval Museum, which has some interesting maps and prints from the 16th century, model ships (including Columbus’s ship, the Santa Maria) and other artefacts and memorabilia. You can also climb to the top of the main section, which provides some great views along the river, and of the Cathedral. To the north the skyline is dominated by the new Torre Pelli, which sticks up like a sore thumb from the Cartuja.

The Arenal neighbourhood along the river between the tower and the Isabella II bridge is also home to the Bullring and shipyards, and lots of bars and restaurants, and being outside the heritage area offers good quality holiday rental accommodation at reasonable prices.

Naval Museum
Torre del Oro, Paseo de Cristóbal Colón, s/n
Tel: +34 954 222 419
Opening hours: Mon-Fri 9.30-18.45 Sat-Sun 10.30-18.45 Closed public holidays
Price: 3 euros students, pensioners and children 1.50 euros Mondays free

Seville | How Seville Got Rich

This week’s post is by guest blogger and long-time Seville resident Peter Tatford Seville Concierge.

Next time you’re in Seville (or if you’re here now), make your way down to the river and take a stroll along its banks from the Puerto de Las Delicias, past the Torre del Oro (the Gold Tower), to Triana Bridge, enjoying the sunshine, the breeze, and the peace and quiet beside the water.

arenal torre del oroBut it wasn’t always like this. Allow your imagination free rein to go back to when this short stretch of the Rio Guadalquivir was one of the busiest ports in Europe. The sun is still shining and the breeze is still blowing up from the sea (if you’re lucky), but the peace and quiet has been shattered, seemingly beyond repair. Moored along the banks are dozens of the sailing ships that ply the trade with the recently discovered New World of the Americas across the nearby ocean. A shipment of gold is being unloaded, ready to be carried under guard to the storerooms of the Casa de la Moneda (the Royal Mint). Spices and other valuable trade goods sit on the docks, awaiting collection. Other ships are being loaded with provisions, or being readied for sailing. Coils of rope and canvas sheets abound. The docks are crowded with ragged sailors and stevedores, a few gaudily dressed noblemen and merchants, and even more gaudily dressed young women plying the oldest trade of them all.

This is what has made, is making, Seville the greatest, richest city in Europe, and this month marks the anniversary of the two world-changing voyages of discovery that set it all in motion.

On the evening of August 3, 1492, three small ships, the Santa Maria, the Pinta, and the Santa Clara, slipped anchor in the little harbour of Palos de la Frontera, near the mouth of the Guadalquivir, and set off in search of a western route to the spice islands of the far east. Their commander was, of course, Christopher Columbus, actually an Italian from Genoa, not a Spaniard, but his voyage was being sponsored by the Spanish monarchs, Ferdinand and Isabel, and he had a strong association with Seville, both in life, and in death, his tomb being in the city’s Cathedral. As we all know, he never found a way to China and India. Instead he discovered America, and for the next two hundred years Seville had a monopoly of the trade with the New World, and grew fat on the proceeds.

His goal of reaching the East by sailing west was achieved a generation later by another foreigner in the pay of the Spanish crown. Ferdinand Magellan was a Portuguese, making him almost guilty of treason given the competition between the two countries at that time. He set sail from Seville on his voyage to circumnavigate the world on August 10, 1519 with a fleet of five ships and 237 men, from a spot next to the Triana end of the Puente de San Telmo now marked by a rather abstract memorial. Magellan himself never returned, being killed in 1521 at Mactan in the Philippines, but just over three years after setting out the last remaining ship limped into Sanlucar de Barrameda under the command of Juan Sebastian Elcano, who has a street named after him next to Magellan’s memorial. There were just 18 men left on board, the rest having perished on the journey. Wealth doesn’t come cheap.

For more information on Seville’s seafaring past visit the naval museum in the Torre del Oro.

Apartments with a perfect view of this stretch of the river include Betis Blue 2, and two others in the same building.