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Posts tagged ‘Santa Cruz’

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.

Seville | Barrio Santa Cruz

0054_santa-cruz-apartment-sevillePlaza Santa Cruz

Seville is said to have the largest preserved historic centre of any city in Europe, and the old core of the city is the neighbourhood of Santa Cruz, also known as the old Jewish quarter. Today it’s the most picturesque part of the city and a major tourist attraction, and although it’s not large, it’s easy to get lost in the labyrinth of narrow streets and small squares, which have been inhabited since Roman times and even earlier. Julius Caesar, who was governor here in the 1st century BC before going on to invade Britain and meet his fate on the Ides of March, is credited as being one of the founders of the city, because he built the first stone walls around it.

santa cruz 019entrance to the Judería (Jewish quarter)

santa cruz 030the corner of Agua & Vida (Water & Life)

Although it has become rather touristy, with a lot of souvenir shops of variable quality, the Santa Cruz is still, with good reason, one of the places people come to Seville to see. It’s greatest treasure is probably the little plazas that are scattered through it, many of them of exceptional charm. My personal favourite is the elegant yet cosy Plaza Doña Elvira with its ceramic benches, fountain and orange trees, probably my favourite square in Seville. It’s also the supposed birthplace of Doña Inés de Ulloa, the impossible love of Seville’s favourite son, Don Juan. Don Juan’s statue can be found nearby in another classically pretty square, the Plaza de Los Refinadores, notable also for its palm trees and circular benches and the house with the huge glassed in corner balcony, designed by Anibal Gonzalez, who also designed the famous Plaza España. The Plaza Santa Cruz is the site of the original parish church, and before that of one of the Jewish synagogues, burned down in the pogrom of 1391. The painter Bartolomé Murillo is buried somewhere in the square, which now has its centrepiece the curious wrought iron sculpture known as the Locksmith’s Cross, moved here from its original location in Sierpes Street in 1921 as part of the urban renovation leading up to the 1929 exhibition. Other plazas include Los Venerables, bustling with bars and restaurants, Las Cruces with its three crosses, and the Plaza Alianza, once called the Plaza of the Dry Well.

santa cruz 026fountain against the Alcázar wall in calle Judería

santa cruz 050the Locksmith’s Cross in Plaza Santa Cruz

The narrow streets that wind from plaza to plaza help to block out the intense heat of the summer sun, keeping them at least relatively cool. Look for the tilework that adorns the undersides of many of the balconies and the seriously big wooden doors that guard the entrances to the most important buildings. If they’re open take a peek inside – there’s almost always one of those cool courtyards otherwise hidden from the world. Pay your respects to Susona Ben-Suson in the street of the dead, and pause a moment in Calle Fabiola by the last small remaining section of the wall that separated the Jewish quarter from the rest of the city. Last, but by no means least, spend some time in the bars with the locals, enjoy some tapas and a glass of wine or two. Bar Las Teresas and Casa Roman, both in the heart of the barrio, are two of my favourites for both quality and authentic atmosphere.

0054_plaza-santa-cruz-b-02courtyard of our Plaza Santa Cruz B apartment

Perhaps surprisingly, it’s not hard to find apartments for rent for a reasonable price in this part of the city, which is also handy for shops, markets and the main monuments. And it’s all so quintessentially Spanish!

Seville | The Legend of Susona

One of the things that everybody wants to do when they come to Seville is to spend some time wandering through the Barrio Santa Cruz, the picture postcard neighbourhood of little squares and narrow streets behind the Cathedral, which in mediaeval times was the city’s Jewish quarter. And I don’t blame them; it’s certainly the prettiest part of the old city, full of interesting nooks and crannies with stories to be told, and charming little bars where you can sit and watch the world go by while enjoying your tapas and a glass of sherry.

But the Barrio has some grimmer secrets too. Tucked away in a little square between the Plaza Doña Elvira and Calle Agua (the street alongside the old wall), is the scene of one of Seville’s oldest popular stories, the legend of Susona Ben-Suson. For the eagle-eyed, or those being taken on a guided tour, the spot is marked by a tile on the wall bearing a picture of a skull, that marks the place where in times gone by  hung the head of the beautiful  Susona Ben-Suson, a silent witness to the tragedy that she had brought upon herself.

susona skull

Our story takes place in the year 1480, in the final years of the Jewish community in Seville. By this time, as the newly-emerging kingdom of Spain sought to strengthen itself through enforced conformity to Catholicism, many Jews had already left or converted to Christianity, but suspicion among some Christians that these conversos were not true converts, and hoped to bring about a restoration Judaism, had recently led to the creation of the Spanish Inquisition, charged with rooting out heresy and religious dissent wherever it was to be found.  Don Diego de Susona, a wealthy merchant, was one such converso, and alarmed by the threat to his position, he convened a secret meeting of prominent conversos to discuss the possibility of armed insurrection.

His daughter Susona, however, had a Christian boyfriend, a young noble, who she feared would be put in danger by an uprising, and she revealed the plot to him. Her boyfriend promptly reported them to the authorities, and the conspirators were duly arrested and brought before the Inquisition, tried and executed.

Stricken with remorse at the consequences of her action, Susona never again left her house, and when she died she had her head hung up outside the house (where it remained as late as the 18th century) as a testament to her grief and the duplicity of Christians.

Other places nearby with legendary or literary associations include the Plaza Doña Elvira (she was unsuccessfully wooed by Don Juan), and the old Tobacco Factory, now the University of Seville, which is the setting for Bizet’s opera “Carmen”.

For more information about the  history of the Jews in Seville, visit the Centro de Interpretación de la Judería de Sevilla at calle Ximenez del Enciso 22.

If you want to stay somewhere close to these historic scenes, have a look at one of our apartments in Plaza Santa Cruz or Calle Mariscal.