Seville’s cathedral is largest Gothic church in the world and the fourth-largest overall. The Gothic section alone has a length of 126 m, a width of , and its maximum height in the center of the transept is 42 m. The cathedral became a UNESCO world heritage site in1987. Among the many people buried in the cathedral, Christopher Columbus is probably the most famous.
The cathedral started life of as a mosque during the reign of the Almohad caliph Abu Yaqub Yusuf. Construction of the mosque started in 1172 and it took about 25 years to complete. Close to the city’s Alaczar, the mosque was designed by architect Ahmad ben Basso as a 113-by-135-metre rectangular building with a surface of over 15,000 m2 (160,000 sq ft), including an ablutions coutyard and a minaret, which was modelled along the lines of the minaret of the Koutoubia Mosque in Marrakech.
Shortly after Seville’s conquest by Ferdinand III, Yaqub Yusuf’s mosque was converted into the city’s cathedral. Its orientation was changed and its spaces partitioned and adorned to suit Christian worship practices. The internal space was gradually divided into chapels by constructing walls in the bays along the northern and southern walls.
Almost the entire eastern half of the cathedral was occupied by the royal chapel that would hold the bodies of Ferdinand, his wife and Alfonso the Wise. The minaret was transformed into the bell tower of the cathedral, the Giralda, which is about 105 m wide and its square base is 13 m wide. The top of the Giralda can be reached via a ramp that is wide enough for a rider on a horse or a donkey. Apparently, the ramp was designed by Ahmad ben Basso so that the muezzin did not have to climb the tall tower twice a day.
After the reconquest, Seville became a major trading center and grew very prosperous in the process. In July 1401, the city’s leaders decided to build a new cathedral to replace the grand mosque that served as the cathedral until then, as a demonstration of wealth. According to local oral tradition, the members of the cathedral’s chapter said that they wanted to build a church so beautiful and so grand that those who saw it finished will take us for mad”). Construction of the new cathedral finished in 1506 but 5 years later the crossing lantern collapsed and work on the cathedral had to recommence. The lantern collapsed a second time after an earthquake in 1888 and the resulting repairs on the dome lasted nearly 20 years.
The cathedral is open Monday to Saturday from 10:45 to 17:00pm and on Sundays from 14.30 to 18:00. Although tickets can be bought on the day at the Puerta del Principe it is recommend to buy the tickets online, which will probably result in shorter waiting times.
Alcazar of Seville
Parque de Maria Luisa
This gorgeous park is located just south of the city center and stretches along the Guadalquivir River. It used to be part pf the gardens of the San Telmo’s Palace until it was donated to the city in 1893 by the Duchess of Montpesier, Maria Kuisa Fernandez for use as a public park. One of the main reasons to visit the park is the vast is the vast Plaza de Espana (although technically it is not part of the Parque de Luisa Maria) which was build by the architect Anibal Gonzalez to showcase Spain’s industry and technology exhibits in 1929. Construction took over 19 years and luckily construction just finished before the US Stock Market crash. The building within the Plaza forms a grand semi-circle and boasts several magnificent towers. At its center lies a an island containing a huge fountain which joins the rest of the Plaza de Espana via several ornately tiled bridges. In fact so magnificent is Seville’s Plaza de Espana that it has been used in several big films, including Lawrence of Arabia and Star Wars (This is where indeed where Anakin Skywalker and Queen Padmé Amidala fall in love on Naboo). Today the square houses several government offices and although it is a popular destination for tourists and locals alike it did not seem overcrowded when we visited in the evening. With some luck there might even be a miniature flamenco show and guitar performance going on under the balcony of the central building.
Towards the southern end of the park, you can find the Plaza de America, which houses two other grandiose pavilions – the Bellas Artes and the Mudejar. The former contains the city’s archaeological collections while the latter is home to the Museum of Popular Arts and Customs.
After visiting the Plaza de Espana and the Plaza de America it is definitely worth taking a gander at the rest of the park with its many fountains, waterfalls and amazing, shade spending trees.
Casa de los Pilatos
This palace is a hidden gem, neglected by most tourists in Seville, but is most definitely well worth a visit. Casa de Pilatos, a glorious and sumptuous 16th century mansion in Seville’s historic district can easily be reached via foot, as it is only about a 15 minute walk from the Cathedral. Throughout the palace, the walls are covered in beautiful azulejo tiles and the gothic arches in the courtyard are decorated with Mudejar decorations. The palace comprises to gardens, which provide a welcome respite from the hustle and bustle of Seville. Like the Plaza de Espana, it provided the backdrop for a whole rafter of films, including Lawrence of Arabia, 1492: Conquest of Paradise and Kingdom of Heaven, the last two having been directed by Ridley Scott.
The construction of this palace, which is adorned with precious azulejo tiles and well-kept gardens, was begun in 1483 by Pedro Enríquez de Quiñones, Adelantado Mayor of Andalucía, and his wife Catalina de Rivera, founder of the Casa de Alcalá, and completed by Pedro’s son Fadrique Enríquez de Rivera (first Marquis of Tarifa), whose pilgrimage to Jerusalem in 1519 led to the building being given the name “Pilate’s House”.
On 20 October 1520, Don Fadrique returned from a trip through Europe and the Holy Land. During Lent in 1521, he inaugurated the observance in Seville of the Holy Way of the Cross. The route began in the Chapel of the Flagellations of his palace and ended at a pillar located not far from the Templete, or Cruz del Campo (The Cross of the Field,) located outside the city walls. This route ran the same distance of 1321 paces supposed to have separated thepraetorium of Pontius Pilate from Calvary . The Marquis’s palace, the Palacio de San Andrés, was then still partly under construction; it later became known as the Casa de Pilatos through its association with the Vía Crucis, and was much altered over the next few centuries.
Popular imagination has since mistakenly identified the palace as a copy of the house of Pilate; thus the rooms have been named along the theme of the Passion of Christ : “Hall of the Praetorian”, “Chapel of the Flagellations”, etc. It was declared a National Monument in 1931. The oldest documentation of the name Casa de Pilatos is from 1754. In the 16th century, under the orders of the viceroy of Naples , the architect Benvenuto Tortello was responsible for rebuilding the palace leaving the old Mudejar rooms intact. Nowadays, this palace is still partly inhabited and is the residence of the 18th Duchess of Medinacelli and her family.
Walking Around Seville
Seville is also a great place to just have a wander. The obvious part to start your walking tour is the Santa Cruz district with the Cathedral, the Real Alcazar and the old Jewish Quarters. Although, this is undoubtedly the most picturesque area it would be foolish not to venture further afield. From the cathedral you can walk to the Torre del Oro, a defensive tower which was built around 1220 and now contains a small “nautical museum”. From the Torre del Oro, cross over the Puente de San Telmo, in order to have a gander around Triana. Triana, which is famous for its typical Azulejos tile and pottery shops, is not a district with spectacular sights However, it is an authentic quarter, mostly devoid of tourists and interlaced with small streets that are a pleasure to wander through.
working your way northwards, you will be able to cross the Guadalquivir (actually the Canal Alfonso XIII) in the other direction via the Puente de Triana and you will end up in the El Arenal neighbourhood just north of the Bullfighting Arena. Initially, the port of Seville was located in the El Arenal District, until river silting forced the city to relocate the port to the southern edge of the city in the 17th century. From here, you can continue to the Setas de Sevilla (Mushrooms of Seville) also known as the Metropol Parasol. the Setas de Sevilla, was designed by the German Architect Juergen Mayer and is probably one of the largest wooden structures in the world. From here, you can return to the Cathedral via the Casa de los Pilatos.
Although this is a slightly long walk through Seville, there is no need to worry as there are plenty of cafes and Tapas bars along the way should you need some refreshments.