On our way for two nights in the charming, sunny city of Seville, Andalucía. This alluring city lies in the middle of the river Guadalquivir and features impressive architecture, sights and cuisine that leaves one with a Lasting Impression and the desire to return soon. Arriving in Sevilla in the afternoon allowed us time to become acquainted with our surroundings, enjoying some tapas and taking an evening walking tour. The atmosphere is friendly and we enjoyed spotting some lively street performers and Flamenco dancers. Looking forward to our full day tomorrow.
First on the agenda was the beautiful Cathedral. Wow! We were in awe of the enormity of Seville Cathedral – the third largest church in the world, behind the Basilica of the National Shrine of Our Lady of Aparecida in Brazil and St. Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican City. It isn’t surprising that it took over a century to build, from 1401 to 1528. And it is very hard to see all at once and takes a bit of time to walk all the way around. There was originally a mosque on this site which was left over from the centuries when the Muslim moors had controlled this land. The Catholics of Seville decided to tear it down and build something enormous to show their perceived strength. Only the minaret from the mosque was kept, although it was turned into a bell tower with a Latin inscription written on the top that translates to: “In the name of our Lord is a strong tower”.
In front of the cathedral’s entrance are four kings who carry the tomb of Christopher Columbus. On the four corners of the tomb stand four bearers, representing the kingdoms of Castile, Leon, Aragon and Navarra. Although there is some controversy about whether the remains of Columbus are actually inside – Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic also claims to hold them – DNA testing has proven that Seville Cathedral is the resting place of at least some of the explorer’s bones. There’s no doubt that Seville has a strong claim to a connection with Christopher Columbus. Not only was he initially buried in the city in the early 1500s, but it was in the Alcazar of Seville where Queen Isabel signed her contract with him for the campaigns in the New World. The queen also built an entirely new wing of the palace from which to administer the new colonies in the Americas.
It’s interesting when we take into account the message that the cathedral is sending, and then look at the Alcazar of Seville right next door. And to think that the Alcazar was built in the century before the cathedral. While the church appears to be a rejection of Muslim art and culture, the royal palace shows an embrace of it. At its core, the alcazar is a royal palace. Although it was constructed for a Christian kingdom, many of the artists and architects were Muslims who stayed after the defeat of the Moors. The intentionally confusing floorplan of the interior revealed spectacularly decorated halls and courtyards with a mix of Islamic and Christian elements – a style called Mudejar. We found the outdoor Moorish gardens to be an enchanting oasis. From the water features, the rows of fruit trees, the peacocks, and the shaded grottoes. All of this needs to be taken in slowly as it is so beautiful.
The best representation of the story of the Alcazar is in the Courtyard of the Maidens. In the center of the courtyard is a large reflecting pool with sunken gardens on either side. Coming off the sides are various reception rooms and private residential areas.
The Hall of the Ambassadors, the throne room, is in the shape of a cube topped with a half dome. In Islam, the cube represents the earth and the dome the starry heavens.
We paused for an very memorable lunch of seafood paella. Thankfully the one size dish they offered was more than enough for two of us!
Plaza de España
The overwhelming Plaza de España is the most famous square in Seville and we found it to be a nice gathering spot. Several buildings were designed for the Ibero-American exhibition of 1929 to show off to the world Spain’s accomplishments in industry and architecture with the Plaza as the centerpiece. Colored ceramics are feature heavily around the Plaza which we found in the alcoves, the walls, on the ornate bridges and balustrades.
Enjoying the street performers and dancers.