According to legend, Seville was founded by Hercules, who appears to have played a very active role in the many ancient legends concerning the origins of Andalucia. Like many other towns and cities in Andalucia, Seville was a prosperous Phoenician settlement, afterwards occupied by Greeks, Carthaginians, Romans, Visigoths (to whom it was their capital) and, in 712, by Arabs under whom it flourished. During the 13th century, King Ferdinand III triumphantly took over and was ultimately buried here. In the 15th century the Catholic Monarchs established their court in Seville in old Moorish buildings.
However, it was the discovery of America and the consequent expansion of trade and commerce that brought Seville to a height of glory and considerable increase in population. A plague epidemic in 1649 was the start of a progessive but temporary decline. Seville is now the administrative capital of Andalucia.
The Cathedral of Seville
The Cathedral – built on the site of a mosque of which remains can still be seen. These include the Patio de los Naranjos where worshippers performed ritual cleansing, and the almost 100 metre high minaret built in the 12th century, skilfully modified to become the bell tower of the new Cathedral. The Cathedral itself was started in Gothic style in 1402, but became more and more Renaissance as the years progressed. One of the last additions to the Cathedral was the tomb of Christopher Columbus, made by Arturo Melida in the 19th century and brought over from the Havana Cathedral in 1899.
It is the largest of all Roman Catholic cathedrals (Saint Peter’s Basilica not being a cathedral) and also the largest Medieval Gothic religious building, in terms of both area and volume. Built to cover land previously occupied by the Almohad Mosque, it measures 76 x 115 metres. Its central nave rises to an awesome 42 metres and even the side chapels seem tall enough to contain an ordinary church. Its main altarpiece is considered the largest and richest in the Christian world, and one of the finest examples of Gothic woodcarving anywhere. The interior, with the longest nave in Spain, is lavishly decorated with a large quantity of gold in evidence.
Designed to demonstrate Seville’s wealth, as it had become a major trading center in the years after the Reconquista, during the planning of the cathedral’s construction a member of the chapter was recorded to have commented we shall have a church so great and of such a kind that those who see it built will think we were mad.
Sightseeing in Seville:
The Reales Alcazares – once composed of many buildings of which now only the walls, two towers built in 1220 and the Patio del Yeso (Chalk Courtyard) survive. The original buildings were replaced by a magnificent palace designed in Mudejar style, finished in the 14th century.
The Parque de Maria Luisa – a romantic park created in 1893 for a princess.
The Plaza de Espana – has benches with ceramic tiles depicting allegories of the 53 Spanish provinces.
The Museum of Folk Art and Costume – a detailed illustration of everday life in Seville housing furniture, utensils, clothing, ceramics and jewellery.
The Archaeological Museum – one of the most important in Spain for ancient Roman relics and sculptures. Many of the pieces come from the nearby Italica, one of the first Roman cities in Spain founded in 206 BC.
The Isla Magica theme park and the Expo ’92 park in which it is sited.