Touring Catedral de Santa María de la Sede and Real Alcázar

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This morning at about 9:30  AM I headed out to do some serious sightseeing.  My first stop was Catedral de Santa María de la Sede or The Cathedral Of St. Mary Of The Sea.  However, before I tell you about my day let me tell you al little of what I’ve learned about Seville over the past two days.

Seville is located in the semi autonomous area known as Andalucia. Andalucia covers about 33,706 square miles.  That is about 17% of Spain’s total area.  Over seven million people live in this historic region, which acts as a bridge between Europe and Africa and between East and West.

Seville has a large river port and that has been the main attraction to the many conquers   The city was founded by Iberians.  Subsequently it became a Greek, Phoenician and Carthaginian colony and was overrun by the Roman Empire in 205 BC following a long siege.  The Moorish conquest in 712 heralded a long period of Arab domination.  During the reign of Al Mutamid, Seville experienced great cultural development including a period of urban transformation that included construction of both the Giralda, which I’ll talk about later, and the mosque, which I’ll also talk about later, on the site now occupied by the cathedral.

On November 23, 1248, Fernando III the Saint reconquered Sevilla and established his court in the city, followed by Alfonso X the Wise and then Pedro I, who restored the Alcazar, which we will also cover later, and took up residence there.

Following the discovery of America in 1492, Seville held a monopoly on trade with the New World and became the departure and arrival point for every expedition.  Seville began to amass great wealth.  Foreign merchants and bankers heeded the call of American gold.  Palaces were built, new industries were created and the smell of money attracted hustlers, villains and people from every sector.

Following the plague of 1649 the city entered a period of decline. Then in the Twentieth Century Sevilla hosted two major international exhibitions: the 1929 Ibero-American Exhibition and Expo 92,  Both had a significant effect on the layout of the city.  Expo 92 saw the realization of a number of large projects that have transformed a modern city that celebrates its past while pushing toward the future.

Now on to my day.

“Let us build a cathedral that will make them think us mad.”  After Seville fell to the Christians in 1248 the mosque that was during the Seville’s period of Arab domination was used as a church until 1401. Then, in view of its decaying state, the church authorities decided to demolish the mosque and build a new cathredal   The result is the largest Gothic cathredal in Europe, and the third largest church in the world after St. Peter’s in Rome and St. Paul’s in London.  The cathedral is some 413 feet long and 272 feet wide.  The cathedral is so big in this ancient city with so many narrow streets it is impossible to take the exterior of the cathedral in with the naked eye let alone with a camera.  I’ll post pictures so you can see just how big this cathedral is.  The cathedral was finished in 1528.

The interior of the cathedral is made of stone. The stained glass and grilles are impressive with their size and the the cathedral is extraordinarily high as a result of tall pillars.  The cathedral has five aisles, the central nave being wider and higher with many chapels in the side aisles.  The column shafts support the Gothic pointed vaults except in the central section of the cathedral.  The vault of the transept reaches to a height of 184 feet.  There is a mirror on the floor that give the viewer an incredible view of the transept.

 In the main body of the cathedral, the most noticeable features is the great boxlike choir loft, which fills the central portion of the nave, and the vast Gothic devotional work of carved scenes from the life of Christ. This altarpiece was the lifetime work of a single craftsman named Pierre Dancart.

The builders used some columns and other elements from the ancient mosque, including its minaret which was converted into a bell tower known as La Giralda now the city's most well-known symbol.

After touring the cathedral it was time to climb to the top, well almost to the top of La Giralda now the bell tower of the cathedral. La Giralda was built at the end of the twelfth century.  This brick minaret was 315 feet was once surmounted by three gilded spheres which fell in a fourteenth century earthquake.  The belfry, three superimposed stages and balconies are sixteenth century additions by Cordoban architect Ternan Ruiz,  These were crowned with an enormous weather vale, the statue of Faith, known as the Giraldillo from the work Girar, meaning to turn, from which the tower’s name evolved.  Although you cannot go to the top you can go up to the belfry and its an easy climb because there are no steps or elevators, or escalators.  Not it is a ramp.  Why a ramp because when La Giralda was a minaret and muslims were called to prayer 5 times a day it had to be easy to get to the top so it was constructed with a ramp so attending prayers could be done on horseback. There are plenty of pictures of the Cathedral and La Giralda as well as pictures of city scape's  taken from La Giralda in the pictures section.

After lunch  I spent the rest of the afternoon at Real Alcazar.  “Built primarily in the 1300s during the so-called ‘dark ages’ in Europe, the architecture is anything but dark. Indeed, compared to our modern-day shopping malls and throwaway apartment blocks it could be argued that the Alcázar marked one of history’s architectural highpoints. Unesco agreed, making it a World Heritage site in 1987.

Originally founded as a fort for the Cordoban governors of Seville in 913, the Alcázar has been expanded or reconstructed many times in its 11 centuries of existence. In the 11th century, Seville’s prosperous Muslim taifa (small kingdom) rulers developed the original fort by building a palace called Al-Muwarak (the Blessed) in what’s now the western part of the Alcázar. The 12th-century Almohad rulers added another palace east of this, around what’s now the Patio del Crucero. Christian Fernando III moved into the Alcázar when he captured Seville in 1248, and Christian monarchs later used it as their main residence. Fernando’s son Alfonso X replaced much of the Almohad palace with a Gothic one. What is left now are many spectulary beautiful gardens, and fountains within it walls which is about 20,00 square feet where 1,000 palm trees grow and almost 200 species of trees and plants. The Real Alcazar was declared a World Heritage Site in 1987.

Today was a hot one but I found that by drinking a lot of water and walking at a slow pace kept me comfortable.  Yes, I used sun screen to keep my hairless head from getting scorched.  I heard on the street today that tomorrow it going to be really hot because the winds are coming from the Saraha desert.  I guess I’ll find out what that means tomorrow.

Facts for this posting came from the Michelin Guide to Andalucia and Lonely Planet Guide to Spain. © Louis M. Skypala 2014