Seville Cathedral

As soon as we reach the heart of the city of Seville, we immediately see its cathedral, Santa Maria de la Sede. It’s a majestic monument, being Europe’s largest cathedral and one of the largest in the whole world. Among those built in the Gothic style, it’s actually the world’s biggest! It has 126 meters of length, 83 meters in width and its peak reaches a height of 37 meters. The total area occupied by the church is of 23.500m2.

Surrounding it, one can find the Alcazar and the General Archive of the Indies, which are 2 wonderful locations. Together they constitute a complex that, since 1987, is a UNESCO World Heritage site.

This is something that we cannot miss when visiting Seville. I will talk about the Alcazar and the General Archive of the Indies in other articles, in this one I will only focus myself on the Cathedral.

The history

This region endured a Moor occupation for many years. In the 12th century, an Arab people from Morocco, named Almohad, replaced the Almoravid dynasty as rulers of the Andalusian region.

The Almohads decided to transfer their kingdom’s capital to Seville and built a Mosque, similar to a minaret. The construction of the minaret of the Koutoubia mosque in Marrakesh also took place during this time. It’s interesting to notice the similitude between these structures.

A couple of years later, already in the 13th century, Seville was reconquered by the Christians, commanded by Ferdinand III, King of Castile. With a new religion now knocking on the doors of Seville, the then existing mosque started to host the Christian cult. In 1248, the mosque was consecrated as a Cathedral.

Shortly after Seville had become Christian yet again, a major earthquake shook the foundations of the city, causing tremendous damage. The major blow was the fall of 4 brass spheres, which were placed at the top of the minaret of the old mosque. This piece was then replaced by a structure with a bell, already in line with the Christian doctrine.

In 1403, works started in the old mosque, to enact a brand new cathedral. This process took more than 100 years but, after finished, several changes and modifications kept being added to the original building. Nowadays we can say that it covers 7 centuries of history.

Giraldillo and the Giralda

In one of the restoration processes, a statue was placed on the top of the belfry, the old minaret, to represent the Faith. This brass statue weights a bit more than 1 tonne, has the shape of a weather vane and it is called Giraldillo. With time, the tower started to be called Giralda.

The cathedral – Exterior detail
The cathedral – Exterior detail
The cathedral – Exterior detail
The cathedral – Exterior detail
The cathedral – Exterior detail
The cathedral – Exterior detail

What to see

1 – Giralda

From the top of Giralda we have a stunning view of the city of Seville. The belfry in itself is also jaw-dropping, with a decoration that includes interwoven geometric motifs and crafted windows. It has a weight of 96 meters.

This belfry influenced the construction of several towers in Spain and later in the Americas.

The Giralda

2 – Replica of the Giraldillo

The statue found on the top of the belfry has a replica in Puerta de Príncipe de La Catedral.

3 – Patio de los Naranjos

Go through an Almohad door until you reach Patio de Los Naranjos. You are now at what is left of a 12th-century mosque. The fountain found in this place was the spot where Moors performed their ablations before praying. Their feet and hands were washed under these orange trees.

Nowadays, this courtyard is used an access point to the cathedral.

4 – Central nave and 80 chapels

The central nave ascends and reaches an impressive 42-meter mark, it’s gigantic. It holds an enormous amount of gold, which immediately draws the attention of those who visit it.

There are 80 chapels and 5 naves inside this cathedral. Be attentive to its details, it’s pure ostentation…

5  – Altarpiece of the Main Chapel

The altarpiece of the Main Chapel is an enormous art piece made of gold and wood, which took 80 years to be built. It’s one of the best examples of Gothic agriculture in the whole world.

The altarpiece holds 45 carved scenes of the life of Christ and Santa Maria de La Sede, the cathedral’s patroness saint. The author of this piece was the sculptor Pierre Dancar.

6 – Chapter Room and Main Sacristy

The Chapter Room, also called Cabildo, has an elliptical shape and is one of the most stunning architecture endeavours of the Renaissance. It was created by Hernán Ruiz. Works of the painter Bartolomé Esteban Murillo are found in this hall, with the spotlight going to his painting called Inmaculada Concepción.

Next to this space, the Main Sacristy holds a treasure that consists of a set of tremendously rich pieces.

7 – Tomb of Christopher Columbus

This is one of the cathedral’s most visited areas. The mortal remains of Cristopher Columbus, brought from Cuba, have 4 bearers which represent the Kingdoms of Castile, Leon, Aragon and Navarre.