The Macarena arch is one of the few entrances to the walls of Seville that have come down to us, along with the Puerta de Córdoba and the Postigo del Aceite. It is attached to the longest wall canvas among the few preserved in the city.
Its construction was part of the expansion of the walled enclosure that was undertaken in the 12th century, under Almoravid rule. It was built by order of the Emir Alí ibn Yúsuf and initially it would have an angled layout, as we know that most of the Seville doors had in Islamic times. This form facilitated the defense of the city, since the attackers had to overcome several successive gates placed at an angle one after the other, while they could be harassed from the upper part of the walls. As the Christian conquest of the Peninsula was completed, these defenses became increasingly unnecessary and were replaced by straight accesses, like the one we see today. This facilitated access to the city, especially for the growing use of horse-drawn carriages, which had very difficult entry through the old angled gates.
There is no certainty about the origin of the name of the door and there are theories that point to a remote Roman past or even earlier. However, it is most likely that the name also comes from the Islamic period, when it would be called “bab Maqarana”. Apparently, Maqarana would be the name of a landowner who had large properties north of the city and which were reached by the road that started from this gate. That's where the name would have come from.
Already in Christian times, we know that it was for a long time the main entry point for the kings when they visited Seville. Then they followed the so-called Calle Real towards the center, coinciding with the layout of the current Calle San Luis. On these occasions, a kind of altar was mounted next to the door in which the monarch swore to respect the privileges, uses and customs of the city before entering it. To cite some of those who entered Seville through this Gate, we can mention Isabel la Católica, Emperor Carlos V or Felipe IV.
The aspect with which the door has come down to us corresponds for the most part to the remodeling to which it was subjected in the 18th century, when its structure was simplified and the decorative elements that crown its upper part were added. Already in 1923 the magnificent ceramic altarpiece of Esperanza Macarena was added, which occupies the center of the pediment. It is a work carried out at the Manuel Rodríguez Pérez de Tudela Factory in Triana. At the foot of the image of the Virgin can be read "SHE IS GOD'S TABERNACLE AND GATE OF HEAVEN." This work highlights the historic link between the arch and the Brotherhood of the Macarena, which has its Basilica a few meters away. The scene of the Macarena crossing the archway back to her temple on Good Friday morning is one of the most emblematic of Holy Week in Seville.
For a few decades, the Arch has generally been painted in a very intense white color, combined with the details and the cornices in white. At the moment a deep restoration is being carried out at the initiative of the City Council and among the objectives set is to recover a polychrome more in keeping with its original appearance. In this way, it is possible that in a few months we will be able to contemplate this historic entrance to Seville with a renewed appearance. We will have to wait a bit!