THE LAST VOYAGE OF COLUMBUS

Christopher Columbus is one of the most famous characters in the history of mankind. It is true that in the last century the almost epic narrative of his achievements has been nuanced, giving way to a more critical view of the figure of the admiral. Today, it is questioned everything related to his behavior with the inhabitants of the newly discovered territories and the process of conquest of America that begins with him. In any case, there is no doubt that his determination to travel to the West, although his initial calculation was wrong, ended up being a turning point in the history of the incipient Hispanic Monarchy. That Columbus undertook his journeys under the flag of Castile would end up having incalculable repercussions on the historical future of our country, Europe and America, so the relevance of the character is indisputable.

Columbus's relationship with Seville was intense even before his first voyage and we know that he had frequent and prolonged stays in the Carthusian monastery of Santa María de las Cuevas, between 1484 and 1492. There he obtained advice and the support of the monks in all the process prior to the approval of your project by the Crown. He established a special relationship with the monk Gaspar Gorricio de Novara, who in addition to being his friend, came to act as his treasurer and archivist.

After returning from his first voyage in 1493, Columbus would spend most of the time he lived in Spain in Seville, since the so-called Puerto de Indias was located in the city from the beginning. It must be remembered that the admiral would make three more trips to America, and that all the preparations and procedures before and after would be carried out above all in Seville.

However, his death would reach him in Valladolid in 1506, where he had traveled following the court of Fernando el Católico. There he was buried in the convent of San Francisco, now disappeared. Three years later, in 1509, his remains would be brought to Seville, to the aforementioned Monastery of Santa María de las Cuevas. Along with him, his son Diego would also be buried in 1526. His widow, Viceroy María Álvarez de Toledo, ordered the transfer of the remains of both her husband and her father-in-law to Hispaniola in 1544, receiving burial in the cathedral of Santo Domingo.

They remained there until 1795, the year in which Spain ceded the island to France by virtue of the Treaty of Basel, making sure before transferring the remains of Columbus to the Havana cathedral. It would not be the admiral's last posthumous voyage. In 1898, when the island of Cuba was also lost, his remains were brought back to Spain. Various locations were proposed to bury them, such as the Monastery of La Rábida in Huelva, the Royal Chapel of Granada, the Mosque-Cathedral of Córdoba or the Cathedral of Cádiz. In the final decision to bring them to Seville weighed the criteria of a descendant of the admiral, Cristóbal Colón de la Cerda, Duke of Veragua, who was Minister of Public Works and the Navy in the Regency of María Cristina and in the reign of Alfonso XIII.

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The remains were received in the city on January 19, 1899, being deposited in the crypt of the Archbishops of the cathedral. From there they would be transferred in 1902 to the sepulcher made by the Valencian sculptor and architect Arturo Mélida, originally intended for the Havana cathedral. In Seville it was placed on the epistle side of the transept, between an enormous fresco depicting Saint Christopher, by Mateo Pérez Alesio, and the chapel of the Virgen de la Antigua. This dedication always had a large number of faithful among the navigators and the survivors of the first circumnavigation of the world appeared before it in 1522. The door that gives direct access to this space, called San Cristóbal or del Príncipe, had very few years when the funerary monument was inaugurated, although the neo-Gothic style in which it was made hides the chronological difference with the rest of the cathedral.

Arturo Mélida made one of his two main works from an artistic point of view here, precisely next to the Columbus Monument in the square of the same name in Madrid. In the Sevillian case, he made a funerary monument in the historicist and romantic style predominant between the 19th and 20th centuries. Four heralds whose ample clothing recreates those of the time of Columbus, support the admiral's sarcophagus on stretchers carried on their shoulders, forming a composition of great rotundity despite the smooth lines typical of romantic sculpture. Each of them wears a breastplate with one of the symbols of the four original kingdoms that made up the monarchy of the Catholic Monarchs: Castilla, León, Aragón and Navarra.

In the front part, the herald of Castile holds an oar with his right hand, a symbol of the leading role of this crown in the navigation of the Atlantic. On the other side, the herald of Aragon holds a long raised cross, which sticks its lower end in a pomegranate, symbols of the triumph of the Christian faith as unique in Spain and of the conquest of the Nasrid kingdom, the same year of the Discovery. On each side of the cloth that covers the sarcophagus appear the shields of the Catholic Monarchs and of Christopher Columbus himself. In the lower part, again the coat of arms of the Elizabethan monarchy, gold and polychrome, around which an inscription recalls the deposit of the remains in the cathedral of Havana.

To be honest, it must be said that the fact that the mortal remains of Christopher Columbus rest in our cathedral is not universally accepted. Mainly from the Dominican Republic it is maintained that they are in a mammoth lighthouse-mausoleum that they built in his honor in the capital. They argue that an error occurred when moving the remains to Havana and that the real ones remained in Santo Domingo, as evidenced by an inscription that appeared on the chest of the remains that they defend as authentic. It has also been written about the theory that the remains never really left one of their first locations in the monastery of Santa María de las Cuevas, of the Sevillian Carthusians.

What we can say with certainty is that in 2006 an investigation by the Identification Laboratory of the University of Granada showed that the remains corresponded to those of Diego Colón's brother, with whom they share identical mitochondrial DNA, transmitted from the mother. to son. They are, therefore, the mortal remains of Christopher Columbus.

It is true that what is preserved in the cathedral is a relatively small percentage of what is a human skeleton, so we can say that we do not know if Columbus also rests elsewhere, but it is certain that he rests in Seville.

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THE SAINTS JUSTA AND RUFINA IN THE DOOR OF THE BAPTISM

The Cathedral of Seville is a splendid display of the history of art in the city. It ranges from the Almohad style of the 12th century in which the original mosque was built, and which is visible above all in the first sections of the Giralda, to the neo-Gothic style in which its last doors were completed at the beginning of the 20th century.

The defining features of the building as a whole are those of a huge Gothic cathedral, the largest in Christendom in this style. It is a late Gothic style, from the 15th and 16th centuries, which is why a large part of its sculptural decoration and the Royal Chapel at its head already show Renaissance features. Most of the magnificent altarpieces, paintings and works of imagery that populate its numerous chapels correspond to the Baroque period.

The Door of Baptism that we are talking about today corresponds to one of the first moments of this passage between the successive styles. It corresponds to the beginning of the 15th century, a time in which the replacement of the old Almohad mosque, which had been used as a cathedral with many reforms, was addressed by a new building with Gothic traces, more in keeping with the relevant role that Seville already occupied in the Crown of Castile.

The old mosque is demolished except for part of its courtyard and its minaret, which will become the first bodies of the Christian bell tower. At the same time, the new Gothic building begins to rise from its feet, that is, from the façade that faces the current Avenida de la Constitución, so this Façade of Baptism is the oldest in the Gothic temple together with its partner, the Cover of San Miguel.

It is an entirely Gothic door in its conception and in its forms. It is formed by a pointed pointed arch, crowned by a gable with tracery decoration. Elements as defining Gothic as the gargoyles, the pinnacles or the crests are also visible in the decoration of the door. On the side jambs are placed under canopies the sculptures of six saints linked to the city of Seville. Similarly, in the archivolts are the figures of ten old prophets and an angel, located in the hollow of the vertex.

The Baptism scene is represented on the tympanum, with Jesus in the center, covered only by a cloth on his hips and in an attitude of blessing towards his left. Saint John is located on this side, in an attitude of baptizing the Lord. To the left is an angel holding the garments of Jesus. The three figures are also covered by canopies and a dragon appears at the Lord's feet, as a symbol of the sin averted through baptism.

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The sculptural decoration of the portal forms an iconographic program around the idea of ​​baptism as an initiation rite to Christianity, in analogy with the act of entering the cathedral, leaving out the world of sin.

Responding to this general idea, the saints that appear on the jambs are from Seville or linked to Seville, considered precursors of Christianity in the city, pioneers of baptism as a way of initiation to the "true faith". They are placed in pairs following a somewhat complex order of precedence. The most important couple is made up of the saints Justa and Rufina, located on both sides, occupying the niches in the foreground, those closest to the viewer. Both were the first Sevillian saints, since their history is set in a time as remote as the 3rd century. In addition, they died martyred for not renouncing their faith.

The following in terms of relevance would be San Leandro and San Isidoro, who are placed in the spaces closest to the door. Both saints were bishops of the city between the 6th and 7th centuries, and they are probably the most outstanding figures of Hispanic Catholicism during the Visigoth kingdom. In third place are Saint Fulgencio and Saint Florentina, in the intermediate jambs, almost in profile and less visible from a frontal point of view. Their link with Seville was less than in the previous cases, although they appear on the cover following the iconographic trend of representing them together with Leandro and Isidoro, since they were all brothers, known as the Four Saints of Cartagena.

In accordance with the historical moment in which it was made, the sculptures that decorate the door are made in a final Gothic style in which the first glimpses of Renaissance art are beginning to be seen in the city. The two figures of prophets that appear at the beginning of the archivolt are the work of Pedro Millán, the first sculptor born in Seville that we know of. Both old men are holding some cartouches with their names on them, and they appear seated on the ground, showing the late Gothic features of Flemish influence characteristic of their author, such as the restrained expressions on their faces or the plasticity and profusion of folds in the clothing.

Although chronologically earlier, the six saints on the side jambs are stylistically closer to the Renaissance style. They were made in fired clay by the French-born sculptor Lorenzo Mercadante de Bretaña. The choice of this material was due to the fact that from very early on it was possible to verify how inappropriate the stone used for sculptural decoration was. Most of the cathedral is made of stone from the San Cristóbal hill in Puerto de Santa María. It is characterized by being quite porous and having little plasticity, which makes detailed work very difficult. It is for this reason that it was decided to use fired clay to complete the decoration of the portal.

In this way, Mercadante de Bretaña opted for this material, which will also be used in the sculptural decoration of the covers of San Miguel, Campanillas, Palos and El Perdón. The data that we have about the author is very limited and the most important works that we know of him are those related to the cathedral: the decoration of these two western portals and the previous creation of the magnificent sepulcher of Cardinal Cervantes, which is located in the chapel of San Hermenegildo.

In Mercadante's work one can see the first traits of Renaissance sculpture in Seville, such as greater naturalism, more concerned with the harmony of proportions. This can be seen in the figures of the saints Justa and Rufina, whose clothes have a fairly realistic treatment, creating forceful volumes, which distance them from the more decorative role that sculpture had during the Gothic, to bring them closer to a certain extent to monumentality. of classical statuary.

However, the Gothic features are still very present, as we can see in the rigidity of the positions or in the features of the face, with the characteristic contained and somewhat inexpressive smile, so common in the Gothic. In addition, his clothes have little to do with those of two ancient characters. They are more like the habits of contemporary nuns than those of any female character from Roman times. Apart from the Sevillian context, the only attributes that allow us to identify the figures as Justa and Rufina are the clay pots that appear at their feet.

But apart from their artistic value, the saints on the Baptism portal have the added value of being the first representations of Justa and Rufina that have been preserved in Seville. Both would later be profusely represented, not only in the cathedral and in churches in Seville, but also as part of the private collections of many Sevillians. And it is that the saints enjoyed a great devotion in the city from very early times, linked to the fact that they were Sevillian and also potters, a craft activity with an enormous presence in the city throughout its history.

According to tradition, based mainly on the story of Saint Isidoro, Justa and Rufina ran a stall for the sale of their clay containers at the end of the 3rd century, which is generally located in Triana, a neighborhood from which it is believed that they were natives. . It was a time when there were still very few Christians in Seville and the majority beliefs among the population were pagan, typical of Rome. Related to one of these cults, a procession was held with an image of Salammbo, to which the saints refused to worship or give donations, alleging that they were Christians and that they believed in one God. There was a struggle with the celebrants of the procession, who attacked the pottery stall and the saints, in response, knocked down the idol of Salammbo, which fell to the ground breaking and showing that it was also made of clay.

As a result of this they are imprisoned and subjected to all kinds of torture with the aim of making them abjure their faith, until finally both die martyred without renouncing Christ, despite the long list of hardships that according to the stories they had to go through.

The story of Justa and Rufina, with a clear edifying objective that is typical of the stories of martyrs, always permeated Sevillians, to the point that both are intimately linked to the main icon of the city, the Giralda. And it is that the most common way of representing them, in addition to the vessels and the palms of martyrdom, is on both sides of the tower of the cathedral of Seville, since from very early on the belief spread that the Giralda was kept standing thanks to the divine intervention of the potter sisters, who held it every time the city was shaken by an earthquake.

So the link between the saints and the Seville cathedral could not be closer and it is logical that we find its oldest representation in it. Obviously, the two sculptures of Mercadante de Bretaña are not the only representations of them that we find in the cathedral. To cite just a few examples, we can mention the painting by Hernando de Esturmio on the bench of the altarpiece in the chapel of the Evangelists, in which the author hints at his Dutch origin both in the features of the saints and in the characteristics of the landscape. It has the particularity that it was made before the Renaissance sections of the tower were built, so it is a beautiful testimony of how the Giralda was during the first centuries of Christian domination.

Much later, from 1817, is the canvas made by Goya for the Sacristy of the Chalices. It shows the saints wearing clothes that denote their popular origin and alters the traditional iconography, since it does not only represent the Giralda, but a diffuse profile of the entire cathedral that appears behind the sisters. It has the touching detail of a lion that licks Rufina's foot with the attitude of a puppy, recalling the episode in which she was confronted by a lion in the city's amphitheater and he only licked her clothes, according to traditional narration. . It seems that Goya used all means to satisfy the Cathedral Chapter with his work and visited the city several times to document himself. Perhaps that is why the faces of both figures show a clear influence of Murillo. is that, although it is not in the cathedral but in the Museum of Fine Arts, it is worth mentioning the Justa and Rufina made by Murillo around 1666. Probably the most famous and beautiful representation that has ever been made of this subject, a true masterpiece within the brilliant production of the author.

So the artistic theme of Justa and Rufina, which opens on the cover of the Baptism, will not only be widely distributed, but also of exceptional quality in the city. Seville has seen its patron saints represented by artists of the stature of Goya, Murillo or Velázquez himself, of whom an exquisite Santa Rufina is preserved in the Hospital de los Venerables, in the heart of the Santa Cruz neighbourhood.

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‘CLEANSING OF THE TEMPLE’ AT THE PUERTA DEL PERDÓN

The Puerta del Perdón of the Cathedral of Seville and its surroundings constitute an enclave of great artistic and aesthetic value in which it is possible to read about some of the most significant episodes in the history of the city.

To begin with, it should be noted that it is the main entrance to the aljama mosque on which the Christian cathedral was built. The new construction from the 15th and 16th centuries is a grandiose Gothic building in its general conception, but retains some of the elements of its predecessor. Among others, the space currently occupied by the Patio de los Naranjos coincides with the old ablutions patio of the mosque, while its main entrance is also preserved in the Puerta del Perdón.

It is a large Almohad horseshoe arch framed in its upper half by a plasterwork decoration that follows arabesque patterns, but was already made in the 16th century. What has been preserved from the original work are the two magnificent bronze-coated leaves of the door, which are profusely decorated with geometric motifs, lacework, atauriques and Kufic writing with verses from surahs 15 and 24 of the Koran. The two large knockers stand out for their beauty, splendid examples of the mastery achieved in Muslim Seville for bronze work.

In the 16th century, the Cathedral Chapter decided to reform the door, giving it a new iconographic meaning. To this end, its decoration was entrusted to the French-born sculptor Miguel Perrin, who had already worked with good results on the realization of 16 figures for the new dome, raised after the collapse of the original dome in 1511. In the door that concerns us, he made between 1519 and 1522 a sculptural program in fired clay, placing on both sides two monumental figures of Saint Peter and Saint Paul, about 2.5 meters high. Higher and on a smaller scale, it places an Annunciation, with the Angel on one side of the door and the Virgin on the other. Commissioned by the Cabildo, the relief depicting The Expulsion of the Merchants from the Temple is placed over the entrance opening.

Perrin's own artistic language is already clearly Renaissance. In this relief we can appreciate it in elements such as the naturalism of the figures, the care of its proportions and the fact that it locates the scene in a three-dimensional space, worrying about the effects of perspective and revealing clearly classical architectural forms in the background. The author shows himself with great mastery in this work, as one of the first and most complete introducers of the artistic Renaissance in Seville. This can be seen if we approach the nearby doors of Palos and Campanillas, in the Plaza Virgen de los Reyes, for whose eardrums he made the scenes of the Adoration of the Magi and the Entry into Jerusalem, respectively, in addition to the sculptures of angels and prophets that frame them.

The scenes to be represented in relief were logically determined by the Cathedral Chapter. In the case of the Door of Forgiveness, a passage of Jesus is represented in the Temple of Jerusalem that the four Gospels collect. Matthew, for example, narrates it thus:

And Jesus entered the temple of God, and drove out all those who bought and sold in it, and overturned the tables of the changers and the chairs of those who sold doves; And he says to them: It is written: My house will be called a house of prayer; But you have made it a den of thieves. (Mt. 21, 12-13)

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It seems clear that the canons wanted to send a resounding message with the choice of theme, recalling this particular passage to the merchants who made their deals in spaces annexed to the cathedral.

It should be noted that the surroundings of the Puerta del Perdón constituted a space in which commercial activity in the city had traditionally been concentrated. Already in Islamic times, the so-called Alcaicería de la Seda was located just opposite, on both sides of the current Hernando Colón street, a commercial area specializing in luxury products such as fabrics, goldsmith's pieces or perfumes. Thus, the Muslim custom of locating the main centers of commerce next to the aljama mosques was followed. This activity continued to be predominant in the area after the arrival of the Christians and even today we can see the traces of old shops open towards Calle Alemanes, in the arcaded spaces that open up on the ground floor of several of their homes.

But the presence of dealers around the cathedral skyrocketed above all as a result of the discovery of America and the decision of the Crown to centralize all trade with the New World in Seville. In this way, the steps of the cathedral became the showcase in which all kinds of merchandise were bought and sold. There are stories that tell us about the bustle of the place and how it was filled with stalls and stalls, probably constituting the busiest and busiest space in the city.

Among the many products traded in the area were also slaves. The steps of the cathedral were the main scene of the trade of human beings in the city, coming mainly from Africa, both from the Maghreb area and from the south of the Sahara. There is numerous documentation that tells us about the growing importance of the slave trade in Seville in the 16th century, pushed by the economic boom that brought the status of Puerto de Indias. Although human trafficking was a common and generally accepted activity in Europe at the time, slavery remains one of the saddest aspects of the city's history.

Right in front of the Puerta del Perdón we find a detail that allows us to remember this past. On the collar of one of the columns of the arcades one can read ARIAS CORREA HE WASHED THIS HOUSE IN THE YEAR OF 1591. We know of this character that he was an important slave trader who decided to build his home next to the place where the business of he.

Despite the clear message launched with the relief of The expulsion that we have been talking about, it seems that the members of the Cabildo did not manage to put an end to the problem and the complaints presented throughout the century are constant. They even point out how the merchants do not hesitate to close their deals inside the cathedral on rainy days.

Aware of the problem of the lack of adequate spaces in the city for the development of large-scale commercial exchanges, Felipe II ordered the construction of a Lonja in 1584, the magnificent Renaissance building designed by Juan de Herrera that is the current headquarters of the Archivo de Indians.

Its completion in 1598 would notably alleviate the commercial pressure around the cathedral, but the area around the Puerta del Perdón continued to be a busy space with intense occupation by small businesses. In fact, there are engravings and paintings that show these stalls and stalls in a beautiful and romantic way, as late as the 19th century.

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THE GIRALDA OF SEVILLE

It is about 104 meters high, making it the tallest cathedral tower in Spain and was the tallest building in the country for centuries.

The lower two thirds of the tower are from the Islamic period, Almohads from the 12th century. It began to be built using reused ashlars from Roman, Visigoth and Abbasid monuments, but it was soon decided to continue it in brick.

Each of its sides is decorated with sebka, which form a kind of rhomboid geometric interlacing. In the central axis of each side there are a series of openings with a central mullion framed by arches with different shapes.

Around 1198, four large bronze spheres, superimposed and of unequal size, were placed at the top, which were placed by order of the Caliph Abu Yaacub al-Mansur, to commemorate the victory over the Christians in the Battle of Alarcos. They finished the tower until 1356, when they collapsed due to a great earthquake. By then, the city had already been in Christian hands for more than a century.

The Giralda has two clear stylistic references in Morocco: the minaret of the Koutoubia mosque in Marrakech and the Hasan Tower in Rabat, both also built in the 12th century.

The upper third is in the Renaissance style and was built in the 16th century under the direction of Hernán Ruíz el Joven. It also has several bodies, the first of which houses 24 bells and is topped by the so-called terrace of the lilies, by the four large jars of lilies made of bronze placed in each of its corners. A little higher up is the bell of San Miguel de las Victorias. Dated in 1400, it is the oldest that the cathedral has and is in charge of giving the hours of the clock.

Topping the body that houses it, there is a frieze that reads TURRIS - FORTISSIMA - NOMEN DNI - PROVERB 18 (The strongest tower is the Name of the Lord, Proverbs 18).

The whole of the tower owes its name to the weather vane that culminates it and that today we know as Giraldillo. It was made in 1568 and is an allegory of the Christian victory over the Arabs, although throughout history it has been called in descriptions in various ways, such as the Victorious Faith or the Triumph of the Church.