The church of the Divine Savior (iglesia del Divino Salvador) in Seville is the second largest temple in the city, only after the Cathedral. It is one of the great architectural jewels of the city and inside it houses a magnificent sculpture collection, with works by the most prominent Sevillian Baroque authors.
We know that in the space it occupies today was the so-called Ibn Adabbas mosque, created around 830 as the aljama or main mosque of the city. It held this rank until the new great mosque was built in the 12th century, on the site that is now occupied by the Cathedral.
Some elements of the mosque that was located in El Salvador have been preserved, such as part of its patio and the start of its minaret, which corresponds to the lower part of the tower that we find at the north end, on Córdoba Street.
Once the city was conquered by the Christians in 1248, the mosque began to be used as a church, while maintaining the essentials of its structure. Thus it remained for centuries, with the architectural characteristics of an Islamic temple but serving for Christian worship, as it continues to happen today, for example, with the Mosque-Cathedral of Córdoba.
However, after the seventeenth century, it seems that its condition was quite dilapidated and the construction of a new temple was decided. The works began around 1674, but when the closing of the vaults was being undertaken, a resounding collapse occurred that forced a rethinking of a large part of the project.
Leonardo de Figueroa, the best architect of the Sevillian Baroque, who also took part in other projects such as San Luis de los Franceses or La Magdalena, was commissioned to lead the works. In this case, Figueroa was in charge of closing the vaults, constructing the great dome and finishing the interior of the building. The works were not completed until 1712.
The result is a huge and majestic temple with three naves. The transept stands out notably in height over the rest, although it is not perceptible on the floor of the building, which is called hall.
The main façade has very classic baroque lines, close to the Renaissance forms. The succession of stone pilasters and reddish brick panels achieve the classic bichromy that is so characteristic of many Sevillian buildings since the Lonja, today the Archive of the Indies, was built in the 16th century. Despite its monumentality, the façade of El Salvador stands out for its scant decoration, which contrasts sharply with the interior. The plateresque decoration that runs along the pilasters and some of the moldings is relatively recent, from the end of the 19th century.
But in addition to its architecture, the Church of El Salvador, which was Collegiate until 1852, stands out for the magnificent collection of art that it treasures. It has some of the most outstanding works of the Sevillian altarpiece, starting with the main altarpiece, dedicated to the Ascension of the Lord. It is a work directed by Cayetano de Acosta around 1779, which conceives an exuberant altarpiece, with a baroque profusion close to the Rococo.
Also magnificent is the altarpiece of the Virgen de las Aguas, on the right side of the transept, a work by José Maestre from 1731 presided over by this Marian image of the so-called “Fernandinas”, dated around the 13th century but much remodeled later. They are just two examples of the great collection of altarpieces that this church houses.
And it is that the representation in the temple of great masters of sculpture is exceptional. In all probability, the two great figures of the Sevillian baroque are Juan Martínez Montañés and his disciple Juan de Mesa.
Of the first, El Salvador preserves a colossal sculpture of San Cristóbal, reminiscent of Michelangelo for its monumentality and beauty. But the most outstanding work of this author in El Salvador is surely Our Father Jesus of the Passion, a moving image of the Lord with the cross on his shoulders, which marvelously shows the classicism of Montañés' baroque, by managing to convey all the sentiment and the emotion of the moment, but in a contained, elegant and solemn way. He presides over the silver altarpiece of the Sacramental Chapel and goes out in procession every Holy Thursday. We are not exaggerating when we say that it is one of the most successful representations of Jesus Nazareno in the Spanish Baroque.
From the other great Sevillian baroque master, Juan de Mesa, we find the Christ of Love, who also processions from this temple at Easter, this time on Palm Sunday. It is an exceptional carving of a crucified man, already dead, with a masterful treatment of the anatomy, the hair and the cloth. An exceptional work within the production of its author, which seems to have taken into account for its realization the model that his teacher Montañés made a few years before with the Christ of Mercy that we find in the Cathedral.
Along with these teachers, the list of great artists with works in this church of El Salvador is almost innumerable. We could cite, for example, Duque Cornejo, José Montes de Oca or Antonio Quirós. But for now we finish here this little sketch about the authentic living museum of the Sevillian baroque that is the old collegiate school of El Salvador. We will have more in future deliveries.
And remember that if you are interested in taking a guided tour so as not to miss any of the details, you can get in touch by the way you prefer from this website.