THE DOME OF THE MAGDALENE CHURCH

The Magdalena church in Seville is one of the most outstanding examples of Baroque art in Seville. And this is saying a lot for a city whose heritage includes buildings such as the Hospital de la Caridad, San Luis de los Franceses or the Colegial del Salvador, to name just a few of the magnificent achievements of the 17th and 18th centuries.

The current parish of La Magdalena was originally built as the church of the Dominican convent of San Pablo, which occupied an extensive area of ​​more than 30,000 m2 between the current church and Gravina street. The convent had a primitive temple in Mudejar style, but its dilapidated state made the friars decide at the end of the 17th century to demolish it and build a new church, which is the one that has come down to us.

In 1835 it is expropriated by the State within the framework of the confiscation process and the monks are exclaustrated. All the land of the former convent is parceled out and sold for housing construction, with the exception of the Montserrat church and chapel, which remain to this day, and the main cloister, which for a time served as the offices of the administration until it was pulled down as early as the 20th century.

The church of La Magdalena was a few meters further east, where today is the square with this name. It suffered serious damage during the Napoleonic invasion and, although its reconstruction was initially projected, when the church of the convent was freed, it was decided to move the parish there and leave the aforementioned square in the place of the original. In this way, the primitive conventual church of San Pablo became the parish of La Magdalena.

Obviously, it is necessary to take this past into account when attempting to artistically describe the building, since a large part of its characteristics and iconographic program can only be explained if we understand the church as part of a convent of the Dominican order.

In fact, it was the largest Dominican convent in Andalusia, which explains the monumentality of the church. Its history is closely linked not only to that of the city, but also to that of the Crown of Castile. King Fernando III led to its foundation after the conquest of the city in 1248, ceding to the Dominicans some land that at that time was located next to the Triana Gate of the walls. That is why the convent carried from its origins the name of San Pablo el Real.

The Dominicans were an order closely linked to the Inquisition since its creation by Pope Gregory IX in the 13th century. When in 1478 the institution was created in Castile under the reign of the Catholic Monarchs, this convent was the first seat of the court in Seville and therefore the first trials and death sentences were held in the city.

In fact, it was the largest Dominican convent in Andalusia, which explains the monumentality of the church. Its history is closely linked not only to that of the city, but also to that of the Crown of Castile. King Fernando III led to its foundation after the conquest of the city in 1248, ceding to the Dominicans some land that at that time was located next to the Triana Gate of the walls. That is why the convent carried from its origins the name of San Pablo el Real.

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The Dominicans were an order closely linked to the Inquisition since its creation by Pope Gregory IX in the 13th century. When in 1478 the institution was created in Castile under the reign of the Catholic Monarchs, this convent was the first seat of the court in Seville and therefore the first trials and death sentences were held in the city.

After the discovery of America in 1492, Seville became the seat of the Port of the Indies and centralized all overseas trade. It will be the beginning of a time of splendor to which the convent will not be oblivious. It must be remembered that among the declared priorities of the Crown was always the evangelization of the new territories, so Seville had to be filled with convents and monasteries, from which the religious who would go to America with this mission came. The convent of San Pablo stood out among all of them in this mission, due in part to the very nature of the order, whose official name is Ordo Praedicatorum, that is, order of preachers. In this way, many of the clerics sent to evangelize America and the Philippines came from here. Among them, the famous Fray Bartolomé de las Casas, theologian and jurist known as "the defender of the Indians", who was consecrated bishop of Chiapas in this same church.

Its construction took place between 1691 and 1709, directed by the architect Leonardo de Figueroa, probably the most prominent figure in all of Sevillian baroque architecture. This is shown by his intervention in such relevant buildings of this period in the city as the Hospital de la Caridad, El Salvador, San Luis de los Franceses and the Palacio de San Telmo.

The new construction would preserve some elements of the Mudejar Gothic church that preceded it, such as the marked polygonal head and what is now the Quinta Angustia chapel, which in the Mudejar church were three adjoining chapels on the epistle side, annexed between yes forming the current one with the baroque reform.

Focusing on the magnificent dome, it was the first built in Seville on a drum, followed in this characteristic by those of El Salvador and San Luis de los Franceses, also designed by Leonardo de Figueroa. Specifically, it is an octagonal drum, on which stands the hemisphere topped by a large lantern, also octagonal. An enormous wrought iron royal crown is placed as a finishing touch, recalling the foundation of the convent by the royal initiative of Fernando III and its strong historical link with the Crown.

It is the first dome built by Leonardo de Figueroa and in it he makes clear some of the defining elements of his style, such as the roundness of the lantern, which he will repeat in El Salvador and San Luis, or the wealth of decorative elements, which also They show a remarkable chromatic variety.

In the case of the Magdalena, these decorative elements have a clear iconographic reading linked to the evangelizing work of the order in America. To allude to this, a series of sculptural elements inspired by artistic representations of some of the pre-Hispanic cultures, reinterpreted in a picturesque way, are included.

Thus, for example, the lantern is surrounded by a series of Amerindians who act as cloths, that is, they support the cornice above their heads. In addition, masks with highly emphasized Negroid features appear on the antefixes, wearing curious feathered headdresses in various colors. Other semi-fantastic characters appear in other parts of the façade such as in the pilasters, inspired by pre-Hispanic art but in a very deformed way.

The interior of the dome is decorated with frescoes by Lucas Valdés. On each of the segments, a pair of angels hold a lavishly decorated golden letter. Together they form the inscription AVE MARÍA.

The choice of this theme also has to do with an episode in the history of the order that we have not yet commented on. Seville was always a firm defender of the Immaculate Conception of Mary, that is, of the belief that the Virgin was conceived without original sin, unlike the rest of mortals. Other religious orders based in the city, such as the Dominicans or the Franciscans, were fervent defenders that this doctrine be proclaimed as a dogma of faith, something that did not happen until 1854. The Dominicans, on the other hand, did not share this belief and defended that Mary he was born with the same stain as the rest of the humans.

In the context of a city of such Marian devotion as Seville, this somehow earned them a certain unpopularity among the faithful. In the decoration of its dome, the Dominicans of San Pablo wanted to make it clear that they also shared an enormous faith and affection for the figure of the Virgin, and arranged that the first words of the greeting that the Archangel Gabriel made to her could be read on it to Mary announcing the miraculous conception of Jesus: Hail Mary.

Inside the lantern, at the highest point in the entire space, a splendid golden sun appears on a dark blue background, around which the Latin inscription ET CAEPISSE EST ALQUID, SED FINIS FACTA can be read. That is, having started is something, but the end must be reached. An allusion to the human capacity to undertake and complete undertakings as extraordinary as that of building a church as magnificent as the Magdalena de Sevilla.

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Vistas de la Iglesia de Santa Catalina en Sevilla

SAINT CATHERINE CHURCH IN SEVILLE

Santa Catalina is part of the magnificent series of Mudejar Gothic churches that the city of Seville has. It is probably the one with the most “Islamic” air when viewed from the outside, especially due to its characteristic bell tower and the exterior of the Exaltation Chapel, which with its square floor plan covered by a dome is very reminiscent of the Muslim “qubbas”.

However, we know that the construction of the temple began already in Christian times, in the second half of the 13th century, although it was profoundly reformed from the 14th century, probably after the damage suffered by the great earthquake of 1356.

Today, after a profound restoration that kept the temple closed between 2004 and 2018, we can admire the church in all its splendor. It has three naves, divided by transverse arches, pointed and seated on cruciform brick pillars. The whole is covered with Mudejar wooden coffered ceilings, except for the head, very prominent from the rest of the floor, which is covered by Gothic ribbed vaults made of brick.

Towards the outside, the main portal of the church stands out, with its characteristic ogival and flared shape, so similar to that of other Sevillian churches, such as San Marcos, San Román or Santa Marina. However, in this case we must point out the curiosity that this is not the original portal of the temple, but was part of the church of Santa Lucía, today deconsecrated and converted into the Research and Resource Center for the Performing Arts of Andalusia. . It was moved to its current location between 1924 and 1930, in works directed by the architect Juan Talavera y Heredia, who sought to strengthen the stability of this part of the temple.

The primitive Mudejar portal of Santa Catalina is still preserved in its location, today already inside. It has the shape of a horseshoe arch, framed by a beautiful and original polylobed molding.

Recalling in some way this link with the old church, since 1930 the Brotherhood of Santa Lucía has had its headquarters in Santa Catalina, as recalled by the ceramic altarpiece that we find outside, the work of Antonio Kierman Flores and in whose molding we can read the acronym for ONCE.

Very close to the main portal we find a curious lateral apse, decorated with a series of polylobed blind arches, very original due to its strange location at the foot of the temple.

As for the tower, it is built almost entirely in brick, except at its base, where it has stone ashlars. Some authors have pointed out the possibility that these blocks were indeed part of the minaret of a previous mosque, although it is a theory that has not been confirmed. The complex is crowned by jagged battlements and is a beautiful example of a Mudejar bell tower, although over time it has lost much of its original decoration based on “sebka” cloth.

Already inside the temple, although its essential medieval structure is still perceptible, the successive reforms throughout history have partially masked it and today the baroque style predominates in the chapels and altarpieces of the temple.

In the apse, the main altarpiece is a work by Diego López Bueno from the first half of the 17th century. With a fairly simple structure, it includes a series of canvases with scenes alluding to the life of Saint Catherine, with a sculpture of the Saint appearing in the central niche, a work from the 18th century. Above it, a canvas with a Crucified crowns the altarpiece, and on its sides, the sculptures of Saints John the Evangelist, John the Baptist, Peter and Paul.

Among the chapels that the church has, we can undoubtedly highlight the Sacramental Chapel, also located at the head of the temple, on the Gospel side. It is a magnificent work by the great architect Leonardo de Figueroa, dated around 1721. It has a rectangular floor plan and stands out for its profuse decoration of plasterwork and paintings. It is covered by an original octagonal lantern, which gives light to the space and is especially beautiful towards the outside, where it is topped by an allegorical sculpture of Faith made by Miguel Quintero. Authors as prominent as the painter José García and the sculptor Pedro Duque Cornejo intervened in the exuberant decoration of the chapel. The main altarpiece, one of the best of the 18th century in Seville, is the work of Felipe Fernández del Castillo and his nephew Benito Hita del Castillo.

Inside the same chapel, the painting of the Christ of Forgiveness that occupies one of the lateral altarpieces is also of great interest. It is a 1546 work by Pedro de Campaña, one of the great Renaissance painters in Seville.

Also noteworthy among the chapels is the one that serves as the headquarters for the Brotherhood of Exaltation, on the side of the Epistle. As we have already mentioned, it has the traditional shape of an Islamic "qubba", with a square floor plan and a vault of panels resting on squinches, especially beautiful in its Mudejar decoration based on lacework. The image that presides over the chapel is that of the Christ of Exaltation, a work by Pedro Roldán from 1687. It is accompanied on its right by the image of the Virgen de las Lágrimas, by an anonymous author and dated from the 18th century. Of great artistic interest are also the passionate angels that frame the altarpiece, masterpieces by Luisa Roldán. They accompany the mystery step in its processional exit every Holy Thursday, located in the corners of the basket.

And thus we conclude this small outline of the church, necessarily leaving without mentioning many of the very interesting sculptural and pictorial works that are preserved in it. Although Santa Catalina is not generally included in the tourist circuits of the city, it is still a splendid sample of Sevillian Mudejar that history has enriched with magnificent works of art, which we can also enjoy in all its splendor after so many years of profound restoration.

CHURCH OF THE DIVINE SAVIOR

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.