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.