The Alcazar of Seville is one of the most fascinating royal residences in Spain. This is due to the fact that it does not respond to a single project undertaken at a given moment, but rather is the result of numerous construction phases that have taken place throughout its history.
It has been used continuously as a royal palace since its Muslim origins, back in the 10th or 11th century, until today, in which it is still the oldest royal palace in use in Spain and Europe. Throughout its history, the different monarchs who have inhabited here have been adapting the different palaces, courtyards and gardens to the tastes of each era, until configuring the marvelous and diverse complex through which we can walk today.
Although its origin is a set of Muslim palaces, very little remains of this early period of the Alcázar. Most of the palaces that we are going to see correspond to the reforms undertaken in Christian times by:
- Alfonso X the Wise, who built the so-called Gothic Palace in the 13th century.
- Pedro I, called by some the Cruel and by others the Justiciero, who built the wonderful that is the true heart of the Alcázar. It was built in the middle of the 14th century and constitutes the peak of the Mudejar style.
- In the reign of the Catholic Monarchs, the so-called Casa de Contratación was built, of which we will also see some rooms on this side, intended to centralize and organize trade with the Indies, after the discovery of America in 1492.
All this is surrounded by a magnificent set of patios and gardens, which have been added and reformed until very recent times. It must be remembered that a part of the Palace of Pedro I, specifically the upper floor, is still used as the residence of the kings of Spain when they are in Seville.
Thanks to all this, its long history, its beauty and its architecture, the Real Alcázar of Seville was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in December 1987, together with the nearby cathedral and Archivo de Indias.
The Convent of San Agustín was one of the great Sevillian convents during the Middle and Modern Ages, founded according to Ortiz de Zúñiga already in the 13th century, shortly after the Christian conquest of the city. It seems that the religious settled here at the end of the same century and the Augustinian community remained here until 1835, the year in which they were exclaustrated.
After the expropriation of the convent, the property has been put through various uses and gradually reduced its original dimensions. The church and one of the cloisters have disappeared and today only a few rooms remain around what was the main cloister, all in a dilapidated state.
Although the convent had a long construction history between the 13th and 19th centuries, the remains of the cloister that have survived to this day date from the end of the 16th or beginning of the 17th century. It is an enormous porticoed cloister, with semicircular arches on brick pillars on the first floor and carpanel arches on paired columns on the second. ´
In the center of the courtyard are the stone remains of what appears to be a great gate or triumphal arch, deposited there after being dismantled from its original location. It is probably access to the compass of the convent that was designed by the great architect of the Sevillian Renaissance Hernán Ruiz II.
There is currently a project to build a hotel on what remains of the old convent, maintaining the cloister façades.
Convent of Dominican nuns founded at the end of the 15th century, when Queen Isabella the Catholic ceded a large plot of the old Jewish quarter of Seville to the nuns. Some authors maintain that the convent was partly based on one of the old synagogues in the neighborhood, but this information has not been confirmed. The building that has survived to this day dates from the second half of the 16th century.
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The main elements of the convent can be dated to that date: the church, a small patio that acts as a cloister and another larger one that is used as a garden.
The temple is one of the largest convent churches found in Seville and the architects Juan de Simancas and Pedro Díaz Palacios were involved in its construction. It has a rectangular plan, with a square head and high and low choirs at the feet.
The façade is on the Gospel side, accessed through a late Renaissance doorway. The royal coat of arms appears on the lintel, flanked by that of the Dominicans, a symbol of the patronage of the Crown. In the central niche, we see a relief by Juan de Oviedo with a beautiful representation of the Virgin and Child giving a rosary to Saint Dominic de Guzmán, founder of the order. Next to it appears the iconographic element that traditionally identifies it: a dog holding a torch in its mouth. In the attic there is an image of God the Father in an attitude of blessing.
Inside, a large wooden coffered ceiling covers the nave, while a magnificent octagonal vault on tubes, also made of wood, covers the presbytery area. The nave and the presbytery are separated by a large, richly polychrome main arch, a very characteristic element of the Sevillian conventual churches as well.
In the church there are more than twenty burials, among which those of Hernán Cortes's wife, Juana de Zúñiga, and two of her daughters, which are found on the sides of the presbytery, stand out.
The main altarpiece is the work of Francisco de Barahona from the beginning of the 18th century, made to replace a previous one from the 16th century. Some images of Jerónimo Hernández were preserved from the original, such as the Virgin of the Rosary in the central niche, also called Madre de Dios de la Piedad.
On each side of the presbytery there are two valuable Renaissance side altars from the second half of the 16th century. As usual in Sevillian convent churches, they are dedicated to the 'Santos Juanes', that is, to Saint John the Baptist and Saint John the Evangelist, both the work of the sculptor and altarpiece artist Miguel Adán. However, it was Jerónimo Hernández who carved the image of Saint John the Evangelist, whom he represents at the end of his life, on Patmos, the place where he wrote the Apocalypse. The one dedicated to San Juan Bautista is just opposite and has a very similar structure to the previous one. In its central niche, Miguel Adán represented the scene of the Baptism of Christ.
They are not the only Renaissance altarpieces that the church has.
The one next to that of the Evangelist frames a beautiful panel painting with a Flemish-inspired Burial of Christ.
On the opposite side we find the altarpiece of the Virgen del Rosario, anonymous from the 16th century and of great quality. The image of the Virgin, in the center, appears flanked by Santo Domingo and Santo Tomás, while the rest of the altarpiece has a series of reliefs with different scenes from the life of Christ and the Virgin.
In the upper and lower choir space of the church, the nuns have set up a museum space in which a series of high-quality artistic pieces are exhibited, mainly sculptures from the 16th and 17th centuries. To cite just a few of them, we can mention the Virgin and Child by Mercadante de Brittany, a Risen One by Jerónimo Hernández or a Calvary by Cristóbal Ramos.
With the entrance to the museum, you collaborate with the large expenses that the convent has to face for the maintenance of the property and its valuable artistic heritage.
The Cathedral of Seville is probably the most emblematic monument of the city. Unesco declared it a World Heritage Site in 1987, along with the Alcázar and the Archivo de Indias. It is considered the largest Gothic temple in the world.
Most of its work was done in the late Gothic style during the 15th century, although it retains elements of the 12th-century Almohad mosque on which it sits, such as the Patio de los Naranjos or the Giralda. In addition, in the 16th century the Royal Chapel, the Chapter House and the Greater Sacristy were added in the Renaissance style. Later, during the Baroque period and practically up to the present day, various elements of the cathedral would be added and remodeled, until it became a true compendium of the history of art in the city.
Its floor plan is one of the hall calls, with a flat head and five naves, the central one being taller and wider than the rest. It has numerous side chapels located between the buttresses.
The supports are enormous pillars with a rhomboid section, made of brick and masonry and covered with ashlars. Rib vaults sit on them, so characteristic of Gothic. They are sexpartite in the chapels, quadripartite in the naves, and those corresponding to the transept, in the central part of the temple, are star-shaped.
On the side chapels and on the main axes there is a narrow gallery in the form of a clerestory.
Its construction was approved by the cathedral chapter in 1401. Legend has it that the project would be inspired by the phrase "Let's make a church so beautiful and so great that those who see it carved will consider us crazy" and according to the capitular act of that day the new work should be "one such and so good, that there is no other like it."
We are in front of a 16th century palace house, of which we do not know documentary origin. However, it is clear that it has undergone successive reforms over the following centuries, mainly in the 17th and 19th centuries, as reflected in the inscription on the lintel over the main door: 1560, 1654 and 1856.
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The main façade has preserved a beautiful Renaissance portal from the 16th century, framed by Ionic columns with plant decoration on the shafts. They support a lintel on which appear a series of corbels that in turn support the central balcony.
Inside, the model of a Sevillian house is faithfully reproduced, with the rooms distributed around a porticoed patio on all four sides. On the floor below, the arches are semicircular and rest on marble columns with capitals of ribbons or castanets. The arches have the classic Sevillian plateresque decoration, with vegetation and 'candelieri'. Between them, a series of pilasters support a continuous frieze, all with the same decorative motif.
The large Renaissance building that we know today as the Archivo de Indias was originally conceived as the Lonja de Mercaderes, to house and organize part of the commercial activity that arrived in the city during the 16th century. Until its construction, merchants used the spaces around the Cathedral as a market, especially the area known as 'las gradas', towards Alemanes street. The Chapter of the Cathedral was upset with this situation and asked the king for a solution.
Felipe II would attend to the request and commission Juan de Herrera, the famous architect from El Escorial, to design the new building in 1572. Work began in 1584 directed by Juan de Minjares following Herrera's plans. It seems that the building was ready for use in 1598, although there is evidence that the works continued during the 17th century.
When the center of commerce moved to Cádiz, in the 18th century, it was when the building was readapted to house all the documentation generated by the Casa de Contratación. As a result of this new circumstance, new works would be undertaken on the property in order to adapt it to the new use. It would be then, for example, when the monumental main access staircase to the upper floor was built.
It houses all the documentation related to the Spanish administration of the American territories. It was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1987, together with the Cathedral and the Alcázar, due to the great historical and artistic values of the complex.
The building is a magnificent sample of the Renaissance in the city, with a more sober and Italianate air than is usual here. It has a square plan, two stories high, articulated around a monumental central patio, porticoed with Doric columns, very similar to the Patio de los Evangelistas in El Escorial.
On the façade, a bichrome color was introduced between the reddish brick panels and the pale stone pilasters. This game of two colors was enormously successful in Seville and we will see it reproduced in numerous buildings in the city for centuries to come.
Inside, the naves around the patio are covered with hollow vaults, with coffers and plant decoration. Practically all the walls are covered by shelves of magnificent quality, made with mahogany and cedar wood brought expressly from Cuba. These shelves were added in the 18th century, when the old Lonja was converted into an Archive.
It was also then that Lucas Cintora designed the monumental staircase behind the main access from Avenida de la Constitución. It is covered with red and greyish black jaspers and above it stands a vaulted ceiling with a central lantern that provides light.
The Archive contains documents of incalculable value. Manuscripts of characters such as Christopher Columbus, Hernán Cortés, Miguel de Cervantes, Felipe II, Felipe IV or George Washington himself, the first president of the United States. In addition, it brings together a magnificent collection of engravings, drawings and maps, authentic jewels for the study of the history of America up to the 19th century.
This enormous building, which today occupies the Superior Conservatory of Music and the Superior School of Dramatic Art, was originally a Carmelite convent founded in 1358 and known as Casa Grande del Carmen. In the 19th century it became a barracks and remained in that use until relatively recently. This makes its architecture complex and difficult to analyze, with two main construction moments: the 16th and 17th centuries, when it was configured as a convent, and the 19th century, when it was transformed into a barracks.
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The church remains of the old convent, rectangular in plan and with a dome over the presbytery, although it was also heavily modified in the 19th century. The tower, dating from the 17th century, has also been preserved, although it has no tops.
The main cloister is original, from the transition from the 16th to the 17th century, late-Renaissance or Mannerist style. It is porticoed on its lower floor, with semicircular arches that rest on pillars, decorated with Tuscan pilasters. On the upper floor, the molding of the large windows is finished off with a split pediment of clear Mannerist tradition.
The main façade constitutes the most important artistic contribution of the nineteenth-century reform. It has a marked neoclassical character, with a central doorway designed according to the prevailing academic models of the time, which determine the auction of the set by a classical entablature with its characteristic triangular pediment.
This palace house on Zaragoza street is known as Casa de Santa Teresa because the first foundation of the Discalced Carmelites in the city was established there, by the hand of six nuns who accompanied Saint Teresa herself to Seville. Her brother, Lorenzo de Cepeda, bought the house for them in 1576 and a letter from Saint Teresa to the clergyman García Álvarez has been preserved in which he describes it with great praise:
'The lieutenant says that there is no better house in Seville or better position. It seems to me that the heat should not be felt in it. Now they are all in the patio, where mass is said in a room until the church is done, and they see the whole house, that in the innermost patio there are good rooms. The orchard is very graceful, the views extreme'.
The Carmelites would stay there for about ten years until they moved to a new convent in the Barrio de Santa Cruz, the convent of San José or de las Teresas, which is still active as a Carmelite convent today.
The original house underwent important modifications in 1882, when it underwent a profound reform to adapt it to the prevailing taste of the time. In 1924 it was bought by Armando de Soto, who wanted to return it as far as possible to its original appearance from the 16th century, the time when it was inhabited by Saint Teresa. The reform was entrusted to the great architect of Sevillian regionalism, Vicente Traver, who restored the façade to its original appearance based on a drawing that Cardinal Lluch, Archbishop of Seville, had done before the 1882 reform. The architect also recovered the interior all the elements he could from the original house.
Inside, the traditional scheme of the Sevillian palace house is reproduced, with a hallway after the entrance through which you can access a porticoed patio around which the house is distributed. The access staircase to the upper floors is located in one of the corners of the patio, also following the tradition of Sevillian houses.
The Casa de Salinas is an example of the type of Sevillian palace house from the 16th century, characterized by synthesizing the contributions of the Renaissance with the Gothic-Mudejar tradition of the city. It was ordered to be built by Baltasar de Jaén y Roelas from 1577.
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During the 19th century, the House went through various uses. According to its website, it even hosted a Masonic lodge, 'which when it left left an extensive trail of rumors about death practices and corpses buried in the house and nobody wanted to live in it. From these rumors he became convinced that the Freemasons had left a hidden treasure. The rumor was so strong that they began to make holes in the entire house. The search ended when they mistakenly punctured a septic tank with unpleasant consequences for everyone digging at the time.'
At the end of the 19th century, the house would be acquired by Eduardo Ybarra, who would undertake a profound reform to which we owe in part its current appearance. It would be enriched with elements such as the tiles of the Casa Mensaque de Triana, a mosaic by Bacchus from Itálica and dating from the 2nd century, a marble sculpture of the Virgen de los Remedios from the old Convent of Los Remedios and a series of stained glass windows from Pickman's factory for the upper dining room and main courtyard.
In 1930 the house would be acquired by Manuel Salinas de Malagamba and it would be then when it would take the current name of Casa de Salinas.
Architecturally, the house is articulated around a patio with a double gallery, with semicircular arches on the ground floor and carpanels on the upper floor. They sit on marble columns and are enriched with a profuse 'candelieri' decoration, very characteristic of Plateresque.
Currently, the Casa de Salinas is privately owned but is open to cultural visits and can also be rented for events.
The Casa de Pilatos is one of the most outstanding examples of 16th century civil architecture in Andalusia, constituting a beautiful synthesis of Italian Renaissance art and the Sevillian Mudejar style.
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Its construction began at the end of the 15th century by the Mayor of Andalusia Pedro Enríquez and his wife, Catalina de Ribera, although the bulk of its work was undertaken in the time of their son, Fadrique Enríquez de Ribera, first Marquis of Rate.
He carried out a pilgrimage to the Holy Land in 1518, touring a large part of Italy both on his way out and on his return, a fact that would greatly mark the physiognomy of the palace. He was able to admire great works of the Italian Renaissance in cities like Venice, Milan, Rome or Genoa. In this last city he would commission the sculptor Antonio María Aprile, the magnificent portal that constitutes the main access to his palace. It is made of white marble and reproduces the shape of a Roman triumphal arch, with Corinthian pilasters framing a semicircular arch. In the spandrels there are two classic medallions with the effigies of Julius Caesar and Trajan, both closely linked to the city. On the frieze, between the family coats of arms, there is a large inscription with metal characters inserted in marble, alluding to the construction of the palace and this doorway.
The façade is topped by a Gothic-style cresting, which apparently comes from a previous palace that the family owned in Bornos. In the central part of this balustrade, there are three pillars, each one with a Jerusalem cross and the inscription "4 DAYS OF AUGUST 1519. ENTERED HIERUSALEM", alluding to Don Fadrique's pilgrimage to the Holy Land.
From this pilgrimage, which apparently deeply marked the Marquis of Tarifa, most likely comes the name Casa de Pilatos by which the palace is generally known. For a long time the legend existed that the marquis had reproduced in his home the traces of the palace of the Roman praetorian Pontius Pilate in Jerusalem and that this is where the name would come from. In fact, the portico that faces outwards on the first floor next to this façade is sometimes referred to as the “Ecce Homo” balcony, since it would supposedly reproduce the space where Jesus was shown to the people in the famous Biblical passage.
The slightest formal and stylistic analysis of the palace makes it clear that this theory is nothing more than a legend. What does seem more probable is the relationship of the popular name of the palace with the famous Via Crucis that starts from it and that reaches the Cruz del Campo temple, which is still preserved in the current Luis Montoto street.
According to tradition, the Marquis of Tarifa, on his pilgrimage to Jerusalem, would have measured the exact distance that went from the praetorium palace where Jesus was tried to Mount Calvary where he was crucified. This distance would coincide with the one between the façade of the palace and the aforementioned temple.
The niche with a cross that is to the left of the main portal, made in the 17th century with colorful marbles of different colors, alludes to this circumstance. This cross would mark the first station of the aforementioned Way of the Cross, as can be read in the inscriptions that appear on the sides.
Inside, the space of the palace is articulated around a series of patios and gardens, generating a very complex layout.
The peculiar stylistic diversity of this space, which harmoniously brings together Gothic, Mudejar, Renaissance and Romantic elements, is the product of successive interventions on a rectangular courtyard, centered on the chapel and porticoed only on its short sides, built at the end of the s. XV by Pedro Enríquez and Catalina de Ribera. His son Fadrique, the pilgrim to Jerusalem, began his Renaissance transformation: he enlarged its dimensions making it quadriform, opened galleries on its four sides, replaced the brick pillars with Genoese columns and placed in its center the marble fountain also acquired in Genoa. Fadrique was inherited in 1539 by his nephew Per Afán, who, in addition to enriching its corners with the four main pieces of his sculpture collection (see no. 4), arranged around it a gallery of busts of ancient characters that, as a historical mirror, it reinforces the idea of continuity between the founding of Rome and the new empire of Carlos V. Already in the s. In the XIX century, novelties to the romantic taste are introduced, such as the opening of an access in its center, the replacement of the clay floor by marble and the placement of new pseudo-Nazarite mullioned windows.
The central and most emblematic element of the palace is the central patio. It has a marked Renaissance air, despite the profuse Mudejar decoration and the presence of Gothic elements. This is due to the profuse use of marble in columns and flooring, and the splendid collection of Roman pieces on display in the courtyard. For example, in each of the corners there are four Roman female sculptures, all original from the 1st and 2nd centuries. They represent Pallas Pacifera, Pallas as a warrior, Copa Syrisca and Faustina the Less deified as Fortuna. In the center of the patio, a marble fountain with a bust of Jano Bifronte, also original from the 1st century. In addition, the patio walls are crossed by a series of niches in which a magnificent collection of busts of original emperors is exhibited. one of the best private collections that exist of this matter.
These works are just a part of the magnificent sculptural collection that can be admired on a visit to the palace. The main nucleus of the complex was made up of Per Afán de Ribera, 1st Duke of Alcalá, mainly with works from the Viceroyalty of Naples, where he even financed excavations. The pieces have been exhibited in various rooms of the palace and many of them next to the so-called Jardín Chico, one of the two beautiful garden spaces that flank the palace. The interior rooms generally adopt names related to the aforementioned identification of the palace with the house of Pilatos. In this way, we have the Praetorium Hall, the Chapel of the Flagellation or the Pilate's Cabinet.
The Salón del Praetorio, between the main patio and the Jardín Chico, preserves all its original elements from the 16th century, including the magnificent wooden coffered ceiling and the tile covering on the basin and edge of the walls.
The Chapel of the Flagellation, located on one side of the main patio, is considered the oldest room in the palace, built in a Mudejar Gothic style. In its center is a column, which tradition identifies with the one used in the flagellation of Jesus and hence the name of the chapel. On the altar there is a paleo-Christian sculpture from the 4th century that represents Jesus as the Good Shepherd. Perhaps this is the oldest image of Jesus among those that can be seen in Seville.
The Pilatos Cabinet, located under the tower, has a square plan and an octagonal fountain in its center, elements that relate it to the 'qubbas' of Mudejar architecture. It is covered by an imposing wooden coffered ceiling. It is made of "street and rope" lacework made up of ten-sided wheels that have a ten-pointed star as their center, forming a composition that symbolically alludes to the celestial vault.
For its part, the upper floor was ordered to be built by Fadrique Enríquez de Ribera in the 16th century and was decorated with a series of illustrious characters from Antiquity and with an allegorical composition on the Triumph of the Four Seasons. Later, Francisco Pacheco, Velázquez's father-in-law, painted the ceilings with a series of mythological themes. Currently, a series of pieces from the Medinaceli collection are exhibited in these spaces, which include not only furniture and tapestries, but also paintings by artists such as Goya, Lucas Jordán or Carreño Miranda.