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.

SAINT PAULA MONASTERY IN SEVILLE

The Monastery of Santa Paula, owned by nuns of the Order of San Jerónimo, is located in the heart of Seville, very close to the church of San Marcos and neighbor of another of the great convents of the city, that of Santa Isabel. It came to occupy a much larger area than the current one, since its orchards extended to the north, in what is now the area of ​​warehouses around the Mallol Passage.

In its origin, two women of aristocratic origins played a fundamental role. The first of them was Ana de Santillán y de Guzmán, who, after being widowed and losing her only daughter, founded the monastery in 1473 after obtaining a bull from Pope Sixtus IV.

Barely a decade later, the modest facilities of the new monastery seem to have become too small due to the influx of nuns. It was then that Mrs. Isabel Enríquez intervened as a sponsor, who, also after becoming a widow, took charge of its remodeling and expansion. It was she who paid for the construction of the conventual church that has survived to this day, where we precisely find her tomb and that of her husband, Juan de Braganza.

The monastery complex presents a very complex structure, the result of its long history, and mixes the original Mudejar Gothic style, with Renaissance and Baroque elements, especially from the 16th and 17th centuries. Already in the twentieth century it would undergo another important remodeling, this time at the hands of the one who was its prioress for more than forty years, Sister Cristina de Arteaga, who promoted the idea of ​​creating a museum remodeling some of the monastery's dependencies to expose part of the artistic heritage that had been treasured for centuries. To this patrimony was added the personal contribution of Sister Cristina, as heir to a notable aristocratic family.

The main access to the monastic complex is through a beautiful 16th century portal, made of brick in the shape of an ogee arch, following the Mudejar Gothic style. Above it is a tile panel representing Santa Paula, a work from the late nineteenth century made to replace the original set lost during the Revolution of 1868.

Along with this portal, the most remarkable exterior element of the monastery is its beautiful two-section belfry, made in the 17th century by Diego López Bueno. It is richly decorated with ceramic details, geometric motifs, attached pilasters and symbolic elements that allude to the Order of Saint Jerome.

Once inside, the doorway of the church opens onto a landscaped patio, which constitutes a true artistic jewel of the 16th century in Seville. It is built in two-tone brick that gives it a very pronounced Mudejar air, but at the same time has a marked ogival shape characteristic of the Gothic. It also includes clearly Renaissance elements, such as its exquisite ceramic decoration, in which we know that the Italian based in Triana, Niculoso Pisano, participated. Pedro Millán, the first Sevillian sculptor whose name we know, also worked alongside him, who collaborated with Mercadante de Brittany in the sculptural decoration of the doors of Baptism and of San Miguel de la Catedral. Framing the arch there are a series of clearly Renaissance tondos with the representation of various saints. In fact, the one in the center, with a representation of the Nativity, comes from the famous Florentine workshop of the Della Robbia and probably served as a model for the others. On the tympanum appears the coat of arms of the Catholic Monarchs, framed by two others with their characteristic symbols of the yoke and the bundle of arrows, alluding to the unity of the peninsular kingdoms that occurred during their reign.

Inside, the church has the characteristic shape of Sevillian convent temples, with a box plan, that is, with a single nave. The bulk of the church is covered by wooden coffered ceiling, while the head, the most sacred area, is covered by stone, with Gothic rib vaults. Inside, the sculptural and pictorial decoration is very rich, mainly from the 17th and 18th centuries, which gives the complex a very baroque air. We find works by such prominent authors as Alonso Cano, Martínez Montañés or Alonso Vázquez.

In addition to the church and the rooms dedicated to the museum, its two cloisters are noteworthy in the monastery. The oldest is the so-called small patio, with a square plan framed by a gallery of banked arches on marble columns of different heights, a symptom of its origin from previous constructions. The largest and main cloister of the convent is already a 17th-century work by Diego López Bueno, with a square plan with two levels of galleries with round arches, very banked, on marble columns.

We finish for now this small reference to a monastic group that would give for its artistic treasures to write several volumes. Simply recommend his visit, from which we can also take a sweet memory in the form of some of the exquisite products made by the nuns and put on sale in the monastery itself.