The Royal Tobacco Factory building is currently the headquarters of the University of Seville, where its Rectorate and some of its faculties are located.
It is a huge construction with a rectangular plan, measuring 185 by 147 meters on a side, constituting one of the main industrial buildings that were built throughout Europe during the 18th century. It was also the second largest building in Spain in its time, only behind El Escorial.
Around 1620, the world's first tobacco factory had been founded in Seville, which was located opposite the church of San Pedro, in the area of the current Plaza del Cristo in Burgos. It was owned by the Crown and with it the tobacco production was centralized, which until then had been dispersed in numerous workshops around the city.
With the boom in the consumption and export of tobacco, the facilities of the old factory are clearly insufficient and the construction of a new building is decided, within the general idea that came with the Enlightenment to boost the industry to a certain extent through the establishment of large manufacturing centers under royal patronage.
In the case of Seville, a colossal building was projected, in whose design and construction several architects intervened successively, since their works lasted for several decades from 1728. The original designs are by Ignacio Sala and later Diego Bordick and Sebastián Van der intervene. Borcht, to whom the greatest Mars of the work is mainly owed.
The floor of the resulting building would be that of a huge rectangle, with the angles somewhat highlighted with respect to the rest of the façade, and with its interior space articulated through a series of patios around which the different rooms are distributed. Its elevation towards the exterior uses clearly classical forms, reminiscent of Renaissance precedents of the Herrerian type, such as the old Lonja in Seville itself. Despite the enormous dimensions, the arrangement of the facades is more reminiscent of a palatial construction than a building with a manufacturing purpose.
Two small constructions were added to the set at each of the ends of the main façade, which served as a chapel and as its own prison, and was surrounded by a huge moat on three sides, with which it was tried to prevent it from being removed smuggled tobacco from the factory.
The main portal, which faces Calle San Fernando, responds in its traces to the design of Van der Borcht, while its sculptural decoration was carried out by Cayetano de Acosta. This Portuguese sculptor is one of the great masters of the Baroque in Seville during the 18th century, specialized above all in the realization of altarpieces, as shown by the extraordinary examples from El Salvador, Santa Rosalía or San Luis de los Franceses.
Around the main door were placed a series of reliefs alluding to the conquest of America as an indispensable historical precedent for the development of the tobacco industry in Seville. In this way, in each of the jambs the mills that were used to crush the tobacco leaf are represented, and two Indians, one with a bow and arrows and the other smoking a pipe. In the archivolt you can see two naves and the busts of Cortés on the left and Columbus on the right. Above the key, a huge molding of scrolls and plant decoration frames the sign "FÁBRICA REAL DE TABACOS".
In the next body a balcony opens on which the inscription “DEL REYNADO DE FERNANDO VI. YEAR MDCCLVII ”(1757) and, occupying almost the entire triangular pediment of the façade, a huge shield with the royal arms.
The whole set is finished off by what is probably the most recognizable element of the façade: a sculpture of "Fame", the work of Cayetano de Acosta himself. He represents her graceful, perched on a cloud, with beautiful open copper wings and playing a trumpet, also made of copper.
In general, in classical mythology, "Fame" was the goddess responsible for the spread of facts and rumors, causing in many cases of disputes and misunderstandings. In fact, she has usually been artistically represented carrying two trumpets, the one of truth and the one of lies, as a symbol that she spread the information regardless of whether they were true or not.
In the case of Acosta's “Fame”, she carries a single trumpet, since in this case she has more of a sense of celebrity. In some way, she would come to symbolize the prestige and historical reputation of the Spanish Monarchy, under whose authority the enormous building of the Tobacco Factory is made.
In any case, it is a beautiful culmination for an exceptional Baroque façade, to the point that the University of Seville, which has occupied the building since 1954, included it in its logo and since then it has been its most recognizable emblem.