The Don Fadrique tower, within the Espacio Santa Clara, is one of the first monuments from the Christian period that Seville conserves, since it was built very shortly after the conquest of the city in 1248. Specifically, according to the marble inscription that It is located on its entrance, it was ordered to be built in 1252 by the Infante Don Fadrique.
It is a beautiful free-standing tower with a square plan, with dimensions of 7.75 m. sideways and about 65 meters high, which are divided into three floors, the last one topped by a graceful body of battlements. It is built for the most part in brick, although it is combined with stone blocks in some of its parts, such as in the lower half of the ground floor and in the corners and central parts of the rest of the floors.
As we have said, the first body is built with ashlars in its lower half and in the upper half you can see some simple loopholes. On its northern side there is a beautiful doorway in Romanesque style, with two semicircular archivolts on columns that frame a multi-lobed opening. Both the central archivolt and the capitals have plant decoration and possibly there was also sculptural decoration on the tympanum, as can be seen by the fragments of figures that have been preserved on both sides. Above this entry is the aforementioned marble inscription, in which, according to the transcription of Gestoso in the monumental and artistic Seville of him, it can be read:
FABRICA: MAGNIFICA: TURRIS: FUIT: HEC: FREDERICI: ARTIS: ET: ARTIFICI: POTERIT: LAVS: MAXIMA: DICI: GRATA: BEATRICI: PROLES: FVIT: HIC: GENETRICI: REGIS: ET: HESPERICI: FERNANDI: LEGIS: AMICI: ERE: SISVBICI: CUPIS: ANNOS: AUT: REMINISCI: IN: NONAGENA: BISCENTVM: MILLE: SERENA DIVICIIS: PLENA: IAM: STABAT: TVRRIS: AMENA:
This tower is the factory of the magnificent Fadrique, it can be called the highest praise of art and of the architect: Beatriz, his mother, was pleased with this progeny of King Fernando, experienced and friend of the laws. If you want to know the era and the years, now one thousand two hundred and fifty-two (1252) already existed the serene and pleasant tower full of riches.
On the second floor there are simple Romanesque flared windows on each side, with semicircular arches on columns, just like on the door. On the top floor, however, the windows, also one on each side, already have clearly Gothic shapes. It has a series of pointed archivolts, which frame a central span with a beautiful multi-lobed shape. They are larger than the windows on the lower floor and have sculptural decoration on both the capitals and the outermost archivolt.
The cornice that tops this last body is wider than those that separate the rest of the floors and has gargoyles in each of its corners, although today they are very deteriorated.
The tower was originally part of the residence of the Infante Don Fadrique, son of Fernando III and Beatriz de Suabia, who built his palace on a previous one from the Almohad period. This area was within the walled enclosure of the city, reason why the tower would not have a defensive purpose towards the outside too prominent. Most likely, his main motivation was prestige, wanting to show the power and importance of the titular character of the palace.
The infant had a rather tumultuous life, since apparently he had a certain tendency to conspiracy. He participated in various conspiracies against his brother and was finally executed in Burgos in 1277 on his orders. The circumstances surrounding this event are not entirely clear, since there are different versions of both the execution of it and the reasons that motivated it.
In one of the explanations for the enmity between King Alfonso and Don Fadrique, the tower we are talking about today has a prominent role. There is a story, with a rather legendary character, that tells that there were love affairs between the infant and his stepmother, Juana de Ponthieu, second wife of his father, King Ferdinand III. The queen and her stepson were barely a few years old and, apparently, rumors spread through Seville about their relationship, placing the love affairs between them in this tower. When these news reached the ears of Alfonso X, he would have ordered the exile of Juana to France and initiated a process against his brother Fadrique for violating royal decorum, having maintained relations with the widow of his father.
As we said, although widely spread, this story has all the signs of being just a legend. Be that as it may, once Fadrique died, his possessions in Seville once again belonged to the Crown and in 1289 they were ceded by King Sancho IV for the foundation of the Santa Clara convent. The nuns progressively transformed all the spaces of the infant's residence for monastic use, but they respected the tower, which has allowed it to remain in a magnificent state to this day.
To its indisputable historical value is added its exceptional artistic significance, since it is one of the very few examples of Romanesque art that we find in Seville and probably the first manifestation of Gothic art in the city. Furthermore, the fact that both styles succeed one another in the same building is shown as a beautiful analogy of the transition between the Romanesque and Gothic worlds. In its solemn simplicity, the Don Fadrique tower is one of the great artistic jewels of Seville.