Dr. Seuss wrote a book titled, “Oh, the Places You’ll Go!” We thought about that today as we wandered around stunning Seville in the south of Spain. What gorgeous, remarkable stuff they have! Did you know that it was from Seville that Ferdinand Magellan departed for the first circumnavigation of the earth? Did you know that Christopher Columbus is buried in Seville Cathedral? Did you know that Seville has the only river port in all of Spain? Did you know that Seville is 2,200 years old? The Moors from Northern Africa invaded in the early 8th century, and as with most of southern Spain, their influence, particularly in architecture, is ubiquitous. When you see striped arches, keyhole windows, Arabic letters, and of course, Islamic features such as minarets, you begin to recognize how influential another culture can be.
There are three parts to today’s photos. Part 1 is the Seville Alcazar (in Arabic, al-qasr), meaning “the palace,” which is why there are Alcazars in more than one Spanish city. Part 2 is Seville Cathedral and its bell tower, called the Giralda. Part 3 is various photographs from around the city.
The Alcazar’s current buildings were constructed in the 14 century under Peter of Castile, interestingly called both The Just One and The Cruel One. The former Moorish fortress was destroyed with the exception of some of the outer walls. The style of architecture on the “new” palace is called Mudejar, a mix of Christian and Moorish features. One place above a doorway has “Allah is great” in Arabic, surrounded by Christian crosses. It is really an unusual palace. So, we start with the Alcazar gardens because they are so calm and beautiful, and they relax us by just looking at them and walking through them. You can see courtyards, fountains, palm trees, flowers, arches (even in the tall shrubs!), buildings, and towers. Heading inside, you can see more arches, intricate wall designs, elaborate ceilings (we made a quartet of four of them), balconies, and tile work. The tile work is interesting. The Lisbon earthquake of 1755 caused a lot of damage to the Alcazar, and heaps of tiles were found all over the floors. You can see that the tiles form pictures. The workers didn’t quite know how to work jigsaw puzzles and put everything together again. In the first of the three tile photos, look closely at the deer at the bottom. His antlers match his head and his head mostly matches the tile below, but notice the tile of his back leg. It is, at the least, upside down, and more likely, didn’t belong to him! The middle tile is a grouping of five of the human(ish) tiles. The third is really funny, as you can see that it is a hodgepodge of leftover tiles that don’t fit together and don’t make any sense…the worker just gave up and put any tile anywhere he wished.
Seville Cathedral is a world in itself. It is the third-largest church in the world, but since the other two aren’t cathedrals, it is in fact the world’s largest cathedral. It is immense and it is incredible to behold. Look at the photos and then come back here to read a few stories. The large altarpiece, which looks like brown wood with hundreds of statues, is in fact all wood, but covered with 24 carat gold. It is the most expensive altar in the world. Since many people were illiterate when the cathedral was built, many of these depictions are biblical scenes to help them learn about their faith. Do you see the gigantic, floor-to-ceiling painting of St. Anthony’s vision? It was commissioned in 1656, but in 1874 two bright robbers went in late at night to steal the painting! It is mounted to the wall, so…a formidable task, indeed! When they finally realized it was too large for two men to carry out (!), they thought they would just cut the canvas from the frame. But that, too, was too large and would be too difficult a task as well as too bulky. So what did they do to this priceless painting? They cut out just the figure of St. Anthony and sold it. It was purchased for $50, and the buyer immediately realized what it was. He gave it back to the cathedral, where they restored St. Anthony to his rightful place in the painting. If you look carefully, you can see a dark line over his head and dark lines down either side of him, showing where it was masterfully pieced back together!
The photo of a statue where you can see three of four of Spain’s rulers is the kings surrounding and guarding the burial place of Christopher Columbus. It was claimed that he had been buried in several places in the Caribbean, but recent DNA tests confirmed that these remains are actually those of Columbus. The third of the cathedral photos is the bell tower, called the Giralda, taken from the Spanish word girar, to turn, as the weather vane atop the tower spins. There are no steps inside to climb, just ramps, as donkeys and horses were used to take people to the top, and ramps are easier than stairs for all creatures! There are a total of 34 ramps. The last two cathedral photos were taken from the lookout at the top, one of the bells and one of the top of the church and surrounding buildings.
Part 3, around town, starts with the most famous barber shop in Seville! It is followed by a store that sells only decorative fans, which we have never seen before. Then come some buildings and street scenes that we liked, including a very severely cut box tree! The last two photos are of a Mexican tapas restaurant where we stopped for a late lunch…highly decorated, isn’t it? The food wasn’t too bad, either. And as for the last photo, we just laughed. A…..corseteria? For your girlfriend? We thought it was very funny.