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Daytrip to Ecija
Bus transportation to Ecija is with the Socibus Company, which leaves from the Estación de Autobuses Plaza de Armas.
Ecija is an important city located between Seville and Cordoba, about 95 km northeast of Seville. It has a population of 40,000 and its economy is based on agriculture, mainly olives, cereals and vegetables. It is popularly known as the frying pan of Andalusia, because during summer the temperatures during the day are in the forties Centigrade, and it cools down little during the night. Sometimes the temperature goes into the fifties. It is best to visit this beautiful city during fall, winter, or spring. The city is situated on the banks of the Genil River. The city is easily reached by bus from Seville or Cordoba or the A4 highway. During Roman times, the city was known as Colonia Augusta Firma Astigi, reaching a time of splendor. It sided with Julius Caesar in the civil war with Pompey.
Ecija is known as the city of towers, because it has 11 church towers that survived the Lisbon earthquake of 1755 and were rebuilt in the late Baroque style. The towers are very tall because when they were built, tall towers signified that the church had more money, so it had more prestige than a tower that was lower. The towers were built with stone in the lower part, and bricks in the upper parts. Many have ceramic tile facing. There are twenty churches in many styles, and the city is known for its vast cultural heritage.
The main square is called the Plaza de España and this square is popularly known as "El Salon" because it is a public place where friends meet, especially during the afternoon stroll. The plaza was built in the 18th century and has many palm trees. The plaza used to have bullfights, so the balconies of the houses and palaces on the plaza were used for viewing these. At one end of the plaza is the City Hall, which has a small museum that has a Roman mosaic which represents the punishment of the Queen Dirke.
The Palacio de Peñaflor is located at Emilio Castelar, 26, and this palace was built with a curved facade decorated with frescos, and the main doorway is very elaborate, in the Baroque style, with the coat of arms of the owners. This palace was built between 1700 and 1775 by the Marques of Peñaflor, and who lived in the palace until 1958. It was named as a Historic-Artistic Monument in 1962. The palace is called the "house of the long balconies" because the form of the palace follows the curvature of the street, with a balcony. The balconies are decorated with frescos with green and yellow colors.
Another prominent palace is the Palace of Valdehermoso, built in the 16th century in the Plateresque style, and situated at Emilio Castelar, 37. The portal has the triumphant arch and is very impressive. The upper portion has arcades with great views.
The Palacio de Benameji is located at Calle Canovas del Castillo, 4, and was built in the 18th century with brick and marble. The portal is Baroque and shows movement with curves going in two directions. There are two corner towers. Today it houses the Museo Historico Municipal, a very good museum. Outstanding in the museum is a Roman mosaic tile floor with a motif of Bacchus. Ecija had many Roman palaces in the past. In the 18th century the kings were the ones who gave permission for building towers in palaces. King Carlos III passed through Ecija and stayed at the Palace of the Count of Valverde. The King was pleased and gave the count permission to build a tower. When the King returned after some time, he was surprised that the palace had two towers. He confronted the count, who responded that the King had given him permission to build one tower, but the other tower was his right because of his title and position. At least this is the legend.
The Church of Santa Maria Nuestra Señora is located at Plaza de Santa Maria, at one corner of the Plaza de España. The building dates from the 18th century and was built over an old Mudejar temple from the 16th and 17th centuries. In the plaza in front of the church is the monument to La Virgen del Valle (Our Lady of the Valley) and to St. Paul, also dating to 1766, built by Reinoso y Espinosa. The entrance to the church was designed by Antonio Matias de Figueroa, with a triumphal arch. The outside door is made of mahogany and has huge bronze nails, while the inner door has a beautiful Mudejar design. This door is one of the most outstanding church doors in Spain. The church has a rectangular design with three naves. The church tower was heavily damaged in the 1755 earthquake, but was later restored. Its design is similar to the Giralda Tower in Seville. The top of the tower containing the bells is profusely decorated with ceramic tile. There are several chapels in the church with great artistic value. The wooden choir was made by the artist Juan de Mesa. The painting of the Virgen de la Antigua was the work of Villegas Marmolejo in 1575. In the cloister there is an archaeological collection and the best piece is the marble sculpture of the head of Germanicus, from the Roman era.
The Church of Santa Cruz is located at the Plaza Virgen del Valle. The church was built where a mosque had been located and after the Christian conquest in 1240 the new church was built. However the earthquake of 1755 damaged it and a new church in the Neoclassic style was built between 1778 and 1836. The church was left unfinished for lack of money and two naves were not constructed. There is a patio outside the church showing on the floor where the church would have been constructed if it had been completed. The church has three naves and has many Baroque altars. The main altarpiece was made in the 18th century and is one that is dedicated to the Virgen del Socorro and came from the Convento de la Concepcion de los Mercedarios. There is a Christian sarcophagus of the 5th century that is used as an altar table and it is said that it contains the remains of San Fulgencio. This sarcophagus has reliefs showing figures from the Old Testament. On the left nave is found the Chapel of the Virgen del Valle. She is the patron saint of the city and her festival is on Sept. 8.
There is a very good Museum of Sacred Art which contains a large collection of silverwork and gold vessels, paintings, sculptures, and priestly vestments. One outstanding painting is that of Christ on the Cross done by Zurbaran. In one corner is a turntable that has a very large silver monstrance and the table turns to show all the sides of this monstrance.
The image of the Virgen del Valle was made before the Arab invasion and was hidden with the remains of Santa Florentina in the wall of a convent. Legend has it that the Count of Palma Luis Portocarrero was hunting pigeons near the remains of the old convent and discovered the image of the Virgin in a wall. The image was then transferred permanently to the Church of Santa Cruz, where it is now.
Inside the church near the entrance is the statue of Ceferino Gimenez, who was a Gypsy from Barbastro. He was a good Catholic and in 1936 he defended on the street a priest who was being attacked by the Reds. The Reds arrested him and he was shot because he said he was a Catholic and would not change his faith. He has now been beatified and may become the first Gypsy saint of Spain.
The Church of Santa Barbara is located in the Plaza de España. It was built over an old Roman palace as a Mudejar building at first, but later it became the first Neoclassic church built in Andalusia. The architect came from Cordoba and was called Ignacio Tomas. There was a tower that was destroyed by a lightning bolt in 1892. This is interesting because Santa Barbara was the saint who was prayed to when one wanted to be saved from lightning. The right nave has an altarpiece in the Neoclassic style and there are sculptures of St. Joseph and St. Peter. The main altar has the image of Santa Barbara and was made by the sculptor Pedro Roldan and restored in the 18th century. The left nave has an altarpiece dedicated to St. Paul, another patron saint of the city. This was sculpted by Salvador Gomez de Navaja, a native of Ecija, in 1575. In the Sacramental Chapel, there is an altarpiece that has the image of Jesus without rope, sculpted by Montes de Oca, an 18th century artist from Sevilla. This image is used in the Good Friday processions. This church has the best choir in Ecija and was made in 1762 in mahogany, with medallions and reliefs of the apostles and the evangelists and is in the Rococo style.
The Church of Santiago is located in the Plaza de Santiago. This church has been declared a National Monument of Cultural Interest. The style is Gothic Mudejar (15th century) and is considered one of the most elegant in Andalusia. The tower was built in 1766 and was constructed of brick and decorated with local ceramic tile. The interior of the church has the Mudejar style, with a rectangular plan and three naves covered with a wooden ceiling. The main altarpiece of this church is very important and consists of paintings and sculptures that have a great harmony and its style is the transition from the Gothic to the Renaissance.
Good restaurant for lunch:
Hotel Plateria Restaurante
Calle Plateria, 4