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1. The Cathedral
Beside the Alcazar is the Cathedral of Seville. In 1401 it was decided to build it. It would be so large that when people saw it, they would think that the builders were madmen. The Church of Santa Maria de la Sede was inaugurated in 1507 and is the biggest Gothic church in Europe. It is also the 3rd largest church, after Saint Peter’s in Rome and Saint Paul’s in London. Because the ceiling is so high, the cathedral is the largest volume church in the world. The church also has renaissance and manerist designs.
So when one enters the church, one has the sense of being very small in such a large church. The church certainly is not the most beautiful in the world, but it is big. At one corner in the front of the church, in the transept, is the tomb of Christopher Columbus, held aloft by 4 big statues of soldiers. The Dominican Republic claim they have the remains of Columbus, but that country has not given scientists permission to do DNA analysis of the remains they say belonged to Columbus. New analyses of the bones in this tomb prove that they were those of Columbus, as they were compared to the bones of his son. Hernando Columbus, son of the great navigator, bequeathed his collection of thousands of illustrated manuscripts and codices to the Cathedral. These documents form the bulk of the Columbus Library housed within the Cathedral.
2. The Giralda Tower
The Giralda dominates the skyline of Seville. This was built by the Moors in 1184 and is one of the most beautiful monuments of the Islamic world. The Catholics added a few structures to the tower when they reconquered the city. What is interesting about the tower is that it has ramps inside to allow two mounted guards to pass and reach the top. The Giralda is called that way because it had a weather vane or girandillo from the 16th century on top.
3. The Alcazar Real
Before the Romans came, the Tartessians had fortified the place where the present palace stands. The Romans remodeled and changed the fort. Later came the Moors and they built the first palace here. Later they added the administrative offices and the extensive gardens. When the Catholics reconquered Seville, the kings lived in the Moorish palace. Every Catholic king and queen made an addition or remodeled some room. On the second floor, the present king and queen live whenever they visit the city. So this palace has been continuously lived in for centuries.
When one enters through the Lion Gate, one comes to a very large patio with many doors to the palace. There is no furniture on the ground floor. But one sees the very elaborate Mudejar ceilings, windows and doors. The floor uses beautiful tile and the walls have very impressive tile designs. From the windows one can see into the gardens.
In another part of the palace, the architecture is Gothic, but still with the Mudejar influence. The Sevillans liked to mix all architectural styles and no one is a purist here. There is one very large room with a huge collection of fans that came into fashion at the end of the 18th century. Many of the rooms have portraits of the kings and queens, but they are untitled. If one has studied history, one will recognize who is who. There do not seem to be any guides, so one has to make his own self guided tour.
The gardens are very impressive in size and most are the formal type, with every design symmetrical. There are many beautiful fountains.
4. The Museo de Bellas Artes
This museum is one of the most important in Spain and was founded in 1835. In 1848 the museum was housed in a former convent founded in 1248 by Saint Peter Nolasco after the
reconquest of Seville. The museum has a lot of medieval and renaissance art, but it is best known by the large quantity of art from the Seville School. The former church of the convent is a very large structure with the most beautiful architecture. The ceiling and the cupola are amazingly beautiful.
The Sevilla School painted mostly huge altarpieces, that could be seen from far away. There are about 15 large paintings by Murillo, the most beautiful he painted in his lifetime. Other painters found here are Francisco Pacheco, Velazquez, and Cano. One can also find El Grecos and Goyas in the museum.
The museum is going to expand soon and an adjacent palace will be renovated for this purpose. Apparently only a small part of the huge number of art works the museum possesses can be displayed at the present time, so the additional space will allow more art to be on display.
5. The Popular Arts Museum
In Maria Luisa Park is the Popular Arts Museum (Museo de Artes y Costumbres Populares de Sevilla). The building was built for the 1929 exhibition and is one of the most beautiful Mudejar buildings in Seville. In front of it is a beautiful pond surrounded with railings, amid a beautiful garden. Inside the museum there are collections of costumes used in the past by both men and women, starting from the 18th century. Of interest are the pants of the men. At that time they had no zippers. At the top of the pants, on both sides, are slits that buttoned up.
The museum has rooms completely furnished of the 19th century. One can see how people lived at that time. Much of the furniture design has not changed and one can find the same furniture in current Andalucian homes.
6. The Archaeological Museum
This is just across the Popular Arts Museum. The building was also designed for the 1929 exhibition and the façade is a mixture of baroque and neoclassic architecture.
This museum has the most extensive collection of Roman works of art, collected from all of the province. There is a huge collection of Roman marble statues and many beautiful floor mosaics. The collection is one of the biggest in Spain. The museum showed marble statues of the emperors Augustus and Hadrian. They had life masks when the emperors died. The emperors were not handsome, yet when the marble statues were made, they appeared handsome, like gods. So this was their propaganda at that time.
Also of interest in the museum are recreations of Roman tombs. They were like big cabinets with open shelves. On top were life masks of plaster done when the people died. Below on the shelves were ceramic urns where the ashes of the dead were placed.
7. The Palace of the Countess of Lebrija
This palace sits on a very narrow street in the historic center. It was built in the 15th century and rebuilt in the 16th century. In 1900 the Countess decided to rebuild the palace. The city of Italica near Seville had just been discovered and the Countess took many of the floor mosaics and put them in her huge palace. These mosaics are some of the best to be seen in Spain. The first floor also has many Roman statues. The walls are covered with beautiful tiles. There is a very impressive staircase going to the 2nd floor, and the ceiling is an elaborate Mudejar ceiling. The house is built around the beautiful central patio.
On the second floor one can find the living quarters of the nobles who lived there. The second floor is very dark and the lighting is not very good.
8. The Casa de Pilatos
In the 16th century, the dukes of Medinaceli built this big palace and it combines the Gothic, Mudejar, and Plateresque styles. Part of the palace is a museum and is open to the public. There is a separate wing where the present Duchess lives, with her descendants and family. The palace has many gardens, patios, fountains, and salons. The patios contain many Roman statues. Everywhere on the first floor one will find Roman mosaic floors. The walls are covered with beautiful ceramic tile in many different Mudejar styles. The Dukes of Medinaceli were some of the most important and prominent members of the nobility, with huge lands in Andalucia.
There is a very impressive staircase leading to the 2nd floor. The ceiling is very high and is Mudejar. All the walls are covered with ceramic tile. There are many rooms on the 2nd floor where the family used to live. The rooms have many important paintings, portraits done by Goya, Carreño, Pantoja de la Cruz, Sebastian del Piombo, Lucas Jordan, Pacheco, and Batalloli. There was a lot of historic furniture also. Every time one looks out the windows, one can see a patio downstairs, so this palace has more light than most.
There is a reason that this is called Pilate’s House. The duke who constructed it had gone to Jerusalem and was inspired by what he saw. When he went back to Seville, he built the palace as the first station of the cross. In other places he built churches as other stations of the cross. None of the other structures survived the times, and only his house is left.