At last..... a day of no bus riding except in our home-based city!
Sevilla, with a metropolitan population of 1.6 million, is the capital of Andalucia and is the cultural and financial center of southern Spain. It has always played an important role in the history of Spain. In Roman times it was a significant port on the Rio Guadalquivir which is navigable to the Atlantic Ocean. When it was conquered by the Muslims in 712, it became the most powerful of the Moorish kingdoms. Reconquered by the Ferdinand III(Christians) in 1248 it quickly became an important Castilian city. In 1503 it was given the monopoly on Spanish trade with the New World which led to its becoming the richest and most cosmopolitan city of its day.
One of the main attractions for tourists in Spain is the beautiful architecture of its historical buildings. Over the centuries it borrowed from the Moorish from North Africa, Romanesque and Gothic from France, and Renaissance from Italy. It then interpreted the styles in its own unique way, using the contrast of light and shadows, facades alternating between austerity and extravagant decoration, and nearly always a central patio surrounded by arcades.
Its particularly unique style is called "mudejar" which comes from a corruption of an Arabic word meaning "tamed", referring to the Muslims who submitted to the rule of the Christian kings. In the 13th-16th centuries, Moorish craftsman, working after the Reconquest, began to combine the styles of the European and Arabic cultures, a fusion of Romanesque and Gothic with Arabic, creating a hybrid Christian/Islamic style.
The first stop on our walking tour was the Real Alcazar (Royal Palace) considered an outstanding example of the Mudejar style, Gothic and Renaissance as well as Mudejar. It was originally a Moorish fortress with significant additions made by Pedro of Castile in the 14th century and later by Carlos in the 16th. Isabel dispatched navigators to explore the New World from her quarters here. It was the residence of many monarchs in the following centuries and today remains the residence of the royal family when they are in Seville.
Next on our walking tour was a stroll through the Barrio de Santa Cruz, the historical Jewish Quarter of Seville. When Ferdinand conquered the city from Muslim rule, the Jewish population was forced to concentrate in this single neighborhood. After 1492, in the wake of the Inquisition, Jews were expelled from Spain and synagogues were converted to churches. Although the neighborhood eventually deteriorated, renewal brought it back to life. Now, with its maze of narrow streets and passageways, whitewashed buildings, tiny plazas, and interesting shops and restaurants, it is a delightful place to wander.
Probably the most impressive monument (see photos) in this area is Catedral de Sevilla (Cathedral of Seville). Built on the site of a 12th century mosque, construction began in 1401 and took over a century to complete. It is thought to be the largest gothic building in the world when measured by volume, and the 3rd largest church, after St. Peter's in Rome and St. Paul's in London. It contains the tomb of Columbus, his supposed remains being brought here from Havana in the 1890s.
Next to the Cathedral is the city's most famous monument, La Giralda, originally a minaret built in 1198. After an earthquake destroyed the spheres at the top in the 14th century, Christian symbols were added in their place. A bell tower crowned by a weather vane portraying faith was added in the 16th century. Giralda means weather vane in Spanish.
At this point in our touring, our group split up. Some of our group had made arrangements ahead of time to tour the inside of the cathedral. The rest of us (already on guided tour overload) spent the extra time wandering and eating lunch. We all met up again for the long walk back to the bus which picked us up at the Torre del Oro (Tower of Gold).
We ended our day at El Palacio Andaluz for dinner and a flamenco performance.