Friday 7 June 2019 – Thursday 13 June 2019 Seville – Italica (outside Seville)
We returned to Gelves Marina on the Guadalquivir River just outside Seville. It is a lovely peaceful place and the bus enables easy access into the city. We were here last year in September but because it was very hot and humid, we only walked through the Old Town and went on a tour of the bullring. At this time of year it is a lot cooler.
We bussed into Seville which is situated on the banks of the Guadalquivir River and has a Moorish heritage. The streets and squares in the historic quarter were lively and busy.
As we were going on another walking tour, we headed for La Plaza de la Virgen de los Reyes. It is a pretty square with a fountain and a baroque streetlight in the centre and is surrounded by exceptional buildings -the Cathedral and Giralda Tower and the Archbishop’s Palace.
The tour began with the history of Seville and then the buildings surrounding the square. The sites we saw were:
Catedral d Sevilla and Giralda Tower
In 1401 the old mosque was demolished to build a new cathedral on the site. It was finally completed in 1526 and is the largest Gothic cathedral in the world. Shortly afterwards a campanario (belfry) and weathervane were added to the minaret (the famous Giralda).
On one of the many sides to the Cathedral is the sign of victory (a symbol derived from the Lower Roman Empire) for completion of a doctorate written in bull’s blood, just like in Toledo.
On the same side is also a series of chains resting on stone columns which were placed there in the year 1565. These barriers served two purposes: one was to safeguard the Cathedral from the horses and carriages and the other was to define where the church began, and civil justice ended. If an ordinary person committed a crime or sin, they would seek asylum inside the church and the authorities were not allowed to enter holy places to detain suspected criminals.
The Giralda Tower was originally built in 1195 as the minaret of the Aljama mosque, it is now the belltower of the cathedral and is recognised as World Heritage by UNESCO. The name Giralda mean ‘she who turns’ – in Spanish, after the weathervane on top of the tower, a statue representing faith called El Giraldillo.
The Archbishop’s Palace served as the residence of bishops and archbishops of the episcopal sees and numerous nobleman and military figures to the present time. Underneath the foundations are Roman ruins, but it is off limits to the public.
Also, on Plaza Virgen de los Reyes is the monument of Juan Pablo II. It is a gesture of the city to John Paul II, who visited Seville in 1982.
General Archive of the Indies
This building was originally built to house the merchants and traders to enable them to sell their goods. It is now one of Europe’s most important document centres relating to the conquest of the New World and is a UNESCO World Heritage site. It houses more than 43,000 files that document the discovery of the Americas and the Spanish colonisation.
Reales Alcázares Palace
Next to the cathedral is the Reales Alcázares Palace, which is also built on the site of a 9th-century Moorish fortress, but it was Pedro I the Cruel (14th century) who introduced the Mudejar decoration. There were over a hundred people lined up to go inside.
The initial building was built in the early 16th century and restoration work was carried out in 1855. The façade in Plaza de San Francisco is adorned with mythical and historical figures including Hercules – considered the founder of Seville and Julius Caesar, who restored the city after defeating Pompey here. Above the door is the symbol of Seville, no8do. There is also the no8do symbol on the city hall of Seville.
The façade facing Plaza Nueva was completed in 1867 and is quite plain compared to this side.
The guide told us an old tradition, if you walk through the arch holding hands with your partner then you stay with that partner for the rest of your days. Oh well, I guess I am stuck with him!
This is the motto and logo of the Seville City Council. It comprises the word NO, something similar to a skein of wool thread and the word DO and is traditionally interpreted as ‘no-hank-do’, which is an acronym ‘has not left me’. Legend has it that it refers to the close relationship between Alfonso X El Sabio with the city of Seville and the war he maintained against his son Sancho. It is included in banners, posters, magazines and everything to with do with institutional Seville. It also covers all areas of daily life, found in bus shelters, public transport, benches and even bins. From 1995 it has even been present on the flag of Seville.
Monument of Ferdinand III of Castile
In the park at Plaza Nueva is the Monument of Ferdinand III of Castile who conquered Seville for the Christians in 1248 and later was declared a saint by the Catholic church in 1671. He is pictured on a horse where all four legs are on the ground, which means he died of natural courses. If a horse has 1 leg in the air it is said the person died from wounds as a consequence of battle, and if both legs are in the air it means they died in battle.
The Adriatic Building is on the corner near Plaza Nueva and was built in 1914 to 1922 and is a great example of using five elements in its construction (brick, pottery, wood, iron and ceramics). This was renovated for the Expo of 1929. It is a unique, stunning building with unusual perspectives which is very eye catching.
Plaza de Toros de la Maestranza is the 18th century bullring, the oldest in Spain. It was here that the corrida, or bullfight, moved from horseback to foot, and many of the cherished theatrical traditions Outside is a statue of Matador Curro Romero, a famous bullfighter. When we were here last year, we went on an audio tour of the bullring. It was a very interesting tour and the bullring is magnificent.
Torre del Oro is a dodecagonal military watchtower erected by the Almohad Caliphate in order to control access to Seville via the Guadalquivir river. It was constructed in the first third of the 13th century as part of the ancient walls and during the Middle Ages served as a prison.
Hotel Alfonso XIII is an historic hotel built between 1916 and 1928 especially for the 1929 Trade Fair. Nowadays celebrities visiting the city stay there. It is an absolutely stunning building which is very striking and very well maintained.
Royal Tobacco Factory is an 18th century stone building and since 1950s it has the University if Seville. Inside the building they retained an original section of the factory. Unfortunately, being Sunday, it was closed. We found it very interesting whilst we were standing outside the building, we noticed a no smoking sign!
Plaza de Espana was built in 1928 for the Expo in 1929 to showcase Spain’s industry and technology exhibits. The architect mixed a style inspired by the Renaissance with the typical 5 elements from the city: exposed brick, pottery wood, ceramics and wrought iron. The Plaza de Espana complex is a huge half circle with buildings continually running around the edge accessible over the most by numerous bridges representing a difference province in Spain. There are painted ceramic benches representing all the provinces in Spain arranged in alphabetical order. There is also a fountain and a small waterway where row boats can be hired. It is a truly amazing place to visit. We have never seen anything like it anywhere else.
We then headed back to the Old Town of Seville to buy tickets to the Cathedral from Iglesia Colegial del Divino Salvador.
Iglesia Colegial del Divino Salvador is a baroque Roman Catholic church built between 1674 and 1712 on the site of a former mosque. The inside is stunning with displays of carvings and gildings and stained-glass windows.
Cathedral Seville -interior
The interior has the longest nave of any cathedral in Spain. In the main body of the cathedral, the most notable features are the great boxlike choir loft, which fills the central portion of the nave, and the vast Gothic retablo of carved scenes from the life of Christ.
Another main attraction is the Tomb of Christopher Columbus which houses the remains of the great explorer who died in poverty in Valladolid. The tomb itself is more recent, from 1892, with the four bearers presenting the kingdoms of Castile, Leon, Aragon and Navarra.
Inside there is also a painting of The Santas Justa and Rufina by Goya in 1817.
One of the preserved elements beside La Giralda from the ancient mosque is the courtyard, which was used for ablutions for the faithful to conduct their ritual cleansing before entering the prayer hall. It contains a fountain and orange trees.
As you leave the courtyard, you pass through Puerta del Perdon (Gate of Forgiveness), also dating from the original Almohad mosque.
The cathedral was full of people, the interior is extremely colourful, and it took a long time to visit because there are so many passageways. An audio guide which was available would have been helpful in navigating around this huge place.
We left Seville early in the morning to visit the Roman ruins of Italica, 9 kilometres north of Seville, just outside the village of Santiponce.
Italica was the birthplace of two Roman emperors – Trajan and Hadrian. It is one of the earliest Roman settlements in Spain, founded in 206 BC as a place for the wounded troops to recover as well as a place of residence for war veterans. The site includes an impressive amphitheatre and the Hadrian district, with remarkable Roman mosaics and sculptures.
After entering the grounds, we visited the small museum and viewed a short audio-visual presentation on the construction of the Roman town and what it looked like during this time.
We then walked around the amphitheatre, a former venue for gladiator fights and one of the largest in the Roman Empire holding 25,000 people. Today, there are two of the three storeys remaining. There is a central pit which was used for animal cages (bears and wild boar) during gladiatorial combats. In 2016 it was used as a filming location for Game of Thrones. The amphitheatre was built outside the walls.
Through the gate and the hill along the wide main avenue is the Hadrian district where five large houses of prosperous families have been excavated, some with colourful mosaics and floors with beautiful designs of birds, Neptune, and the planets. There are also remains of the Traianeum, the temple of Emperor Trajan, the baths and the sewer system. At present there are excavations of the Greatest Bath area and the mosaics in the residential area.
The city of Italica is well preserved and the magnitude of the city is amazing. It is a fascinating destination.
After our 3 hour visit we then continued on to Cadiz.