Seville Before and After the Spanish Empire

The Gold Tower was built during Moorish rule in the early 13th century to guard access along the Guadalquivir River.  The tower's lime mortar gave off a golden glow in the evening sun which led to its name, the Torre del Oro.

The Gold Tower was built during Moorish rule in the early 13th century to guard access along the Guadalquivir River. The tower’s lime mortar gave off a golden glow in the evening sun which led to its name, the Torre del Oro.

Seville, an elegant city of over 700,000 people, rose to prominence as a working seaport on the Guadalquivir River.  It served as the launching point for the exploration voyages of Christopher Columbus.  Subsequent wealth that poured in from the New World making Seville one of the most important trade centers in Europe in the 16th and 17th centuries.  In addition, the wealth of treasures the conquistadors plundered from the Incas and Aztecs funded an expansion in Spanish military power greater than anything in human history up to that time.  That wealth is nowhere more evident than in Seville.

The bell tower of the Cathedral of Seville was originally a minaret for the mosque which once stood adjacent.  Over 340 feet high, the top is accessed by 36 ramps which allowed horsemen to ride to the top.  The Giralda is named for the weathervane at its top.

The bell tower of the Cathedral of Seville was originally a minaret for the mosque which once stood adjacent. Over 340 feet high, the top is accessed by 36 ramps which allowed horsemen to ride to the top. The Giralda is named for the weathervane at its top.

Seville from the Giralda Tower and the Alamilla Bridge's slanted white tower built for Seville's '92 World Expo.

Seville from the Giralda Tower and the Alamilla Bridge’s slanted white tower built for Seville’s ’92 World Expo.

Seville added to its prominence in the era of exploration with the global circumnavigation voyage of Ferdinand Magellan, which left from Seville in 1519.  The city monopolized trans-Atlantic trade with the discovery of the New World and opened a Golden Age of art, literature and music.  It was during this era that Cervantes wrote Don Quixote de La Mancha and the art works of Diego Velazquez and El Greco gained world recognition.  The influence of these and other Spanish artists has carried over through The Renaissance to modern times.

The vast scale Cathedral of Seville inspires awe.  It is the largest Gothic cathedral in the world in both area and volume.

The vast scale Cathedral of Seville inspires awe. It is the largest Gothic cathedral in the world in both area and volume.

Today, the architecture of Seville is a study in contrasts.  The Cathedral of Seville is the largest Gothic style cathedral in the world and third largest cathedral of any type.  The ultra-modern Parasol Metropol is the largest wooden structure in the world, and covers a subterranean archeological site.  On the ground level is fresh market where vendors’ stalls offer extensive choices of meats, seafood, fruits, vegetables and baked goods.  While it is not the largest of public markets, it offers a full range of purchase options.  It is also maintained to a level of pristine cleanliness that outshines any public market I have ever seen.

The Metropol Parasol is believed to be the largest wooden structure in the world - 490' x 230' and 85' high.  On the street level is the public market.

The Metropol Parasol is believed to be the largest wooden structure in the world – 490′ x 230′ and 85′ high. On the street level is the public market.

The public market is housed below the Parasol.  It sparkles with cleanliness and offers the full range of produce, meats and baked goods.

The public market is housed below the Parasol. It sparkles with cleanliness and offers the full range of produce, meats and baked goods.

Seville buzzes with vibrancy like any great university city with lots of young people surrounded by the bustle of commerce.  I found a rich mixture of modern and historic architecture.  There is no denying the artistic elegance of the city which proudly proclaims its class and style.

This vibrant city will resonate with me for a long time.  There is so much to see in Seville that I wish I would have had more time there.  Unfortunately, a single day was all we had.  That was most important thing I learned from our visit to Seville – to not try to fit in everything worth seeing into a single day.

This pavilion marks the entrance to the Park of Santa Maria Luisa, once the grounds of Seville's 1929 World's Fair.

This pavilion marks the entrance to the Park of Santa Maria Luisa, once the grounds of Seville’s 1929 World’s Fair.

© All photos copyrighted by Florence Ricchiazzi Lince

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16 comments on “Seville Before and After the Spanish Empire

  1. Mark says:

    Seville is one of my favorite cities–though I haven’t been there since 1994. Thanks for sharing this!

  2. I’ve been a few times. It’s hellish to get around because it is so big, and if you are back packing all bus stations and train station are miles apart. We used to camp out at Dos Hermanos. Fine camp site. Years now since I’ve been but glad you enjoyed it.

    • Mike Lince says:

      It is true the city is quite spread out with the surrounding suburbs, and those parts of the city appear generic and uninteresting consisting mostly of apartment buildings and retail stores. Like most of the cities of this size, the central core or old city of Seville is the main attraction and it is pretty much walkable when you are not in a hurry to get somewhere.
      Thank you for your comments. – Mike

  3. Spain is high on my list of places to visit… Having you show me around just makes it more tempting! The Parasol Metropol looks amazing!! What a 6 months this will have been for you and Florence!! Thanks for sharing it, Mike.

    • Mike Lince says:

      Spain has some great cities. Like most of the countries we have visited, there is more to see than time allows. For example, we missed Basque Country in the north, and many locals have assured me it is among the most beautiful areas of Spain. I would also loved to have spent time in the Pyrenees. I guess there will always be places I will wish I had seen more of. – Mike

  4. jimhornnews says:

    Great post Mike. Makes me want to return. But please don’t tell me you skipped the Alhambra here too!?

    • Mike Lince says:

      Jim, after the scolding you gave me for missing the Alhambra in Granada, I will never make that mistake again! 🙂 Mike

      • jimhornnews says:

        ooops, just remembered that in Seville it’s called the Alcazar. Not as spectacular as that of Granada but still sensational and the gardens are wonderful. It’s usually number one on any organized tour, for good reason. Suerte.

  5. Very informative. Thanks!!

  6. We spent a few days in Seville a couple of years ago and loved it. In fact, we liked it so much that if we were going to spend more time in Spain, it would be at the top of our list. For years we avoided it because of the reports of street crime, but city government seems to have taken care of that problem. And the contrasts that you point out are one of its biggest assets. It’s not just another collection of old cathedrals and palaces. We saw a wonderful flamenco show (in a small, non-touristy place) that was one of high points of our stay. Thanks for a great post that may have planted a seed. ~James

    • Mike Lince says:

      Of all the cities in Spain I have visited, Seville would be at or near the top of places I would choose to live. I especially liked the Triana neighborhood across the river from the old town in what used to be the gypsy community. It is close to the ’92 World’s Fair grounds and walking distance from all the old city sights. If I were to return, I don’t think I would want to spend all summer there, however. It was over 100°F there this past week. It is cooler now. It is a beautiful city! – Mike

  7. reocochran says:

    From the way you described this, it made me captivated and wishing I had seen Seville! I will have to ask if we made it to this beautiful city! I love the water front, the white sand, the way the bridge alongside it is arched and the details of all of the buildings in this first photograph. I also like the culture you describe, the art, the literature and the churches, always! What a unique building with its slant, glad you addressed what it was, made for the World’s Fair, 1992. I also am so impressed with the angle of shots of the Parasol building. It has beauty and memorable personality, too! I love the markets below… So lovely to ‘visit’ Seville, with you and Florence, too! Thanks for telling the last commenter how hot it was there! That would mean to travel another season would be best. I would love to see the cooler seasons, to see how it changes in its busy-ness and what they do to keep the place exciting, too. Smiles, Robin

    • Mike Lince says:

      Robin, you can probably tell from this story that Seville was one of the highlights of our time in Spain. Its prominence from the time of Columbus and Magellan has carried over to the current time. Its history is well-documented and its beauty is well-preserved. I can see why the royal families of Spain had a palace in Seville as well as Granada and Madrid. If I could afford it, I would live there, too, at least part of the time. I have to say, Seville is one of the top cities in Spain I would recommend to see. I found the city center to be pedestrian-friendly and inviting. Thank you for your thoughtful comments. – Mike

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