Promenading in Seville: Journey with the History Guru to England and Spain

Posted on Jan 30, 2012 in category


W. Somerset Maugham’s salacious short story, “The Romantic Young Lady” is set in Seville at the turn of the 20th century. The narrator tells us that Seville, “… had quiet, white streets, paved with cobbles, with a multitude of churches on the belfries of which storks built their nests. Bullfighters, students, and loungers sauntered in the Sierpes (popular street with restaurants and bars) all day long. Life was easy…. the Sevillan would live in penury, practising every possible economy, in order to have a carriage…. Everyone who had a claim to gentility drove up and down the Delicias, the park-like gardens by the Guadalquiver, every blessed afternoon from five to seven.”

Some of Somerset Maugham’s description of Seville is still evident with a bullfight scheduled for Spain’s National Day (tomorrow, 12 October), the popularity of ‘Delicias’ or parks, ‘loungers’ in the Calles or streets and many tapas bars who emerge from their hibernating siestas at 5.00 p.m. and, of course, the Sevillan heritage of horse-drawn carriages occasionally filled with tourists. However, sauntering along the famous Guadalquiver River promenade, we found it far from gentile. Together, graffiti-laden retaining walls and empty bottles of booze that littered the many steps that lead down to the river’s main pathway, now dominate the once-beautiful scenic walkway.


Sails protect the shoppers

Seville’s Cathedral and its associated la Giralda Tower (a remnant of the 12th century grand Almohad Mosque – A.D.1172) along with the Alcazar and Archivo de las Indias, were designated a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1987. The Cathedral has many credits to its name: largest Gothic building in Europe, largest altarpiece in the world and largest church in Europe measured by volume. Piece-meal construction took over 100 years to build (A.D.1402-1506) and it was designed to be a symbol of the ‘Reconquista’ or conquest over the Moslems of Spain and to show-off the power/influence of Seville.


An area over 11.500 square metres with a central nave and four side aisles


Seville Cathedral’s retablo altar is largely the life work of one artist, Fleming Pieter Dancart. Carved in wood and with gold in abundance, the altar comprises 45 carved scenes from the life of Christ and measures 18m x 28m. For a virtual visit of the Cathedral see: Virtual tour

Another interesting feature of Seville’s Cathedral is the tomb of Christopher Columbus. Controversy surrounds this mausoleum. For a summary of this debate over the true burial place of Columbus see:

"DNA verifies Columbus' remains"



Latest DNA testing has verified Columbus’ remains are in the Cathedral of Seville. However, the Dominican Republic still advocates that they possess some of his remains too.

See: Spain lays claims to Columbus

The la Giralda Tower was initially a minaret of the Grand Mosque but it was turned into a belltower. Legend has it that the reason the tower has ramps (instead of stairs) is that a muezzin could ride his horse quickly to the top in order to perform the adhān, the Islamic call to prayer.


View from la Giralda


Work began on la Giralda minaret in A.D.1184 and it was finished 14 years later. It derives its name from a sculpted bronze weathervane called ‘Giraldillo’- a symbol of ‘Faith’.

The Royal Alcazar of Seville is reputedly the oldest active Royal palace in Europe. It boasts 10th century origins with Abl Al-Rahmin III building his palatial fortress after a revolt against the Moorish government in Cordoba in A.D.913. During the Almoravide period (A.D.1091-1147) where a Berber tribe from North Africa conquered al-Andalus, Seville became the capital of the newly established Maghreb Empire.

For a brief history of Moorish Spain see: Timeline 

clip_image014 clip_image016

Entrance to the Alcazar Entrance to Pedro I Palace (A.D.1356-1366)

Interestingly, on the conquest of Seville in A.D.1248 by the Christian kings (ironically with support from the Nasrid Moslems from Granada), a long period of ‘acculturation’ or appreciation of Islamic arts and culture ensued. Tolerance among Christians, Moslems and Jews in Seville ended with the accession of King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella.

Over a long period of time, a series of new palaces of different architectural styles were added to the Alcazar by Christian kings: Gothic, Mudejar, Renaissance and Baroque.


Patio de las Donacellas (Patio of the Maidens)

clip_image020 clip_image022

Mudejar stuccoed decoration Fountain of Mercury

For a virtual tour of the Hall of the Ambassadors see:,-90.00,15.0

The gardens of the Alcazar are superb with many water features and over 200 species of plants.

clip_image024 clip_image026

Fountain of Neptune Neptune

Our final stop before we retreated to our hotel was the ‘Monasterio de San Leandro M.M. Agustinas’. Now a convent of nuns who earn money by selling sweets and cakes to the public, it was very quaint to purchase the cakes by placing an order with a nun hidden from view behind a rotating servery. Incidentally, we found the particular type of cake we ordered too sweet for our liking. All for a good cause: tradition!


Beautifully boxed cakes

| Back to Top | Share

blog comments powered by Disqus