Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Sevilla, Andalucía [Part V of V]

Like Córdoba, Sevilla was also inscribed as a World Heritage Site in UNESCO's list for the same reason – the preservation of the proof of ancient civilization in the form of architecture.

The Cathedral of Sevilla currently stands on the site of a brick mosque built back in the 12th Century. While constructing the new Cathedral in the 15th Century, King Ferdinand III instructed to keep the orange tree courtyard and maintain most of the original Moorish architecture including the minaret. A new Renaissance structure including a weather vane however, had been mounted on top of the minaret and subsequently renamed as The Giralda Bell Tower. Today, the total height of the Bell Tower is just under 100m from the ground to the top of the weather vane.

This weather vane is no ordinary one. It is a bronze sculpture (more than 3.5m tall) of a woman robed in Roman attire carrying a shield in one hand and a palm leaf in another. She is named ‘Giraldillo’ and she represents Faith to the people of Sevilla.

To get to the top of the bell tower, you’ll have to climb up 35 storeys on foot. It may sound daunting but the good news is that instead of spiraling stairs, it’s a long winding ramp that really reduces the amount of effort required to ascend and descend.
[Apparently why the ramp was built instead of stairs was to make it easier for the Sultan back then to get to the top on horseback!]

Above: The bells at the top of the tower.

I'd like to mention though, that depending on the crowd, it can get a little stuffy inside the tower despite there being some tiny window openings. I found myself wanting to climb faster to get to the top for some fresh air! Once you’re at the top though, you’d be rewarded with the best 360⁰ views of the city.

Above: View of the Bull Ring amidst the city.

Back down in the Cathedral itself, the tomb of famous explorer, Christopher Columbus lay right in front of the main entrance. Though there had been some controversy over whether the remains are indeed his, it was apparently proven in a DNA test conducted in 2006 confirming that. However there are still claims that part of his remains are also kept in a monument in the Dominican Republic. How interesting if this is true, for it goes to show that even in death, Christopher Columbus is still spread across the Atlantic Ocean and the Caribbean Sea!

Above: The tomb of Christopher Columbus in the Cathedral of Sevilla, with four sepulchre-bearers representing the four Kingdoms of Spain at the time of his 1492 voyage: Castile, León, Aragón and Navarra.

Above: The High Alter of the Cathedral

Above: Outside the Cathedral in the day.

Above: The Cathedral glowing in the night.

* A piece of related - albeit ‘not so new’ - information I thought I’d share, concerning popular literature >> Dan Brown fans who have read the novel “Digital Fortress” would know that references were made to Spain (Sevilla in particular) and also to the Giralda Tower apparently. According to some reviews of displeased Spanish who have read the book, the author had made several gross mistakes, misinterpreting certain facts about the city of Sevilla. Some of them can be read here & here. Perhaps Brown should be aware of how Sevillanos are known to have a fierce pride in their city! *

Another preserved remnant of the Almohad reign in Sevilla is the Torre del Oro (or Tower of Gold), built in the 13th Century. The most popular tale of how this dodecagonal (12 sided) tower got its name was due to the sun’s glittery reflection off the gold tiles that used to cover its dome. Once used as a defense tower preventing access into the city of Sevilla via the Guadalquivir River, it is today kept and used as a Naval Museum.

Above: Torre del Oro

Above: The Guadalquivir River that cuts through Sevilla, flowing out into the Atlantic Ocean.

Above: One of the several beautiful fountains in town.

Above: The Town Hall of Sevilla.

Above & below: Streets of Sevilla

Above: I really haven't seen a lot of these in Spain...

Above: A fan-map! So simple yet so ingenious.

Apart from old towns and buildings, there is a piece of modern architecture - Puente del Alamillo - Bridge of Alamillo, designed by the renowned Santiago Calatrava, a brilliant Spanish architect and engineer.

Above: Puente del Alamillo by Calatrava. [Picture taken from here.]

In preparation for the World Expo '92 in Sevilla, more bridges were built across the Guadalquivir River linking central Sevilla to the island opposite - La Cartuja - where the Expo site was to be built. The most famous bridge is of course, the asymmetrical yet elegant Puente del Alamillo. Five years after the Expo, an amusement park, Isla Magica, was opened on the same site. (I'll be sharing more works of Calatrava in time to come!)

So this wraps up my 2009 Andalucían Summer vacation. There are much more to this Southern autonomous community of Spain. Huelva, Jaén, Granada & Almería – I’ll just have to return to visit some other time!

1 comment:

  1. I love Spain, too, and love your pix: wonderful!


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