A Travellerspoint blog

Back in the air!

Weekend in Seville day one


View Weekend in Seville on ToonSarah's travel map.

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A year and nine months after we had last flown, we were back in the air again. With a very early departure time from Gatwick we had spent the previous night in the airport's Premier Inn, only a short stagger from the North Terminal.

We were a bit surprised to see so many other people in the terminal at five in the morning but realised that with only one currently open (South is closed for renovations while so few people are flying), everyone was funnelling through the same security gates. Apart from the need to wear a face mask everything felt completely normal, as if we'd never been away! The same juggling of liquids, bags, IT at the conveyor belt; the same meandering path through the bright lights of the duty free shops; the same flutter of excitement as the gate number came up.

I'd expected to have to show my vaccination certificate and Spain entry form at the gate but only the passport was checked. Soon it was time to board, and after a short hold-up on the bridge we were inside the plane and taking our seats. It was almost full but not totally, and we had a row of three for the two of us. However I did notice that elsewhere strangers were seated together. Of course face masks had to be kept on throughout the flight, apart from when we had a light breakfast.

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Sunrise on the way to Seville

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Sunrise lighting the clouds on the way to Seville

We were treated to a beautiful sunrise as we left England behind us. Apart from that there wasn't much to see en route as there were clouds below us for much of the journey. But they broke before landing so I could see something of the Spanish countryside beneath us and Seville in the distance as we approached.

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Torre del Oro

We landed early but it took a while to get through the airport as we were bussed the 100 yards from plane to terminal and then had to queue at immigration. I resented not being able to go through the electronic EU only gates as we would previously have done (and not only because of the slowness of the 'other passports' queue!) But with no bags to pick up we were quite soon exiting the airport and after a wait of 10 minutes or so were on the bus heading for the city centre.

We got off near the Torre del Oro to walk to our hotel, La Bella Sevilla, in a pedestrianised lane near the cathedral. We had a friendly welcome and although early were able to check in to our room. But we didn't linger long. After dropping off our bags and freshening-up we were off out again to explore.

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A glimpse of the cathedral from our room

We had a lovely walk in the sunshine in the streets of the Santa Cruz district near the cathedral, taking lots of photos. We stopped for a light lunch of bread and local cheeses in a tapas bar, enjoying the opportunity to eat outside in mid November.

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Plaza Virgen de los Reyes

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La Giralda and lamppost

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Carriage by the cathedral, and orange tree

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Around Santa Cruz

The cathedral

We popped back to the hotel to get a warmer top as the breeze picked up later and then went to visit the cathedral at our pre-booked time. We got good value for the €5 it cost us, spending well over an hour there.

The cathedral was built on the footprint of the city’s grand mosque, originally constructed in the 12th century. This mosque was a considerable size, measuring 113 by 135 metres, making it over 15,000 square metres. It was converted for use as a cathedral soon after Seville's conquest by Ferdinand III. In the 13th century, the mosque was destroyed, apart from the minaret and ablutions courtyard. Construction work on the cathedral began in 1403 and was completed in 1507. The building is 127 metres long, 83 metres wide and 43 metres high, but also incorporates the minaret, which serves as its bell tower, and ablutions courtyard now renamed the Patio de los Naranjos (Courtyard of the Oranges).

We started our visit by climbing the bell tower, La Giralda (formerly the mosque's minaret). The tower is 105 metres tall and was built in the late 12th century to resemble the minaret of the Koutoubia Mosque in Marrakesh. The belfry was added in the 16th century and the famous statue / weather vane that gives it its name (La Giralda means weather vane) was installed in 1568. It is nicknamed Il Giraldillo and intended to represent the triumph of the Christian faith over others.

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La Giralda

I was pleased to make it up the 35 ramps and 17 steep marble steps without too much difficulty and loved the views from the top! Going down was actually tougher because of the strain it put on my knees, but it was worth it.

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Views of Seville from La Giralda

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View with the bullring

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Looking down at the Patio de los Naranjos

We then had a thorough look around the cathedral itself. I was pleased to find that photography was allowed throughout, naturally without flash. The building is awesome, in the proper sense of that word. Any description must include a lot of statistics! It has the longest nave of any cathedral in Spain, and it rises to a height of 42 metres. It has 80 chapels, including the central Royal Chapel.

The main altarpiece is stunning. It is considered to be the largest in Christendom and was created in phases over the period of almost a century. It was started by a Flemish sculptor, Pieter Dancart, in 1482. He was followed by a succession of Flemish and Spanish artists until the work was finally completed in 1564. Made of polychrome wood, it depicts scenes from the life of Christ, and features 44 reliefs and over 200 individual figures of saints. Its surface covers almost 400 square metres and I struggled to photograph it in its entirety!

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Main altarpiece

I was also struck by the golden roof of the main nave, which was very effectively lit.

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The nave's roof

Another famous sight here is the tomb of Christopher Columbus – or is it? Two places in the world lay claim to holding his remains, here in Seville and in Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic. The explorer was originally buried in Valladolid before being moved by his son to a monastery in Seville, and later to Santo Domingo’s grand new cathedral. But then 1795, when France ejected Spain from Hispaniola (the island now shared by Haiti and the Dominican Republic), his remains were taken to Havana, Cuba. Following Cuba’s 1898 independence from Spain, he moved again, back to Seville to be interred in this ornate tomb in the cathedral. So far, so clear, but there is more! Some time after this a worker at the Cathedral of Santa Maria in Santo Domingo discovered a box of bones marked ‘The illustrious and excellent man, Don Colon, Admiral of the Ocean Sea’ (‘Colon’ being the Spanish for Columbus). Had a mistake been made, and the wrong bone shipped to Seville? Or were the ones in the box those of Diego, Columbus’ son, who was also known as Don Colon, Admiral of the Sea? Of course Santo Domingo insists it still has the rightful remains, while Seville is equally insistent they lie here in the cathedral. And science is on the side of Seville; in 2006, DNA testing on the Seville bone fragments confirmed they belonged to Columbus. Not being a scientist I have no idea how they distinguish between him and his son when testing the DNA but I’m happy to go along with their verdict and accept this as his tomb. Unlike the people of the Dominican Republic, who have built a massive (and rather ugly) lighthouse to hold ‘their’ bones of Columbus!

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The tomb (probably) of Christopher Columbus

Meanwhile back here in Seville Columbus’ tomb is held aloft by four allegorical figures representing the four kingdoms of Spain during his life, Castille, Aragon, Navara, and Leon.

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Tomb of Christopher Columbus - detail

Leading off from the body of the cathedral are the Renaissance additions, including the Sacristy with a stunning ceiling. A large mirror has been cleverly positioned to allow you to study this without craning your neck, and I also found it useful for photos. The three concentric circles of the dome are carved with a depiction of the Last Judgement, with the damned occupying the lowest of the three.

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The sacristy ceiling

The ceiling of the Chapter House is perhaps even more striking, with delicate gold and white carvings and paintings of saints associated with Seville. The room is oval in shape so that all who attended the meetings of the cathedral chapter could be seen and heard.

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Chapter House ceiling

These and various smaller rooms in this part of the cathedral contain displays of treasures. I was taken by the simplicity of the Virgin of the Battles, dating from 1230, and the much more recent (1910) and ornate Crown of the Virgin of Los Reyes.

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The Virgin of the Battles, and Crown of the Virgin of Los Reyes

Part of the main body of the cathedral is also devoted to the display of treasures – this is clearly a wealthy cathedral. I was especially drawn to the elaborate processional monstrances. The one on the left below dates from 1580. An internet search tells me that it is over three metres tall and weighs over 113 kilos! It was the work of the goldsmith Juan de Arfe. The one on the right is newer, from 1858, but is no less impressive.

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Monstrances - on the left from 1580 and on the right from 1858

By the time we left the cathedral it was already after 5.00 PM so we decided to go back to the hotel for a break before dinner. We had that in the highly recommended Pelayo Bar in one of the lanes near our hotel. We had to wait outside for about ten minutes to get a table and were seated near the door, which was a bit chilly, but we enjoyed our meal. We shared a number of tapas plates and drank some good red wine.

After our meal we had a walk in the streets near the cathedral to take some night photos before an early night and a good sleep in our comfortable room.

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Seville Cathedral and La Giralda at night

Posted by ToonSarah 10:58 Archived in Spain

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Comments

Hello, Sarah! What a great story! Thank you for taking me to the Amazing Seville! When will I pay a visit there I wonder...

by Vic_IV

Thanks Victor - it's certainly well worth a visit if you get the chance :)

by ToonSarah

Thanks for the blog, it brought back memories of my visit to Seville and the cathedral.

by alectrevor

Thanks Alec :) I hope to post more about our weekend there over the next week or so.

by ToonSarah

Wonderful to see people travelling again. It's certainly not happening where I am with 3 weeks quarantine to get back in.A weekend away takes 23 days!!! Seville looks wonderful and I love the sunrise shots from the plane.

by irenevt

Sorry to hear it's still so tough over there Irene 🤗

by ToonSarah

I wonder where they got the DNA to compare the bones DNA to...:)

by hennaonthetrek

I wondered that Henna, but I guess they were comparing them to other remains???

by ToonSarah

Love the photos. The DNA argument was so odd. It was so long ago how are they sure what DNA belonged to whom?

Glad you enjoyed your trip.

by Beausoleil

Thanks Sally - yes it was a great trip. I've been slow to write it up but with another trip pending I decided I better get a move on!

I agree about the DNA thing - I don't quite get it myself but it's something that several accounts mentioned.

by ToonSarah

First impressions of the city looks more than promising! Beautiful pictures as usual. You know how to "sell" a city!

by Ils1976

Haha, maybe I should work for their tourist board! Thanks Ils :)

by ToonSarah

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