By Teri Franklin
Visiting Seville is like taking a step back into Spain’s past, as its history is visible in the architecture throughout the city. When visiting last summer, we took a historical walking tour. We started just outside of the current downtown area, in the ancient part of the city. Seville was founded as a Roman city and was declared a colony in 45 BC by Julius Caesar. It was known as one of the most important cultural areas in the 6th and 7th centuries. The Romans built aqueducts and laid out streets in a grid-like fashion throughout Seville.
In 712 the Muslims took over, and Seville entered another period of splendor. It was from this period that one of Seville’s famous mosques was built, the Alcázar (later rebuilt by the Christians).
According to our tour guide, when the Muslims took over, the city dramatically changed. No longer were the Roman straight roadways appreciated. The Muslims were more private and preferred to have small, windy alleyways to move about. All the houses looked the same from the outside,
In 1248, Ferdinand the 3rd conquered Seville for Christianity. The Moors were forced to leave. Seville was repopulated by Castilian aristocracy who grouped together in different neighborhoods according to their occupations. The Catedral de Santa María de la Sede, better known as the Seville Cathedral, was built by the Castalians beginning in 1402. It was built to demonstrate the city’s wealth, and according to oral tradition, the cathedral members said, “Let us build a church so beautiful and so grand that those who see it finished will think we are mad.” That may be true, but it is also true that the Cathedral has had a storied past, as its dome has collapsed twice. The bell tower, La Giralda, is the city’s best known symbol. It is a long walk up to the top, but the views are worth it.
Next up on our tour was a boat ride on the Guadalquiver River. This waterway is very important in Spanish history. In 1492, the Spanish arrival in the Americas by Christopher Colombus brought Seville to its height of power. The Casa de Contratación (House of Trade) was established on the river in 1503 to regulate trade coming from the New World. It remained a thriving port for new world goods through the 18th century. Below is the Triana Bridge which spans the Guadalquivir River.
The last stop on our tour was the Plaza de España, built for The Iberoamerican Exposition of 1929. The festival initiated another period of renaissance in Seville. The Plaza de España is located in the Parque de Maria Luisa and is a beautiful example of Renaissance Revival style of Spanish architecture. Every Spanish province is represented by a mosaic in the Plaza’s “Alcoves of the Provinces.” Today, the Plaza de España is used primarily by the government and enjoyed by families as a magical place to visit.