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History of Seville Cathedral

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The Cathedral of Santa María de la Sede is like a great theme park of Christian history and art, full of singularities and legends. The Cathedral of Seville with an area of 11,520 square meters. It becomes the largest Gothic Cathedral in the world and the third in Christianity. Its cathedral enclosure, surrounded by chains, of 23,457 square meters, houses three portals, seven doors, a cloister, a free-standing bell tower, more than eighty stained glass windows, more than sixty vaults, more than fifty chapels and countless paintings, sculptures, altarpieces, domes, monuments, decorative arts and textiles, railings, goldsmithing, ecclesiastical objects, etc., which make up an essential catalog in the History of European Art.

By taking the mosque as the architectural basis of the Gothic enterprise, a rectangular hall plan resulted, which had some important consequences in its construction:

La Giralda sobre Sevilla

It is, by volume, the largest Gothic Cathedral in the world and the third largest in Christendom.

Historia de las Fachadas de la Catedral de Sevilla
Due to the spaciousness of the floor plan, the predominant sensation is not verticality, as in most Gothic Cathedrals, but horizontal lines.
Bóvedas Catedral de Sevilla
5 naves were built, a characteristic that only eight Gothic cathedrals meet in the world.
Historia del Arte de la Catedral de Sevilla
In the Cistercian way, a straight header was built, without an ambulatory, to which the Royal Chapel was later added.
The Latin cross is not marked in plan, but the pillars of the central nave and the transept mark it in height.

Two important novelties should also be noted. On the one hand, the two doors that flank the apse, a fact that will influence the Cathedral of Mexico City. On the other hand, the appearance of a cantilevered balcony under the body of stained glass windows that replaces the triforium and that was used as a service gallery.

Due to the riches that the Cathedral Chapter was acquiring thanks to the monopoly of New Spain’s churches after the discovery of America and, despite the fact that Seville did not have a quarry, the Cathedral was built in stone with ashlars from twenty quarries, even reaching build two boats to bring stone down the Guadalquivir from the montains of San Cristóbal in Puerto de Santa María (Cádiz). Likewise, foreign construction professionals were hired to train specialized personnel.

With more than 500 years, it has undergone numerous interventions and restorations. At present, two fundamental interventions must be highlighted that will influence the future of the Cathedral, both at the beginning of the 21st century. The first is the strengthening of two pillars that were deteriorated and which consisted of replacing more than 500 ashlars, weighing about 250 kg each, without intervening in the central cores to maintain stability. And the second, the pedestrianization of the Avenida de la Constitución due to the pollution problems suffered by the temple.

Periodos históricos de La Catedral

Estilo Almohade Catedral de Sevilla

Almohad Period
(1172-1248)

In the year 1171 the city of Seville surrendered to the Almohad caliph Abü Ya’qüb Yüsuf, who, in order to consolidate his power, ordered the construction of a new aljama mosque in the place of the existing one. The architect Ahmad Ben Baso was in charge of building a rectangular mosque with 17 naves and more than 15,000 square meters of surface and that finished in 1182.

Two elements of that mosque are still preserved: the sahn or patio of ablutions, where the sabil or fountain was located, which gave entrance to the iwan or porch to the place of prayer, known today as Patio de los Naranjos.

The minaret, converted into a bell tower after the reconquest and known as Giralda, is also preserved. The yamür, the golden balls with which a minaret is decorated, survived until 1356, the year in which an earthquake made it fall. Centuries later, this was the historical precedent for creating the current body of bells of the Giralda.

The admiration aroused by the minaret was so great that after the fall of the city at Christian hands, and after the proposal of the Almohads to destroy it, the infante Don Alfonso, son of King Fernando III “the Saint” and later King Alfonso X ” the Wise” pronounced a historical phrase: “for a single brick that is taken from it, I will put you all to the sword”.

Virgen de la Antigua

Mudejar period
(1248-1401)

The Cathedral Chapter was founded in 1248, just after the conquest of Seville by King Ferdinand III “the Saint”, consecrating the old Almohad mosque to be used for more than 150 years as the seat of the Cathedral.

Some reforms were carried out, such as the construction of a Royal Chapel, until 1401 the Chapter decided to build a new Cathedral due to the precarious state of the mosque. The minaret, which would serve as a free-standing bell tower and would become one of the symbols of the city, and two canvases of the wall of the ablutions courtyard, which would function as a cloister would be saved from demolition.

And the Ablutions Patio would be given the name the Orange Trees Courtyard.

The Cathedral Chapter was founded in 1248, just after the conquest of Seville by King Ferdinand III “the Saint”

Estilo Gótico Catedral de Sevilla

Gothic Period
(1401-1528)

During this period, the most important construction company of the Cathedral is carried out, with the responsibility, as stated in the capitulary act, of carrying out a work “such and so good that there is no other equal”.
This is how the works began in 1434, apparently, under the original project of master Alonso Martínez, consecrating the temple in 1507, although some works had not been finished. However, in 2008 a document was discovered with the traces of the Cathedral that could attribute the project to the Flemish master Ysambart (Ysambarte, Ysambret…).

For its construction, foreign master builders were hired, who, as senior masters of the Cathedral, collaborated with each other to maintain the uniformity of the project. The masters succeeded one another, even for some period several older masters working at the same time, among which Ysambart, Carlín, Juan Normant, Simón de Colonia or Alonso Rodríguez stand out. In 1511 part of the dome collapsed due to the collapse of one of the pillars and Alonso Rodríguez was dismissed, Juan Gil de Hontañón was hired to build a new dome, which was completed in 1519.

It is surprising to think that in only about 70 years the largest Gothic Cathedral in the world was completed.

Historia Religiosa de la Catedral de Sevilla

Renaissance Period
(1528-1593)

During this period a series of reforms and additions were made, in styles ranging from Plateresque to Mannerist. The Cathedral is considered to have been completed in 1593, including its dependencies. Among the most important of these extensions are:
The Royal Chapel. Started by Martin de Gainza. Hernán Ruiz II, Pedro Díaz de Palacios and Sebastián van der Bosh took part in its construction, completed in 1574.
The Main Sacristy. Finished by Martin de Gainza 1543, executing the design of Diego de Riaño.
The Lobby of the Chapter House. Designed by Diego de Riaño and built by Martín de Gaínza in 1535, although the dome that Asensio de Maeda started in 1582 was not completed until 1592 by Juan de Minjares.
The Chapter House. Conceived with an elliptical plan to cover the acoustic and visual needs of the meetings of the Cathedral Chapter. It was built by Hernán Ruiz II and finished by Asensio de Maeda in 1592.
The Extension of the body of bells of the Giralda. Made by Hernán Ruiz II in 1565.
The Sacristy of the Chalices and the Chapels of the Alabasters were also finished, among other spaces.

Periodo Barroco
(1618-1758)

With the Cathedral completed, additions and decorative reforms of chapels, monuments and altars were made. At an architectural level, there is the construction of the Tabernacle Church, which, despite being connected to the Cathedral, is an independent Church. Alonso de Vandelvira, Cristóbal de Rojas and the main architect of the Cathedral, Miguel de Zumárraga, who finished it in 1662, took part in its mannerist design at the beginning of the 17th century.

Periodo Académico

Academic Period
(1758-1823)

This period falls within the Neoclassical style. In 1732 the Cabildo studied the possibility of expanding the secular dependencies of the Catedral of Seville. In 1760, under the direction of José Herrera, work began on various rooms in the southwestern area, in front of the Archivo de Indias and on the corner of Avenida de la Constitución, although they were not completed until well into the 20th century. It is what is now called the Office Pavilion.

In the second half of the 18th century, a series of buildings adjoining this area were demolished, linking the cathedral with the city’s farmhouses. Thus concluded the process of exempt monumentalization of the Cathedral.

Puerta del Príncipe, Giraldillo y Cubiertas

Gothic Revival Period
(1825-1928)

The most notable of this period, where some restorations and reforms were carried out, was the completion of the doors of the transept, that of the Concepción and that of San Cristóbal or del Príncipe, finished by Adolfo Fernández Casanova at the beginning of the 20th century, strictly following the nineteenth-century design of Demetrio de los Ríos.

Likewise, we must also highlight the reconstruction of the dome at the end of the 19th century, under the direction of Joaquín Fernández Ayarragaray and the completion of the Office Pavilion by Javier Luque in the 1920s.

Exteriores Catedral de Sevilla

The Cathedral today

Some notable milestones of the 20th century and of what we have been in the 21st century are:

– The reorganization of the Orange Trees Courtyard, designed and executed by Félix Hernández Giménez in the second half of the 20th century.
– Restoration of the Giraldillo, completed in 2005.
– Restoration of two of the oldest pillars, completed in 2009.
– Pedestrianization of Avenida de la Constitución due to the problem of contamination and cleaning of the west façade, completed in 2007.

Discover the secrets of the Cathedral of Seville

Visit its history, its doors, its altars and its works of art.
With our tour you will discover in detail one of the most beautiful places in the world.

With ten access doors and a rectangular floor plan, it is a model of the Cathedral that influenced many Novohispanic cathedrals after the conquest of the New World.

The Cathedral of Seville was created as an architectural madness, being the largest Gothic Cathedral in the world. Going through its interior, with our tours, is a real stimulus for the senses of any visitor.

Our tours will show the wealth of paintings, sculptures, stained glass windows, forging, goldsmithing, clothing, books, etc., that make Seville Cathedral one of the great museums in Europe and a historical-artistic compendium of Catholicism.

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