The Seville Cathedral is one of the famous Roman Catholic cathedrals in Spain.
Built on the site of the great 12th-century Almohad mosque, Seville’s cathedral was built to demonstrate the city’s power and wealth.
The cathedral’s construction lasted over a century, from 1401 to 1506. It is said that when the plans were drawn up, church elders stated, “Let us build a church so beautiful and so magnificent that those who see it finished will think we are mad.”
After its completion, Seville Cathedral supersede Hagia Sophia as the largest cathedral in the world, a title the Byzantine church had held for nearly a thousand years.
The total area of the Cathedral is at 11,520 square meters (124,000 square feet).
The building is 135 meters (443 feet) long and 100 meters (328 feet) wide, and a ceiling height of 42 meters (138 feet).
Seville Cathedral is the third-largest church in the world as well as the largest Gothic church.
It is also the largest cathedral in the world because two largest churches, the Basilica of the
National Shrine of Our Lady of Aparecida and St. Peter’s Basilica, are not the seats of bishops.
The crowning glory of the Seville Cathedral is the tall Giralda Bell Tower. It was originally built as a minaret between 1184 and 1198 during the Moorish period, with a Renaissance style top subsequently added by Spanish conquistadors in 16th century. At the top is the 16th century El Giraldillo weather vane, an enormous bronze statue of a female figure bearing a cross to symbolize Faith. The tower is 104.1 m (341.5 ft) in height and remains one of the most important symbols of the city, as it has been since medieval times.
Seville Cathedral has 15 doors on its four facades and each one features a unique relief or carving.
The main cathedral door, richly decorated and well preserved, is on the western side and known as the Door of Assumption. Cardinal Cienfuegos y Jovellanos commissioned the artist Ricardo Bellver to carve the relief of the Assumption over the door; it was executed between 1877 and 1898.
The interior has the longest nave of any cathedral in Spain. Its central nave rises to an awe-inspiring 42 meters (138 feet) and even the 80 side chapels each seem tall enough to contain an ordinary church.
In the main body of the cathedral only the great box-like structure of the coro (choir) stands out, filling the central portion of the nave. It contains elaborate 15th-century choir stalls.
The coro opens onto the Capilla Mayor (Great Chapel), which is dominated by an incredible Gothic altar piece. The supreme masterpiece of the cathedral was the life’s work of a single craftsman, Fleming Pieter Dancart. Composed of 45 carved scenes from the life of Christ, it is carved in wood and covered with staggering amounts of gold. It is the largest and richest altarpiece in the world.
Through the ante-chamber, you reach the Capitular (Chapter House) with its magnificent domed ceiling mirrored in the marble decoration of the floor. There are a number of paintings by Murillo here, the finest of which, a flowing Conception, occupies the place of honour.
Alongside this room is the grandiose Sacrista Mayor (Great Sacristy) which houses the treasury. Among the displays are silver reliquaries and monstrances, artworks by Goya, Murillo, and Zurbarán, a collection of skulls and the keys presented to Fernando by the Moorish and Jewish communities on the
surrender of the city, sculpted into the latter in stylised Arabic script are the words “May Allah
render eternal the dominion of Islam in the city.”
The northeast corner contains the Capilla Real (Royal Chapel). This magnificent domed Renaissance
chapel was built between 1551 and 1575 to house the royal tombs. An 18th-century grille surrounds the
chapel, which has an exalted ambience worthy of the revered tombs found here.
The tomb of Christopher Columbus is one of the main attractions of the cathedral for visitors, housing the remains of the great explorer who died in poverty in Valladolid. The tomb itself is more recent, from the 1892, with four bearers presenting the kingdoms of Castile, Leon, Aragon and Navarra. Columbus was originally buried in the cathedral of Havana, on the island he had discovered on his first voyage in 1492. But during the upheavals surrounding the Cuban revolution in 1902, Spain transferred the remains to Seville.
Other cities claim to hold the remains of Christopher Columbus – Havana, Cuba, and Santo Domingo in the Domican Republic – but recent DNA tests proved beyond doubt that this tomb does hold Columbus.
The stuffed crocodile, known as El Lagarto is always a fun spot for kids. It was a gift from the Sultan of Egypt to King Alfonso X, for asking for the hand in marriage of his daughter Berenguela. Although the Sultan did not wed the princess in the end, the crocodile stayed, and was stuffed. Now
it is one of the cathedral’s quirkier relics.
The Patio de los Naranjos large courtyard contained within the cathedral precinct as you leave the
cathedral. It dates back to Moorish times when worshippers would wash their hands and feet in the
fountains here – under the orange trees – before their five daily prayer sessions.
Seville Cathedral was registered in 1987 by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site, along with the Alcázar palace complex and the General Archive of the Indies.
The Archbishop’s Palace is located on the northeastern side of the cathedral.
In the cathedral’s 80 chapels, 500 masses were said daily as reported in 1896.
The baptistery Chapel of Saint Anthony contains the painting of The Vision of St. Anthony (1656) by
Bartolomé Esteban Murillo. In November 1874, it was discovered that thieves had cut out the portion
depicting Saint Anthony. Then in January 1875, a Spanish immigrant attempted to sell the same fragment to a New York City art gallery. The owner of the gallery, Hermann Schaus, negotiated a price of $250 and contacted the Spanish consulate.