The Cathedral

The Cathedral (18)

“We’ll build a temple so large that when people see it completed, they’ll think we were mad.” This quote, made by a canon after the decision to build the cathedral, really sums up the spirit in which the project was undertaken. So it shouldn’t come as a surprise that this cathedral is the largest in Spain, as well as the third largest in the whole of Christendom after Saint Paul’s Cathedral in London and Saint Peter’s at the Vatican. 

The Cathedral of Seville is located on the former site of the Great Mosque built in the 12th century and was converted into a Christian cathedral when the city was conquered by Ferdinand III of Castile in 1248.

Construction of the Cathedral of Seville began in 1401, but it would take more than a century to complete it. Owing to the amount of time it took to build, you can see traces of gothic, neo-gothic and renaissance influences in the building. 

The rectangular building is 116 metres long and 76 metres wide and made up of five naves, it is 40 metres at its highest point, in the central nave. There are 28 semi-detached pillars, plus 32 free-standing ones, that support the 68 pointed vaults. It is has 93 stained glass windows, most made in the 16th century.

This enormous church houses a plethora of works of art and sections worth visiting. We have decided to highlight those that we feel are the most important and cannot be missed. On one side, you’ll find the cloister known as the Patio de los Naranjos, where in ancient times the Muslim faithful would wash their hands and feet before entering the mosque. Here the primitive arches and the stone pulpit have been preserved, where the Palm Sunday sermon takes place. 

We recommend that you enter the Cathedral through the Puerta del Lagarto, which gets its name from the full-sized crocodile that hangs from above, the meaning of which remains unknown. Once inside, visit the Capilla Real at the head of the sanctuary. Here, over the altar, is an image of the Virgin of the Kings painted in the 13th century, patron saint of Seville, it belonged to King Ferdinand III, along with a silver-and-crystal urn, a gift from Philip V to hold the intact body of the king Saint Ferdinand. Additionally, on either side stand the tombs of Alfonso X, the Wise, and his mother.

On the opposite side from the Capilla Real is the Sala Capitular, where in the vaulted ceilings you’ll see a set of paintings by Murillo from 1668. Also of note is the Choir Loft in the centre of the nave, surrounded by an impressive renaissance grille. In addition it houses a gothic ashlar created by Nufro Sánchez and organs that face one another, built by Luis de Vilches in the 18th century.

You’ll also find the so-called Tomb of Christopher Columbus here, a romantic mausoleum completed in 1900 by Arturo Melida. Four large statues that symbolise the kingdoms of Castile, Leon, Aragon and Navarra hold a coffin, and although it contains human remains, no one is really sure whose they are. 

This cathedral is home to works of incalculable artistic and historic value. Among the sculptures, we should point out "Cristo de la Clemencia" a baroque piece by Martínez Montañés, and "San Fernando,” [Saint Ferdinand] a work by Pedro Roldán, both from the 17th century, and the "Sepulcro del Cardenal Cervantes,” a gothic piece from the 15th century by Lorenzo Mercadante.

Some paintings of note include "San Cristóbal" by Pérez de Alesio from the 15th century, the "Inmaculada Concepción" work of Zurbarán, and the "Visión de San Antonio" by Murillo, both from the 17th century.

Finally, take some time to enjoy the true gem of this Cathedral: the Capilla Mayor. This chapel, enclosed by three splendid iron grilles forged between 1518 and 1532, contains an altarpiece that is 20 metres tall by 13 metres wide, considered one of the most important works in Christianity. It has 44 panels with carvings of more than two hundred figures. Since 1482, when it was designed by Pierre Dancart, until 1564, carvings by Spanish and Flemish sculptors required nearly a century to complete. This is where you’ll find Saint Mary of the See, patroness of the cathedral, dating from the 13th century, below the lovely cascade of gold. They narrate different religious scenes: if you look closely, you’ll find the birth of Christ, the adoration of the kings, the last supper, flagellation, the crown of thorns, and on the sides, there are scenes such as the creation of Eve, the escape from Egypt, and original sin....

 And if you’ve been enjoying your visit, perhaps at this point you ought to sample another type of gold, perhaps a little fine sherry or other local wine, accompanied by delicious tapas. Take advantage of where you are, near Santa Cruz, which has some of the very best tapas in the city.

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