Real Fábrica de Tabacos

Real Fábrica de Tabacos (36)

The old Royal Tobacco Factory is a magnificent building that is now the headquarters of the Chancellor’s Office of the University of Seville and some of its colleges. This complex, the largest in Spain after El Escorial, was ordered to be built in 1728 by Ignacio de Sala. However, it wasn’t until the Dutchman Sebastián Van der Borcht took over the project that work started on the façade, the courtyards, the prison and the moat. The work was not completed until 1771. King Philip V’s idea was to build a large tobacco factory on the outskirts of town, since Seville had become the landing point for tobacco plants arriving from America. The result was that the Royal Tobacco Factory of Seville became the largest in the world. 

This architectural complex is the largest in Spain after the Escorial Monastery in Madrid.

Three-quarters of all tobacco made in Europe used to be produced here, where more than 3000 cigarette makers worked on developing the product. These cigarette makers, with their reputation for being insolent and sly, were one of the reasons that the moat was built, so that their arrivals and departures could be contolled in an (unsuccessful) attempt to prevent materials from being stolen. As you probably already know, these women were also the inspiration for French author Próspero Mérimée, for he wrote his famous novel “Carmen.” 

If you walk over to the main façade, on the right-hand side you’ll see the prison, where the workers who stole tobacco were taken. On the other side, to the left, there is another small building: a chapel, which today is used by students to ask for a little “help” before their exams. Both constructions were created by architect Vicente Catalán Bengoechea. On the façade, look at the busts of Christopher Columbus and Hernán Cortés, who is said to have been the first European to acquire the habit of smoking tobacco. You’ll also find a frequently photographed curiosity: an image of an Indian smoking a pipe.

Although the factory is now a university, you can still go inside and walk around part of the interior. In addition to a typical student environment, you’ll find many things of interest, like the beautiful courtyards, baroque fountains and the old workshops. It was to these workshops that the plant leaves were brought and dried on beds, in order to be shredded by 116 horse-mills. 

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