So, Seville. It’s such a many-splendored city that my selects folder has 44 photos in it, even though I usually stick to a 15-image limit for any one post.
First of all, it’s a rich and therefore gilded city. Second of all, its aesthetic has been shaped by several very different cultures – Moorish, Catholic Spanish, and Gothic European. Sometimes all three influences are visible in one structure, to fascinating effect. Third of all, the ornateness and scale of the town’s three or four big eye-poppers is such that they are impossible to do justice to in only a couple of images. But, I scrapped a bunch of photos nevertheless, in order to leave you with what I hope is a nice and concise impression of a very nice and very grandiose city.
The layers of history are evident in the walls, originally built for defensive purposes, throughout the city. This one is from the Islamic period and dates from between the mid-800s to 1000s.
Close by is a gorgeous city park where, because I had done absolutely no advance research, I very much stumbled upon the jaw-dropping Plaza de España.
Here, I realized that I have a very Millennial reaction to overwhelming awe. Trancelike, I snap 8 million photos of whatever is in front of me, almost as a way to mediate the experience and attempt to transform it into something more manageable (definitely not in terms of photo archiving; rather, in terms of mental energy displacement). So, I took a photo of the Plaza on average every three steps, around the entire 180-degree arc of the structure. Below are just four of those images. I hope they give you a sense of both the micro and macro awesomeness of this place.
Next, I headed into the oldest part of the city to find some lunch. But I kept stopping to hyperventilate at the architecture. Below, a luxury hotel.
I’m going to go out of chronological order to show you some other gems. In a city where architectural stunners are a dime a dozen, these are a few that really stood out to me:
Above and below are buildings in the old city.
And this is a metro station in the newer part of the city.
Then there was the royal palace, which was first built in the Moorish period and later expanded by the Castilians. The intricacy of the design was eye-popping.
But the mother of all the “wow”s was reserved for this cathedral.
The Cathedral of Seville is the largest Gothic cathedral in the world. It is vast, cavernous, palatial, etc. It’s almost like a mini-mall of individual cathedrals: each nave or wing or what-have-you has its own ambience and is fully or partially separated from the other sections by its own magnificent structural elements.
The tower of the cathedral was built as a minaret of the city mosque in the 1100s. In the mid-1200s when the Catholics took over, it was turned into a cathedral. In the 1400s, the Gothic parts were constructed. They kept adding to it until the early 1900s. It was Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, when I visited and I just kept thinking about the amount of money and effort mere mortals poured into this house of God to make it almost super-humanly humbling. Did the people responsible for this majesty go all out to atone for their sins, to assure themselves a heavenly reward, or just to show off their riches? I don’t know if they succeeded in impressing God, but they certainly impressed me.
A couple of city views from the tower:
The Cathedral of Seville was the biggest and most lavish of all the churches I saw in Seville, but I saw a lot of churches… and many of them were equally beautiful, if on a much more human scale. Here’s one of the more minimalist ones, by Seville standards. 😂
And here is my absolute favorite church in Spain – hidden away in a small alley, it was like a crumbling Baroque fever dream.
Between my three days in Madrid and two in Seville, I ate a lot of ham and visited a lot of cathedrals. Considering it was Rosh Hashanah, I was starting to feel guilty. So I made a point to visit the tiny Jewish history museum, in which I read about all the horrible things that happened to the Jews of Seville and of Spain in general. On reflection, it was sort of a bummer of a way to ring in the new year. Especially when I grabbed a mini-map of the Jewish barrio – which is basically the oldest part of the old city – and went in search of a few churches that were once synagogues before the Jews were killed or forced to convert to Catholicism.
Here’s one particularly gorgeous one. I walked in during a service and felt… strange. There was not one hint that this place had ever been a Jewish house of worship.
Then I visited the supposed site of the 1391 massacre of Seville’s Jews. Again, I felt… strange. It’s hard to feel connected to history that old, but it’s also hard not to feel connected to it when the same thing happened to your relatives in recent history.
Anyway. Clearly I can’t end on that note. It would be depressing, AND it would give the false impression that I was anything less than thrilled with Seville. I loved the city, 100%.
So, maybe I will instead end with this palate cleanser, if you will:
That’s a picture of a magnificent sunset on the Atlantic coast, near Jerez de la Frontera. Between Madrid and Seville, I spent two lovely days with a friend from New York who just moved to a house a few meters from this beach. We collected sea glass, sat in the sun, and ate good food. So I actually started the new year just right.