Day 9 |
Apr 26, 2010

Seville, Spain

By Olga Staveakis, Historian

Co-ordinates: 36° 32’ 002N; 05° 48’ 506W

What a marvelous day we spent in Seville! Starting out from the Port of Cadiz, we drove through green rolling wheat fields and olive groves, stopping at the El Paisano Restaurant for a snack of sandwiches, coffee and juice.

Once in the city we took a quick look at an example of Neo Mudéjar architecture in the plaza de las Americas. This is a Moorish revival art style popularized in 1929 for a special international exhibition in Seville, clearly demonstrating that Spain’s mixed past remains alive today.

We began our walking tour in the historic center of town at the Alcazar, a fortress and palace, originally built by the Moors of Andalusia after the conquest. This is an excellent example of Mudéjar architecture, which was simply continued by Christian monarchs. Arabesques and ornate geometric tile work, latticed balconies, and courtyard gardens were all preserved after the reconquest with only minor changes in the style. Portraits of royal relatives, heraldic lions and castles were added, but all in the basic Mudéjar style was retained, making the Alcazar one of the best examples of the Moors' lasting impact on Spanish architecture.

In one of the last patios, there are two small towers connected by a modernistic wall that we were told inspired Gaudí’s towers for the fabled Church of Santa Familia in Barcelona.

Just across an irregular courtyard, we entered the spectacular Gothic Cathedral of Seville, which was built on the site of a 12th-century mosque over several centuries. Although the cathedral is a striking example of high Gothic European architecture, parts of the old mosque still remain and we entered through the ancient minaret, now converted to a bell tower.

Inside to our right stood a high, elaborate altar cast of pure silver from Mexico and Peru.

Directly opposite the altar stands a somber moving monument on a large pedestal, displaying four sculpted men in elegant 16th-century robes, shouldering a casket. This is the tomb of Christopher Columbus, although a controversy is raging as to whether his remains are actually here or in Havana. DNA samples have recently been taken from the remains of this tomb, but results have not yet been published.

After a 7-course tapas meal with wine, we walked to the Flamenco Museum and Institute where we were treated to a superb performance of classical flamenco. The exceptionally talented performers included a guitarist, singer and two dancers, a woman and a man – who in traditional style, danced individually and not together. They performed the Alegrías, Soleá, and Bulerías for us with astonishing emotional power that swung from the tragically painful to the comical and absurd.

During the gentle ride back to the ship, most of us took a much-needed rest, contemplating the exceptional beauty and cultural richness of Seville.