Sevilla cathedral, Santa Maria de la Sede, is the largest Gothic cathedral in the world. It is a UNESCO World Heritage together with the adjoining Alcázar and Archivo de Indias.
A brief history
Like so many Spanish churches, Sevilla cathedral is built on the site of a former mosque. The origins of the mosque date back to 1184.
Ferdinand III Christianised the mosque in 1248. The orientation of the former mosque was changed and the space within partitioned to suit Christian practices.
In the years after the Reconquista, Sevilla became a major trading centre. The city leaders decided to build a new cathedral to replace the existing structure in 1401. The new cathedral of Sevilla was to demonstrate the city’s wealth. The construction took until 1506.
Five years later, in 1511, the main dome collapsed. The dome and vaults collapsed again in 1881, this time following an earthquake. Many precious objects were destroyed. The reconstruction took until 1903.
Some elements of the ancient mosque were retained. The original courtyard for ablutions now contains a fountain and orange trees. It is known as the Patio de los Naranjos. However, the most notable retention was the minaret, which was converted into a bell tower known as the Giralda, the cathedral’s iconic bell tower, instantly recognised around the world. The tower is in Renaissance style and was designed by Hernán Ruíz in the 16th century.
Sevilla cathedral facts
- The footprint of the building is 11,520 square metres.
- Sevilla Cathedral has fifteen doors on its four facades.
- The cathedral has 80 chapels.
- The nave inside the cathedral is the longest in Spain. It rises to a height of 42m.
- The Giralda bell tower is 13x13m and its height is 104m.
The cathedral initially had a pair of organs. A Gospel organ by Jordi Bosch, finished in 1793 and an Epistle organ by Valentín and José Valentín Verdalonga, completed in 1831. Both were irreparably damaged in the 1881 earthquake. The replacement comprised twin organs by Aquilino Amezua, which were converted to electrical control in 1973 and operate from a single console. The organ was further reworked by Gerhard Grenzing in 1996.
The tomb of Christopher Columbus (Cristobal Colón, as he’s known in Spain) is in Sevilla cathedral. Four bearers representing the four kings of the four regions of Spain (Castile, Leon, Aragon and Navarra) carry the tomb of Christopher Columbus. There has always been some dispute about where the real remains of Christopher Columbus are, but, according to Wikipedia, DNA testing evidence suggests that the remains in Sevilla Cathedral are genuine.