The people who built Seville Cathedral were mad. I’m not being rude in saying that: when they decided to build it they said “Let [it be] a church so beautiful and so great that those who see it built will think we were mad”.
The Cathedral is truly stunning. When it was completed it was the largest Cathedral in the world and it remains the third largest. There are vaunting gothic arches, flying buttresses and a lovely sense of space. Some of that beauty, ironically, comes from the fact they built it over the remains of a mosque. The mosque can still be seen in the lovely cool courtyard and the Giralda tower.
But that isn’t the only evidence of the locals building on earlier civilisations. The Cathedral houses the remains of Christopher Columbus (we were pleased to find this after seeing his birthplace and the spot he returned from his first voyage). Columbus did a lot for Seville – Seville had a monopoly on trade from South America for many years and benefited mightily from the rivers of gold passing through its river port. It’s hard to look at the amazing gold and silver decorations in the Cathedral without wondering how much of them was funded on the backs of the pillage of the Indies.
Without thinking too deeply about origins, there are elements of the Cathedral that are jaw-droppingly glorious. There is an entire wall of relief carvings showing scenes from the Bible, all gilded. There is the plate which Callum pointed out is surmounted by a silver crown that’s bigger than his bed. And there is the spectacular building itself.
We climbed the Giralda tower for a wonderful view of the city. I honestly think Seville looks a lot better from above than it does from street-level: from above it’s a sea of white-washed buildings and red-roofs with islands of ancient buildings standing out. The fascinating thing about the Giralda tower is that it was built originally without steps. Instead, there is a ramp winding up to the top which allowed the imam to be carried up to the top on a horse or donkey to do the call to prayer. There are now steps at the highest level as the Christians added a bell tower on top – and that did not require anyone to ascend five times daily.