Gryffons, Castles and Cathedrals

June 13, 2012

After breakfast we visited the Reál (Royal) Alcazar and the Seville Cathedral.  Seville is another of those Johnny-come-lately cities that’s only been around since about 700.  BC, that is.  It was important because of its location on a major shipping route (the Guadalquivir river), and so it was conquered time & again over the years.  The current Reál Alcazar was built as a stronghold in the 11th century and reflects that checkered past. After the addition of an entire Gothic wing in the 1200’s, Peter the 1st (a huge fan of the Alhambra) extensively remodeled the Alcazar.  He brought together the best Islamic artists and craftsmen of the day, but added some Christian touches.  And gryffons, looots of gryffons.   This style is known as Mudejar, of which the Alcazar is the best example.  All we know is that it’s absolutely beautiful.  So beautiful in fact that Jeanette alone took 537 pictures there.  (Yes, I know I have a problem but it’s cheaper than a gambling addiction and healthier than drug addiction.)  Intricate carving covers nearly every square inch of the walls and ceilings, with mosaic tiles or veined marble on the floor.  It’s enough to make you dizzy.  You could spend an entire day in one room and still miss details.  Trying to tour the whole place just makes you numb after awhile: your brain can only take so much splendor!  Luckily the gardens are equally beautiful but less overwhelming.  With our heads spinning, we exited into the main plaza to sit in the shade of the Seville cathedral.  After some refreshing ice cream, we felt ready to tackle the cathedral.

A quick word about religion in Andalucía: all of this conquering and re-conquering resulted is most easily seen in the older cathedrals and mosques of southern Spain.  One of the first duties of the conquering leader is apparently to replace the old religion with his own.  But you don’t want to alienate the populace too much by obliterating their houses of worship, so in the interest of keeping the peace you just modify the building a little.  In some places, you can see Muslim, Christian, and Jewish elements all in the same building.  Seville’s cathedral was built on to/over its mosque.  The Orange Tree Courtyard with its fountains (for pre-prayer cleansing) was retained intact, and the lower two-thirds of the current bell tower are actually the original mosque minaret (a conversion that can be seen at many cathedrals).  Seville remained in Christian control after 1100, so over time the Cathedral has been modified to traditional cathedral style.  It’s a beautiful space now, and even contains the tomb of Christopher Columbus.  There are extensive Treasure Rooms (their wording, not mine) containing priceless gold artifacts & lots of reliquaries.  Eeeew.  We couldn’t help but wonder how many starving people could be fed and housed by selling just a few of the gold artifacts.  There are great views of Seville from the top of the bell tower!

Next we headed off in search of the Parasol Metropol.  It claims to be the largest wooden structure in the world.  We don’t know about that, but it’s a cool structure and there are some great views of Seville from the top.  By the time we were done, it was well into siesta time and our lunch options were limited.  Eric saw a place that sold pizza by the slice, so it seemed like a good idea to everyone but Teresa (who is rightfully  leery of ethnic foods prepared not in the country of their origin).  In the funniest menu/language barrier incident of the trip, Eric ordered at the counter by pointing to a pizza that appeared to be sausage.  When the waitress brought the food, she asked who had the olive & mushroom, who had the veggie, and who had the tuna?  Since he was the only one without a slice, Eric (with a look of dawning horror) said, “Like tuna, tuna????” while making swimming motions with his hand.  Both the waitress and his traveling companions cracked up.  She very nicely offered to bring him another slice and he was very relieved not to have to eat tuna pizza.  At this point we were mostly exhausted, so headed back to the hotel to pick up our luggage and head back to Olvera.

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