Medieval and Renaissance periods in Seville

History of the mediaeval court and post-Reconquest Seville.

The most enlightened court in Europe

After the entry of King Ferdinand III into Seville and during the reign of the so-called “wise king” Alfonso X of Castile, the court was established in Seville and lived, under this sensitive, intellectual king, one of the most brilliant epochs of the European Middle Ages. Alfonso surrounded himself with philosophers, jurists, musicians, artists and mathematicians who gave his reign a creative drive that is remembered even today.

Don Fadrique Álvarez of Toledo was the fourth Duke of Alba, Duke of Huéscar, Marquis of Coria and Knight Commander of the Order of Calatrava. During the reign of Philip II, he lived a story of impossible love for Doña María of Toledo that would end in his exile and ruin. The stones of the tower still weep for the tragic lovers.

After the entry of the so-called Saint King, during his reign and, above all, during that of Alfonso X The Wise, the court of Seville lived through times of splendour that for decades made it the capital. Intellectuals and artists found here a refuge for their talents and a certain tolerance which allowed brilliant developments in science and culture.

It was then that Alfonso ordered the construction of his Palace on the site of the old Almohad palace, in Gothic style. The remains of this palace are considered the most southerly example of civil Gothic architecture in Europe.

If there is one work that stands out among all others from this prestigious period of art and architecture in Seville, it is the Cathedral of Seville.

Santa Ana

Santa Ana is the most emblematic monument in the traditional construction as a thanksgiving to the Virgin and her mother Saint Ann for having been cured of a serious eye disease. Designed in Cistercian gothic style, it was built by masters from Burgos with the help of Mudejar master builders which is why bricks were used in its construction. The tower is one of the most characteristic elements of the church and the Mudejar style of its lower level is combined with a baroque bell tower whose beautiful blue tile decoration creates a lively and colourful effect. Inside the church is a magnificent altarpiece in plateresque style (1542-1565) depicting scenes of the Virgin and her mother’s lives which were painted by Pedro de Campaña. In the centre of the altarpiece, stand three original dressed images of Saint Ann, the Virgin and the Child which date from the 13th century.

Santa Paula

Santa Paula was founded in 1475. Covering more than 8,000 m2, its complex structure is made up of a series of buildings, yards, passages, etc. – the result of several additions and reforms which is typical in the city’s convents. Its doorways, the church, the choir and the beautiful cloisters form one of the most complex convent layouts in Seville. The main doorway, one of the most unusual in the city, dates from 1504 and combines gothic-Mudejar features with decorative patterns from the early Italian renaissance. The tympanum of the pointed brick door, in Mudejar style, depicts the royal coat of arms in marble with the yoke and arrows which is characteristic of the Catholic Monarchs. The attractive tile decoration is the work of Pisano. The circular paintings and angels are by Pedro Millán and the Nativity Scene was made in the Florentine workshop of Andrea de la Robbia.

San Marcos

San Marcos is one of the most beautiful of Mudejar churches. Presiding over the gothic archivolts is the central figure of the Eternal Father. The slender tower is 22 meters high. Its upper part is decorated with the typical diamond-shaped patterns of Muslim minarets and filigreed windows whose size and complexity of design gradually decrease towards the ground. In 1603 Vermondo Resta added the bell tower. In 1470 supporters of the Count of Arcos burnt the church during their feuds with the Count of Niebla and the Duke of Medina Sidonia. This event illustrates the constant fighting that took place during the 14th and 15th centuries between the two most powerful noble families of Seville. In 1936, the church was again burnt and remained closed for worship until 1970.

King Pedro I (1350-1369) promoted the construction of many of the Mudejar churches which were built in the city after the devastating earthquake of 1356. They are the prototype of the city’s 14th-century gothic-Mudejar churches. Built in brick with recessed doorways, they have three naves covered with wooden ceilings, a polygonal presbytery with ribbed vaulted ceilings, and towers which are similar in style to the old Muslim minarets. In Churches like San Marcos, Omnium Sanctorum, and Santa Marina the style has been preserved with great purity. Others have a mixture of styles which are a result of subsequent additions. This is the case of Santa Catalina, where the beautiful Mudejar tower is combined with other styles such as the baroque Sacramental chapel designed by Figueroa.

Casa de los Mañara

The quarters of Santa Cruz and San Bartolomé, where this palace is situated, made up the Judería, the old Jewish quarter. Since 1623 the palace became the residence of the Mañara family, from Corsica. They were among the many foreign families which settled in Seville during the 16th century and became wealthy, some of them even entering the circles of the nobility. The most famous member of the Mañara family was Miguel Mañara, who after his wife’s death, abandoned his libertine lifestyle and devoted himself to helping the poor. In 1671, he left his palace and went to live in more modest dwellings in the street which today bears his name. Later, in 1677, he moved to the humblest cell in his Hospital de la Caridad.

The beautiful marble doorway is flanked by two Tuscan columns with grooved shafts and brackets which support an entablature. The spaces between the brackets are decorated with alternating ox skulls and female figureheads. Over the entablature is a simple central balcony. The long façade is structured with irregularly shaped pilasters whilst the eave line is covered with roof tiles, except in the last two sections where there is a terrace decorated with pinnacles. The façade is a good example of the 1600s tradition in Seville of using ashlar-like and other decorative features as an inexpensive and efficient form of embellishing a plain wall.

Casa de los Pinelos

This is one of the most interesting houses from the 16th century. It was named after its owner, Jerónimo Pinelo. He was the son of Francisco Pinelo, a Genoan by birth, who was one of the wealthiest merchants in the city. Today it houses the Reales Academias Sevillanas de Buenas Artes, Letras y Medicina. It has two storeys crowned by a mirador with a gothic ledge in perforated stone. Miradores became a characteristic feature of many Sevillian houses and several fine examples are still preserved.

Casa de Pilatos

La Casa de Pilatos is the finest example of 16th century palatial architecture in Seville. Its construction was started by the Governor of Andalusia Pedro Enríquez and his wife Catalina de Ribera. His son, Fadrique Enríquez de Ribera, continued enlarging the palace until his death in 1539. Works were completed by his successor, Per Afán de Ribera, viceroy of Naples, who left most of the archaeological remains to be found in the palace today. The name – Pilate’s House – alludes to a journey to Jerusalem that Fadrique made in 1519. Upon his return, he established the first station of the Via Crucis – which represents the trial of Jesus in Pilate’s house – from the palace.

Structured around courtyards and gardens, the Casa de Pilatos is made up of various buildings which combine a number of artistic styles. The splendid central courtyard has arches with irregular designs which are lavishly decorated with Mudejar-style plasterwork. In the corners stand two statues of Pallas Athenas, which were copies of Greek originals. The palace boasts magnificent coffered ceilings, plasterworks and tiles. It also houses a valuable collection of paintings and sculptures which illustrate Seville’s past splendour.

Casa de la Condesa de Lebrija

The style of this 15th century palace, which was rebuilt in the 16th century, was the work of Regla Manjón, the Duchess of Lebrija, who bought it at the end of the 19th century. The house has the typical Sevillian layout with a hallway and a main courtyard around which the building is structured. A magnificent Roman mosaic featuring starred medallions, flowers and mythological motifs such as Leda, the Swan, Europa, and Ganymede offering the eagle water, is the centrepiece of the courtyard. Its decoration combines a wide range of elements such as Roman mosaics, mudejar plasterwork, tiles, coffered ceilings, renaissance friezes, a balustrade in mahogany (on the staircase), etc.

Sevillian Convents

The belfries of numerous convents shape the skyline of Seville with a humble beauty designed not to overshadow those of parish churches. Following the Christian reconquest of Arab dominated territories, the main religious orders founded convents in the city. This is the case of the convents of San Clemente and Santa Clara, which were founded in the 13th century. Santa Paula dates from the 15th century; Santa Inés, Santa María de Jesús, Santa Isabel, El Socorro, San Leandro, Madre de Dios and las Teresas from the 16th century… the long list is completed with Santa Ana (dating from the 17th century) and Santa Rosalía (18th century). They provide the city with a peaceful atmosphere for prayer and meditation.

Hidden to our eyes we can only see them through the railings of their chapels which separate the nuns from the public. Their walls keep century-old stories: Santa Ines houses the mummified body of María Coronel. Its church was also the setting of the legend of the organ player Maese Pérez, narrated by Bécquer. Las Teresas is the custodian of the original manuscript of Las Moradas written by Teresa de Jesús and the only portrait of the saint carried out during her lifetime. Convents have also preserved century-old recipes which the nuns still use to make traditional pastries, cakes, and preserves which are on sale to the public and can be obtained through revolving blind windows: the bollitos de Santa Inés, jam from Santa Paula or the famous Yemas de San Leandro.

La Cartuja

La Cartuja la fundó el arzobispo Gonzalo de Mena en 1399. Cristóbal Colón disfrutó de la hospitalidad de los monjes cartujos y desde aquí organizó su segundo viaje, siendo también, durante 30 años, el lugar donde reposaron sus restos. En 1839, el Marqués de Pickman adquirió el monasterio para instalar una fábrica de loza y porcelana china. La función fabril causó irreparables daños al edificio, aunque los 5 hornos en forman de botella procedentes de entonces ofrecen un original perfil a este recinto. En 1986 se inició la rehabilitación del conjunto con motivo de la celebración de la Exposición Universal de 1992, en la que fue la sede del Pabellón Real. Tras este certamen, es sede del Centro Andaluz de Arte Contemporáneo.

Catalina de Ribera promovió la construcción de la casa de Pilatos, fundó el Hospital de las Cinco Llagas y adquirió para su hijo Fernando la Casa de las Dueñas. Los sepulcros de los Ribera, patronos de la Cartuja, se encuentran en la capilla del Capítulo. De 1836 a 1992, ambos sepulcros estuvieron instalados en la iglesia de la Anunciación.


Designed by Francisco Pinelo, the Casa de la Contratación was founded by the Catholic Monarchs in 1503. The institution – which was set up to encourage, and control their monopoly on the trade with America – was based in Seville until its transferral to Cadiz in 1717. During this period, Seville was the most important and populated city in Spain and the third in Europe.

The monopoly on trade brought much wealth to the city which became a magnet for traders, artists, fortune-seekers, crooks and people from all walks of life. They formed a melting pot which was unparalleled in 16th century Europe. The Sala de Audiencias (Hearing room) is covered by a gilded wooden ceiling above a frieze decorated with plateresque plasterwork. Presiding over the room is the Virgen de los Navegantes (Virgin of Navigators), painted by Alejo Fernández in 1535. Christopher Columbus, Carlos V, Sancho Matienzo – first treasurer of the Casa de la Contratacion-, Amerigo Vespucci, Juan de la Cosa and native Americans are seen sheltered underneath the cloak of the Virgin in her role as protector of sailors. At her feet various ships of the time are depicted.

This building, which has been the seat of the University, originally housed the Royal Tobacco Factory. A large rectangular building, measuring 250 metres by 180, only the Escorial is larger

This building, which has been the seat of the University since the second half of the 20th century, originally housed the Royal Tobacco Factory. Its history is intrinsically linked to the legendary cigarette makers, an essential group in the city’s social and romantic history. Seville, portrayed in many famous operas such as Don Giovanni, The Marriage of Figaro, The Barber of Seville, and Fidelio, was the birthplace of Carmen, the cigarette maker who became one of the best known fictitious figures in the world. During the 18th century, the spirit of renovation promoted by the first members of the Bourbon dynasty led to the construction of many industrial buildings. Examples include the Royal Timber Warehouse (1735), the Artillery Factory (1778-82), the reforms carried out in the Royal Mint (1785-1790), and the Tobacco Factory (1728-1771), which replaced the one that had been in operation in the Plaza de San Pedro since 1636.

The construction of the tobacco factory was started by Ignacio Sala and continued by Diego Bordick, but the most important contribution came from the Dutch architect Sebastián Van der Borcht. The factory, which employed approximately 3,000 cigarette makers and produced more than three quarters of the cigarettes consumed in Europe, housed the most important industry in the city for a long period of time. A large rectangular building, measuring 250 metres by 180, only the Escorial is larger. Despite being conceived for industrial purposes, it was designed to have a palatial appearance. The noble façade is presided over by a baroque doorway whose reliefs depict scenes alluding to the Discovery of America and tobacco.