The Guadalquivir River has acted as a source of attraction for settlers since the earliest times.
Seville is the scent of orange trees under blue skies, the religious devotion of the Easter processions, the joy of the Feria, the excitement of children during the parade of the Three Wise Men, the bars at night, a friendly conversation, the river, shops and streets, the barrios, the outlying areas, la Vega, el Aljarafe, las Marismas, la Campiña, the Southern and Northern Sierras, and Estepa.
Seville’s origin dates back to the 8th century BC, the period when the extraordinary Tartessic culture – which is mentioned in the Bible – developed. Tartessian vessels reached the British Isles in search of tin and even ventured to the West coast of Africa. Commerce flourished with the Greeks and Phoenicians who founded prosperous factories and were later to influence the Turdetans who settled in the area from the 5th century. The battle of Ilipa in 206 BC saw Rome’s victory over Carthage and led to seven centuries of Roman rule which left a deep imprint on Seville’s personality.
Santa Cruz district
The Judería, the second most important Jewish quarter after the one of Toledo, was situated in what are today the districts of San Bartolomé and Santa Cruz. Isolated from the rest of the city by a walled precinct, the prosperous and powerful Jewish community disappeared after the Juderia was ransacked in 1391. The three synagogues were transformed into Christian churches: San Bartolomé, Santa María la Blanca and Santa Cruz. In the 16th century, the layout of the Jewish quarter was changed with the construction of convents, corrales, and palaces. In the 20th century, the quarter of Santa Cruz became one of the main tourist sites in the city whilst San Bartolomé retained its popular flavour with its typical winding Arabic streets.
The famous Barrio de Triana, on the other side of the Guadalquivir River, has its own and distinctive personality. Historically linked to the river, one of its sons, Rodrigo de Triana was the first to see the New World. Juan Sebastián Elcano landed there next to the Convent of Los Remedios upon his return from the first voyage round the world in 1519. Birthplace of famous potters, in the 3rd century AD, Saints Justa and Rufina, from Triana, were the first Sevillian martyrs to be canonised. Traditional Triana, where gypsies and non-gypsies live together harmoniously, where the popular and lively velás are celebrated in August, has Santa Ana as its own “cathedral”, presiding over the other churches in the quarter: those dedicated to La Esperanza, La Estrella, La O and El Cachorro.
The quarters to the north side of the historical centre, enclosed by the wall and Calle Feria, are made up of a complex and irregular network of narrow streets which are Islamic in origin. Corrales, humble dwellings and family houses mingle with Mudejar parish churches built on the remains of mosques, like San Marcos, Santa Marina and San Gil, convents such as those of El Socorro, Santa Isabel, and Santa Paula, or palaces such as El Pumarejo, Los Marqueses de Algaba and Las Dueñas. These streets, which have seen times of trouble, popular insurrections (Pendón Verde in 1521), and uprisings (Mutiny of Feria in 1652), and were the centre of so-called “Red Seville” in the early 20th century, retain their traditional and popular flavour. Here, with laughter and cries, people welcome the beautiful image of the Macarena Virgin every Easter Friday.
Opposite San Telmo, between 1827 and 1830, Melchor Cano was commissioned to design an area which started in the Jardines del Cristina and stretched to El Paseo de las Delicias.The project was a starting point for the urban transformation of the southern part of the city. In 1911, approval was given to extend the avenue of the Paseo de las Delicias by adding El Paseo de la Palmera. On completion of the project, which was designed by Juan Talavera, the city grew southwards and the construction of splendid new buildings attracted the upper classes who went to live there. A kind of new and prosperous garden city, some of its most emblematic buildings include the houses belonging to the Sundhein (1916) and Luca de Tena families(1926). Its promenades cross some of the most beautiful green areas in Seville such as the María Luisa Park, and the pavilions of the 1929 Exposition.
With the 12th century enlargement of the walls, the quarters of San Vicente and San Lorenzo were incorporated into the city. Despite this, neither were urbanised until after the Reconquest. This is why their layout is very different from the rest of the quarters in the historic part: streets are straighter with a uniformly arranged series of rectangular blocks where palaces, such as that of El Infante Don Fadrique, and convents, such as those of Santa Clara and San Clemente, were built. At one end is the Alameda de Hércules, a boulevard which was urbanised in 1574 by the Count of Barajas and is presided over by two statues of Julius Caesar and Hercules, supported by Roman columns. In the Plaza de San Lorenzo is the basilica which houses the famous El Gran Poder, a 17th century religious image made by Juan de Mesa which enjoys a lot of popular devotion.
Tartesians, Phoenicians, Carthaginians, Romans, Visigoths and Arabs are all men who helped form the roots of Seville, from Isbiliya, and Híspalis as the city was formerly known, born from this providential river 3000 years ago. The Romans named the river Betis, however its present name derives from the Arabic, al wadi al Kabir (the big river). It stretches out for 657 km from the Sierra de Cazorla.
From its source, the river flows from the narrow mountains until it reaches the Bética hollow where it feeds an extensive and fertile valley. On reaching Seville, it is possible to sail on the river. At the end of the river’s journey, it crosses the marshland of the Coto de Doñana before flowing into the sea at Sanlúcar de Barrameda. Its most glorious period began from 1492 with the colonization of America. Seville was given a monopoly of trade with the New World and it was from here that Columbus set sail on his third journey and Ecano set off on what would be the first round the world voyage. However, the river Guadalquivir was not only a symbol of prosperity, but also of death: the recurrent swelling of the river resulted in the flooding of the city. Today, Seville and Triana, the two faces of the city, reach either bank of the, now tamed, river.
The Crash of 1929, made worse in Seville by the debt accumulated from the Iberian-American Exposition, hastened the demise of the regionalist style, as it required expensive specialised craftsmanship, and the emergence of the modernist movement. Gabriel Lupiáñez was a forerunner of rationalism with his Puerta de la Carne market and the Barracks of Eritaña in 1929. Around the same time, Josep Lluis Sert, a follower of Le Corbusier, built the Casa Duclós in 1930 in the Nervión neighbourhood of the city. Also worthy to be mentioned is the Casa Candau by Antonio Delgado Roig and Juan Talavera (1935), as is the house at Rodríguez Jurado 6 (1936) by José Galnares. In Calle Imagen, after the enlargement carried out in the 50s, buildings of an international style were constructed, creating a small oasis in the panorama at that time.
In the 60s, large housing estates were built to provide housing for the ever-increasing population. The result was a repetitive skyline of blocks of flats, although there were brilliant exceptions such as the Diez Mandamientos estate (1958-1964) by Luis Recasens.
The 1992 World Fair acted as a catalyst for the city’s growth. New ring roads were built as well as the Santa Justa station, which was designed by Antonio Cruz Villalón and Antonio Ortiz for the high speed line (AVE), the new airport by Rafael Moneo, and six new bridges over the Guadalquivir. Many of the pavilions which remain after the event display a modern architectural vision. This is the case of the Pavilion of Navigation by Vázquez Consuegra, and the pavilions of Spain by Cano Lasso and Finland by Sanaksenaho.The Diocesan Seminary by José Antonio Carbajal in 1997, was the finishing touch of Sevillian architecture in the 20th century. Designed by architect Richard Rogers, Pritzker architecture award recipient, the Palmas Altas technological center was inaugurated in 2009.
The renovated Plaza de la Encarnación in Seville becomes a place for alternatives and tourist attraction thanks to the city new symbol of the 21st century: the Metropol Parasol. It is a micro-laminated wood structure with a waterproof polyurethane coating (150 m. length, 70 m. width and 30 m. height) composed of four levels continuously intertwined with each other and fungal parasols as the dominant element. This is a modern space, ideally located in the heart of the city, a brand new venue to host events in Seville.
The Museum of Fine Arts, the second most important gallery in Spain after the Prado, is essential for studying the 17th century Sevillian School. In the Convent of La Merced, Juan de Oviedo’s masterwork, traditional medieval Mudejar forms were replaced by features with mannerist influences.
Since 1942, the Archaeological Museum of Seville, houses one of the best archaeological collections in Spain. The collection features the treasure of Carambolo.