THE GOLDEN AGE IN SPAIN
The Baroque movement coincided with the beginning of the decadence of the Spanish empire.
Seventeenth-century Seville saw the decadence of trade with the Americas, plague epidemics, poverty and begging. The situation led to the strong surge in religious feeling, the driving force behind this typically Sevillian art. Masterpieces of Sevillian Baroque are the small Church of Santa María la Blanca and the magnificent El Salvador Church and the Magdalena Church, all of which are exceptional examples of this style, where we will be amazed by the works of renowned artists such as Juan de Mesa and Martínez Montañés or the genius of Murillo.
At that time, straight narrow streets were laid out and architects abandoned modest facades in favour of buildings with a more monumental appearance. Before the town palaces and town churches, plazas appeared which were ideal as market places or for fiestas. The city wall, with almost 200 towers and a dozen gates, was built to protect the city from flooding and from the plague.
Located in a neighbourhood surrounded by Mudejar churches, San Luis is, though it may appear a paradox, one of the most important Baroque churches in Europe. San Luis, which was to be a Jesuit novitiate, was finished in 1731 in the old Calle Real, by which the king and queen entered Seville. It is a perfect work of art, all of its elements conmbine perfectly together and carry out the same atmosphere.
A mosque, a synagogue on land assigned to the Jews by King Alfonso X and a Gothic-Mudejar Christian church after the attack on the Jews in the pogrom of 1391. One of the high points of Andalusian Baroque art with a spectacular ornamental display created to celebrate the Papal Brief on the Immaculate Conception, it suffered in the sacking of the city during the Napoleonic invasion.
Hospital La Caridad
La Caridad is linked inseparably to Miguel Mañara, one of the wealthiest people in Seville at that time. After his wife’s death in 1661, he abandoned his worldly life and dedicated himself to helping the poor. His spirit is still present in the everyday workings of the home; in customs such as members of the Brotherhood feeding the poor and the elderly living there, and the spartan funerals for the members of the Brotherhood, a Baroque funeral rite that is still practised in modern Seville. The extraordinary interior of the church begins with Valdés Leal’s Allegories of Death and continue with Acts of Mercy with canvasses by Murillo, most of which were looted by the French Marshall Soult during the Napoleonic invasion. The whole is capped by the main altarpiece, work of Bernardo Simón de Pineda and Pedro Roldán which culminates the acts of mercy in the burial of the dead, the original purpose of the Brotherhood being the burial of executed criminals and people found drowned.
Hospital de los Venerables
Justino de Neve founded the Hospital de los Venerables in 1675 to care for elderly and disabled priests. Juan Domínguez began the building work in 1676 and Leonardo de Figueroa completed it in 1698. It has been the headquarters of the Fundación Focus-Abengoa. The single nave church forms part of the buildings that surround the central courtyard. Its walls are covered with fresco paintings, begun in the vault of the presbytery by Juan de Valdés Leal and completed by his son Lucas Valdés. The church has paintings by Murillo, which were appropriated by Soult in 1810, such as the Inmaculada de los Venerables, which is now held in the Prado museum.
The construction of San Luis de los Franceses, built for the noviciate of the Jesuits, was started in 1699 and completed in 1731, when Felipe V had his court in Seville (1729-1733). Situated in the street previously known as Calle Real (Royal Street) along which monarchs traditionally entered the city and surrounded by Mudejar churches, San Luis is paradoxically one of the finest baroque churches in Europe. A perfect work, all its elements combine to make up a rounded whole. The Church is a mystical, luminous and colourful exaltation to the Society of Jesus.
The church was designed by Leonardo de Figueroa. The church’s layout is in the shape of a Greek cross with its arms ending in semi-circles. The cupola, the central element of the church, symbolises Heavenly Glory and conveys the idea of eternity. The cupola is decorated with architectural paintings by Lucas Valdés which augment the impression of height. Also depicted are various Judaist motifs. At its base, there are various figures with signs which describe the virtues of a devout religious person: humility, mercy, obedience… The main altarpiece, made by Pedro Duque Cornejo in 1730, includes figures and decorations carried out in various artistic formats: paintings, sculptures, mirrors, reliquaries, and other ornamental motifs.
El Salvador sits on the site which has been the centre of social life since the city’s foundation. One of the sides of the Roman forum – which occupied the surroundings of what today is known as La Alfalfa – was also situated here, and it is believed that there was also a Roman basilica which was transformed into a Christian church in the times of Emperor Teodosio (346-395). In 830, on the remains of the basilica the Muslims built the city’s main mosque -Adabbas- which after Seville fell to the Christians in 1248, was consecrated as a Christian church. In 1671, the church’s ruinous condition led to it being knocked down to make way for the church of El Salvador. Of the original mosque, only the Patio de los Naranjos and the base of the belfry remain.
Leonardo de Figueroa directed the works from 1696 to 1711, after completing his first major building in Seville, the Hospital of Los Venerables. When the main gate of the church is open, one can glimpse the magnificent altarpiece which is even more spectacular when lit at night. One of the best of its kind in Seville, it was made by Portuguese-born Cayetano de Acosta between 1771 and 1779. Other interesting works kept in the church include: The Virgin of Las Aguas, from the 13th century, the magnificent Cristo del Amor, by Juan de Mesa, an image of San Cristóbal – dating from 1597, the first documented work by Montañés in Seville, and Jesús de la Pasión, his master work.
16-17-18th CENTURY HOUSES
In the 16th century buildings began to be opened onto the street. Until then, lights were non-existent and windows faced inwards like in the Casa del Rey Moro, a Mudejar house dating from the 15th century. Façades began to follow the model which became widespread in the 17th century of opening windows and balconies overlooking the streets. Main balconies gradually gained in importance and complexity, a process which culminated in the Palacio Arzobispal or San Telmo. The change started in the 16th century and as Pedro Mexía described it: “everyone is building towards the street. In the last ten years more windows and railings have been opened than in the previous thirty years”. Early examples include the Palace of Las Dueñas of the Duke of Alba, the Casa de Pilatos and the Palace of the Marquis of Algaba.
Casas del siglo XVI y XVII
El siglo XVI trajo la apertura de los edificios a la calle. Hasta entonces dominó la falta de luces y ventanas hacia el exterior, como en la Casa del Rey Moro, casa mudéjar del siglo XV. Las fachadas siguen el modelo, que acabó imponiéndose en el seiscientos, por el que se abrieron a la calle ventanales y balcones, alcanzando paulatinamente el balcón principal cada vez mayor importancia y complejidad, proceso que culminó con los del Palacio Arzobispal o San Telmo. Esta evolución se inició en el XVI como nos relata Pedro Mexía en 1548: “todos labran ya a la calle, y de diez años a esta parte se han hecho más ventanas y rejas a ella que en los treinta de antes”. Entre los ejemplos más tempranos se encuentran el palacio de las Dueñas de los duques de Alba, la Casa de Pilatos o el palacio de los marqueses de Algaba.
Seville town hall
Until the 16th century, a building adjoining the cathedral known as the Corral de los Olmos was the seat of both the Town Hall and the Ecclesiastic Chapter House. When Carlos V came to Seville to organise his marriage with Isabel of Portugal in 1526, it was decided that a Town Hall was to be built in a separate building in the Plaza de San Francisco. The construction transformed the Plaza radically. the Town Hall was built next to the Court House and the Royal Prison – where Cervantes is believed to have been inspired to write his Quixote – which has not survived. Originally hosting a market, the square then became the seat of power and the centre of religious and popular celebrations.
Its importance in Imperial Seville was illustrated in the works of Mateo Alemán, Cervantes, Lope de Vega and Vélez de Guevara, who depicted how wealth, power and artistic brilliance mixed with the picaresque, waste, and the intolerance of the Inquisition. The plan of the Town Hall was designed by Riaño. Hernán Ruiz II designed the elegant double-arched lodge facing the Plaza which was demolished during the reforms carried out in the 19th century. With the demolition of the Convent of San Francisco in 1840, Seville was provided with a Main Square. In 1854, Balbino Marrón’s development of the new space led to what is today Plaza Nueva. The new building enveloped the old renaissance one which retained its original features on its south-eastern façade.
Fadrique de Ribera, who died 1539, established in his will that a hospital was to be constructed opposite the Macarena Gate. It was to have “such a high quality that it will be regarded as a perpetual work”. It was named the Hospital de Las Cinco Llagas and at the time, with more than one thousand beds for both men and women, it was the largest of its kind in Europe. The hospital remained in use until 1972. After several years of neglect, the building was restored and since 1992 has been the seat of Andalusia’s Regional Parliament.Typical renaissance hospitals constructed during the times of the Catholic Monarchs had a large rectangular layout with two crossing naves forming four courtyards. Gainza’s design from 1546 observed the rules of the time and included a church in the intersection of the naves. This was later changed by Hernán Ruiz II who built a separate church in one of the front courtyards in 1584.
According to Chueca Goitia, this “was the most grandiose design ever for a classic religious building in Spain before the monastery of El Escorial”. The monumental main doorway consists of two sections with double columns which support a straight pediment crowned by large vases. In 1564 Juan Bautista Vázquez “the Old” carved the marble reliefs on the arch at the entrance which depicts the theological Virtues. It has a rectangular layout and a single nave. The chapels built between the buttresses gave rise to a new style which was to have great influence in Sevillian Baroque, as single nave functional churches were preferred during the Counter-reformation period because they improved visibility and acoustics for following the Mass.
El Archivo de Indias
This classical building was conceived as an Exchange. Trading activity had been traditionally carried out on the steps of the Cathedral but when the weather was bad, merchants used to make their transactions inside and this led to much disapproval from the Chapter House. Thus, in 1572 the Archbishop Cristóbal de Rojas y Sandoval wrote a letter of complaint to Felipe II and the King decided that an exchange property should be built in Seville. Juan de Herrera, the architect who designed El Escorial, drew the plans. The building was constructed on a base to overcome the uneven terrain.
It has a square layout and its sides are 70 metres long. The large central courtyard is also square. Next to the back façade stands the monument known as El Triunfo, which was erected as a reminder to the mass in the cathedral that was interrupted by the Lisbon earthquake of 1755. Carlos III decided to transform the exchange into an Archive where the documents relating to Spanish possessions in the Indies were to be housed. Reforms were directed by architect Luis de Cintora between 1785 and 1789. He designed the magnificent staircase in coloured marble which shows his allegiance to baroque tradition at a time when neoclassical trends were already common. The shelving in mahogany was the work of sculptor Blas Molner. The Archive contains a staggering amount of documents (43,175) and maps (3,400) which are indispensable for studying the conquest and colonization of America.
For centuries nobles practiced equestrian sports which involved the chasing of bulls in places like the Puerta de Córdoba, Plaza del Duque, Plaza de Armas, Tablada and Plaza de San Francisco and there is documented evidence of this going back to 1405. In 1707 a square wooden arena was built against the walls of the Convent of El Populo which is today the Market of El Arenal. In 1733, the Real Maestranza de Caballería obtained permission from Felipe V to build a bullring.
Constructed from wood, it was the first round bullring in Spain. In 1761, architect Vicente San Martín drew up the design for the bullring we see today but it was not completed until 1881. The last stage of the works were directed by Juan Talavera de la Vega. Over that period of time, a series of buildings were adjoined to the bullring, a fact that made it impossible to achieve the perfect circular shape of the initial design. As a result of this, the whole complex, including the actual arena, had to be adapted. The main façade, in an austere baroque style, was completed in 1787.
El Corral del Conde
The following is a description of a communal corral by Francisco Morales Padrón: “It is a large courtyard surrounded by rooms on one, two, or three levels looking onto it. Latrines and washing rooms are shared while cooking stoves are at the entrance of every room, either in a stone surface or a larder”. The precursor of communal corrales were the Muslim adarves, houses at the end of alleyways which could be closed at night. With the rise in population in the 16th century, the corrales provided lower income families with a solution to their housing problems. They gave shelter to the city’s working class until the second half of the 20th century.
The structure of corrales created a small society with its own peculiarities and customs in which the lack of space and hygienic facilities were compensated by neighbourliness. Baptisms, weddings, festivities, funerals, and everyday life were a communal experience in the corrales.One of the largest of them all was the Corral del Conde which had 107 rooms and whose existence is documented since 1561. J.M. Martínez Escribano reformed the corral to transform it into an apartment building between 1981-1984. It has an irregular L-shaped layout and three storeys with lintelled galleries. In the centre of the courtyard is the washing room, while in the small wing stands a chapel. Other corrales which have also survived to this day include: El Coliseo, Jimios, 22, and El Cristo de Buen Viaje, 19.
The Archbishop’s Palace
The Archbishop’s Palace stands on a site occupied by Roman baths, of which a vaulted chamber with alcoves – possibly the frigidarium – and the cistern of the Patio de los Naranjos have survived. The complex was donated by Fernando III to Bishop Don Remondo in 1251. This included “a group of houses in the Plaza de Santa María, with a cellar, a kitchen, a stable and a small interior grove”. The palace we see today was built in the second half of the 16th century, when the layout was organised around two courtyards. Its magnificent staircase dates from the 17th century, whilst the main monumental doorway and the building itself, the work of Lorenzo Fernández de Iglesias, were completed in 1704. Profusely decorated double columns support a pediment with a large richly decorated balcony containing a pedestal and two vases.
Together with the Museum of Fine Arts, this palace, where Marshal Soult lived during the Napoleonic occupation of the city (1810-1812), is one of the finest precursors of the true master work of Sevillian baroque doorways, that of the Palace of San Telmo. Some of the most illustrious Archbishops of Seville include San Isidoro (540-600), whose work Etimologías, had a great influence in Medieval culture. Another relevant religious figure was Cardinal Marcelo Spínola (1835-1906) who, during the famine of 1905, begged from door to door to obtain food for the poor. He was canonised by Pope John Paul II in 1987 together with Sister Ángela de la Cruz (1846-1932), “the mother of the poor” and founder of an order known as the Hermanas de la Cruz. They were two of the most loved figures for Sevillians of the 20th century.
The Palace of San Telmo
It was founded by the University of Mariners as a nautical school for navigators sailing to the Indies and is the most important civil building in the Sevillian baroque style. Started in 1681, its construction was not completed until 1796. The main façade, the central courtyard, and the church were designed by Leonardo de Figueroa. The main doorway is a display of baroque splendour. Elaborate columns flank the entrance, over which stand Indian-looking atlantes, (in allusion to the Route of the Indies), supporting the magnificent balcony, on which, flanked by Saints Fernando and Hermenegildo, is the statue of San Telmo who is holding a boat and navigational charts.
In 1849, San Telmo became the residence of the Duke and Duchess of Montpensier, Antonio de Orleans, son of Luis Felipe of France, and Princess María Luisa, Isabel II’s sister. During this time, the palace, known as the “small court”, became a centre of social life of a city which in the second half of the 19th century, was mainly provincial and agrarian. The Montpensiers’ daughter, María de las Mercedes, was the protagonist of a tragic romantic episode when she married king Alfonso XII (1857-1885) but died unexpectedly only five months after the wedding. In 1893 Princess María Luisa donated part of the gardens to the city and they were transformed in a beautiful park bearing her name. Upon her death in 1897, the Princess bequeathed the palace to the Archdiocese of Seville which used it as a seminary. In 1989 the building was adapted by Guillermo Vázquez Consuegra to be used as the residence of the president of the Andalusian Regional Government.