I took up a generous offer to borrow a friend’s house in Old Seville for a week or so last summer, the trip was mainly for the food, history and wine although I took along my paints too and I was just rummaging through the work I did there and thought it would make a painting story that might be of interest to others.
Seville is said by the Romans to have been founded by Hercules. Many Roman remains can still be found here including an aqueduct. Since that time, Seville has been ruled by both Muslim and Christian Kings. It reached its golden age, however, after Columbus crossed the Atlantic to the New World in 1492. Almost all the gold collected in the Americas came to Seville first before distribution, so much local profit was to be had.
Things have been up and down since, as with most great cities, although today, Seville is mainly a tourist city ideal for those interested in architecture, art, good food, and wine. That will be me then.
The Giralda painting
The painting is a view of the Giralda, the Cathedral of Seville from the Patio de Banderas (Courtyard of Flags). The tower began to be built under the Muslim architect Ahmad Ben Baso in 1184 and was eventually finished in 1198. A hundred years later, the Christians took over the city and converted it from a Mosque to a church.
It has gone through many renovations over the years due to earthquakes and the fancies of a string of wealthy rulers. So today, we have a bit of mix and match collection of styles though it is still an imposing, beautiful and majestic structure.
Contained within are the (contested) remains of Christopher Columbus. They are interred in a large wooden box held aloft by four crowned men, each representing the four kingdoms of Spain during Columbus’ life: Castille, Aragon, Navara and Leon.
I say ‘contested’ as once Columbus died in 1506, his body went on a few journeys back and forth across Spain and even across the Atlantic a couple of times visiting Cuba and the Dominican Republic in the process. So much so, no one is totally sure who has him now. Whatever the situation, it is pretty fair to say that Columbus has done far more miles dead than he did alive.
I drew this charming cast iron bridge after the heat of the day was gone. It was designed by the French engineers Bernadet and Steinacher and was completed in 1852.
The bridge is based also on the remains of the former San Jorge Castle, which was the last headquarters of the Inquisición in Seville.
This last point on the Inquisición is very apt, as on the top of the tower, there is tiny café right next to the tower clock. I popped up there for a quick coffee which is fine although every 15 minutes the massive clock bells boom right next to your ears, which I can tell you is utter torture.
Alleyway to the Plaza Venerables square, I think
The oldest part of Seville, nearest the Cathedral, is a rabbit warren of alleyways, nooks and crannies. You can easily get lost, although wherever you are, you know that you will never be far from a place that sells beer, Sangria and Tapas. No issue in getting lost then.
Plaza Virgen de los Reyes square
This seems to be the main ‘Horse stop’ in the city. Also, the main place to get ran over by one, as most tourists here are lumbering about whilst squinting skywards trying to take a shot of the Cathedral Tower.
In the middle ages, this was the site of the Courtyard of the Elms which was an area where dignitaries of the city gathered to discuss political and religious affairs.
Seville is world famous for its oranges so I was half expecting to see great orange groves, here and there, all in neat rows, or at least signage to orange groves. I saw none.
I was there a few days before I realised that Seville’s oranges were hiding in plain sight. They are everywhere. Every street, every plaza and every park is covered with orange trees. I didn’t notice them at first because in summer they are green and about the size of golf balls. But when you start looking you see that they are prolific.
I was later told that there are groves outside the city but vast quantities are taken from the streets, and once they are ripe, lorries trundle about the city harvesting them.
On the way back to the airport I dropped into the ancient town of Ronda for lunch. Ronda was a favourite spot for Ernest Hemmingway, Orson Wells and numerous other luminaries. In fact Wells’ ashes are buried not far from the town.
I had no time to paint, though I did this quick drawing from the restaurant table in the old town.
It is a drawing of 18th century Puente Nuevo ‘new’ bridge which delivers a sickening drop down the El Tajo gorge that carries the rio Guadalevín through its centre. The overall view however is breath-taking and I would have liked to have stayed longer but I had a plane to catch.
I hope you enjoyed this painting story of my trip to Seville. Do get to visit Seville if you can. It is a splendid city.