Wonder and Learning in Seville Cathedral
When you read a travel blog, you usually see recommendations that tell you, “Hey, don’t miss this place, it’s really good.” But as a traveller myself, I know that it doesn’t take someone telling you “it’s good” for you to go. Instead, you ask one question — why is it worth it? Why should I spend my precious time going to that specific location or doing that specific activity?
That’s one of the things that creeped into my mind as I prepped for my trip to Seville. I’ve been to a lot of beautiful architecture and fancy towers before. Back in Madrid, I learned not only a good deal of history but also a great deal of local life. What can Seville bring to the table?
As it turns out, lots. And here, I’ll tell you all about it.
The Wonder of Seville
Seville is reachable from Madrid via a train, and travel time takes less than three hours. It’s one of those rare times you wish the travel would last longer, though. The landscape between the capital and our destination showcased lush, rolling greens covered by a low haze. It was straight out of Tolkien, and a welcome break from the revelry of the capital.
As a famous stop in the Andalusian region, Seville was a famous tourist spot. There are narrow, winding streets that led to well-manicured hotels and quaint buildings of the distinctive Spanish style. But one stop towered among the others — both literally and figuratively. The Seville Cathedral was a wonder in more ways than one.
Cathedral Towers and Impeccable Domes
Many of the hotels in the city are just a walk away from the Cathedral. Thus, long lines of tourists gather outside its ancient gray walls, which up close looked similar to those of Intramuros back home. The scene is even complete with horse-drawn carriages! Beyond the thin facade of a regular tourist trap, however, the Cathedral shines brightly.
It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and was constructed back in 1184. Interestingly, its bell tower — famously called “La Giralda” — used to be the minaret of a mosque that stood before the church was constructed. The tower we see today was constructed back in 1568.
Look up, and you are guaranteed to have your jaws drop. Either that, or your camera will drain easily from snapping too many pictures. The Renaissance-Gothic-Moorish architecture of the Cathedral forms a structure so ornate that it simply drowns the eyes in detail. It’s impossible to see an arch that is not decorated with repeating motifs, or a spire that isn’t intricately carved. The original workers of the Cathedral must have found a way to turn stone into clay, so well-wrought were the designs.
Go inside, and the feeling intensifies. The dome ceiling of the Sala Capitular — the “Capital Room”, for example, is adorned with a perfectly rendered scene of the Immaculate Conception. The big door, known as the Puerta Del Principe, was also exquisitely designed. This door is a historical one — it only opens when there is a new bishop, and again when the bishop dies. The whole church is massive, and everything feels so big, no matter how small it is. Of course, you also feel minuscule against everything you see. In fact, it is the third largest Cathedral in the world! Of all those designed in Gothic architecture, this is the biggest.
Speaking of history, the Seville Cathedral is famously known for being the final resting place of Christopher Columbus. The tomb may not be easy to locate in the Cathedral’s vastness, so you might want to study the place before you go. Or, better yet, do what we did and get the audio guide. It’s definitely worth it.
The World’s Largest Pearl
The other main attraction in the Cathedral is a fairly worldly one — the world’s second largest pearl! It forms the body of an angel, which is located on a crown in the Room of Treasures. Then, provided you’re not afraid of heights, there’s La Giralda itself. After 34 ramps (these were used instead of stairs, because horses used to be taken up to the tower), you can reach the peak. The view is breathtaking! We also made our way out to the Koro, where the choir sings during church service.
A word of advice, be careful when leaning against walls during your visit here. Some of the switches were exposed, and a friend of mine accidentally leaned on one. Overall, we spent around three sweet hours in the place. We paid a total of 12 Euros — 9 for the entrance fee, and 3 more for the ever-helpful audio guide.
Filling the Mind
The Cathedral is not only a place of awe and wonder. It is also a place of learning. The guide introduces you to a lot of things about the pieces in the church, as well as about life as it was in the Cathedral’s history. You gain a sense of history, and a respect for the place.
So what do you get back from your visit to Seville’s most visited attraction? Wonder and learning. It’s not the streetwise knowledge that Madrid’s tapas brought us, but it is a deep and thoughtful learning that the place inspired. Despite the overwhelming details, there was something strangely calming in that place. The Cathedral beckoned to us to explore its treasures. We went away a little wiser about a few things, and the place made its indelible imprint on us.
It would on you, too.