Santa Maria de la Sede is shaped like a square. This is unusual for a cathedral as most tend to form a cross. But the builders had an extra requirement when laying out this structure: to cover the footprint of the 160,000 square foot mosque that formerly occupied the space. Mosques tend to be squarish.

Work on the cathedral commenced in 1401 and took just about a century. The result is the second largest cathedral in Europe, yielding only to St. Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City. The tower, called La Giralda, was built as a minaret for the mosque in 1198.

As we waited our turn to enter, we examined this replica of the weather vane at the top of the tower. It is also named La Giralda and gives its name to the entire tower.

Entering, we quickly realized that the interior was not going to disappoint.

Do you recall the story of Christopher Colombus petitioning the King and Queen of Spain to support his quest to find a westward route to India? Well, that would be Queen Isabella I and King Ferdinand II of Spain, and it happened here in Sevilla.

Here then is Columbus’ tomb, although there is some doubt as to where he is really buried. It seems that his remains have moved around a lot. Learn more here.

This, friends, is the largest altarpiece ever made. It’s an 80 foot wall of gold covered with statues carved from walnut and chestnut. Its 44 scenes, which took three generations to complete, tell the story of Jesus and Mary.

Until a hundred mile long spaceship suddenly drops out of hyperspace directly above your head, this is likely to be one of the most overwhelming things you will ever experience close-up.

We took a break from viewing chapels to climb the tower. I was expecting, but not looking forward to, the usual tower-climbing experience of a narrow spiral staircase. A few hundred vertical feet on one of those with several dozen other tourists can ruin an otherwise good day.

But this was different. The ascent was by means of a long, wide ramp that made a series of ninety degree turns as it climbed the square tower. Why built it this way rather than as a staircase? Remember: the tower dates to the time of the Moors. Five times a day, a holy man rode a mule to the top to issue the call to prayer. What once made his life easier, benefits us today.

A mule would have been cool, though.

The bull fighting ring is in the middle of this photo. I’m not a fan of this “sport”. But I’m not a fan of Fox Hunts or Rodeos or Sea World either.

It’s times like this when you check your watch and hope that it’s not a few minutes before the hour.

Regard the Altar de Plata. It is meant to resemble a monstrance – the ceremonial vessel that displays a communion wafer. The five thousand pounds of silver used to make it came from – you guessed it – Mexico from whence it was looted in the 16th century.

A rather exquisite rendering of the Mother and Child. It’s interesting to see them wearing clothes and crowns typical of manger-dwellers. I like the sparkler, too.

I am so screwed, afterlife-wise, if anyone in higher power is taking notes.

I couldn’t help taking one last look behind as we headed for the exit.


  1. Gorgeous photos. Thanks for sharing your travel and insights. The trip looks as though it was as great one, despite some inclement weather. Welcome home!

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