Real Alcazar in Seville, Spain (Part 1)

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One of the best destination in Seville, Spain in terms of the history and the experience it offers.

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What to expect

A magnificent marriage of Christian and Mudéjar architecture, Seville’s Unesco-listed palace complex is a breathtaking spectacle. The site, which was originally developed as a fort in 913, has been revamped many times over the 11 centuries of its existence, most spectacularly in the 14th century when King Pedro added the sumptuous Palacio de Don Pedro, still today the Alcázar’s crown jewel. More recently, the Alcázar featured as a location for the Game of Thrones TV series.

The Alcázar started life in the 10th century as a fort for the Cordoban governors of Seville but it was in the 11th century that it got its first major rebuild. Under the city’s Abbadid rulers, the original fort was enlarged and a palace known as Al-Muwarak (the Blessed) was built in what’s now the western part of the complex. Subsequently, the 12th-century Almohad rulers added another palace east of this, around what’s now the Patio del Crucero. The Christian king Fernando III moved into the Alcázar when he captured Seville in 1248, and several later monarchs used it as their main residence. Fernando’s son Alfonso X replaced much of the Almohad palace with a Gothic one and then, between 1364 and 1366, Pedro I created his stunning namesake palace.

Patio del León

Patio del León @ Seville Daily Photo

Entry to the complex is through the Puerta del León (Lion Gate) on Plaza del Triunfo. Passing through the gateway, which is flanked by crenellated walls, you come to the Patio del León (Lion Patio), which was the garrison yard of the original Al-Muwarak palace. Off to the left before the arches is the Sala de la Justicia (Hall of Justice), with beautiful Mudéjar plasterwork and an artesonado (ceiling of interlaced beams with decorative insertions). This room was built in the 1340s by the Christian King Alfonso XI, who disported here with one of his mistresses, Leonor de Guzmán, reputedly the most beautiful woman in Spain. It leads to the pretty Patio del Yeso, part of the 12th-century Almohad palace reconstructed in the 19th century.

Patio de la Montería

Dominated by the facade of the Palacio de Don Pedro, the Patio de la Monteria owes its name (The Hunting Courtyard) to the fact that hunters would meet here before hunts with King Pedro. Rooms on the western side of the square were part of the Casa de la Contratación (Contracting House), founded in 1503 to control trade with Spain’s American colonies. The Salón del Almirante (Admiral’s Hall) houses 19th- and 20th-century paintings showing historical events and personages associated with Seville. The room off its northern end has an international collection of beautiful, elaborate fans. The Sala de Audiencias(Chapterhouse) is hung with tapestry representations of the shields of Spanish admirals and Alejo Fernández’ celebrated 1530s painting Virgen de los mareantes (Madonna of the Seafarers).

Cuarto Real Alto

Cuarto Real Alto @ Andalucia 2012

The Alcázar is still a royal palace. In 1995 it hosted the wedding feast of Infanta Elena, daughter of King Juan Carlos I, after her marriage in Seville’s cathedral. The Cuarto Real Alto (Upper Royal Quarters), the rooms used by the Spanish royal family on their visits to Seville, are open for guided tours (€4.50; half-hourly 10am to 1.30pm; booking required). Highlights of the tours, which are conducted in either Spanish or English, include the 14th-century Salón de Audiencias, still the monarch’s reception room, and Pedro I’s bedroom, with marvellous Mudéjar tiles and plasterwork.

 

To be continued…

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