Europe Travel News

Small pleasures at Seville's cathedral

In the heart of Seville is one of the world's largest cathedrals, a Gothic complex that boasts Muslim minarets, a courtyard of orange trees and a treasury of famed art. As is the case with many cathedrals, it's the little pleasures that help ground the experience of such awe-inspiring architecture.

A grand history
The cathedral is the third-largest church in Europe, according to Frommer's, following St. Peter's in Rome and St. Paul's in London. However, it is not the first building to sit on its foundations. A grand 12th century mosque once stood watch over the city, but was taken over, converted to a Christian church and eventually torn down when Ferdinand III of Castile conquered Seville in 1248, according to the Tourist Offices of Spain. By the late 14th century, the residents of Seville had begun the construction of a new Christian cathedral on the site. While most of the structure became a combination of Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque architectural styles, the town chose to keep the towering Giralda minaret, a reminder of Spain and Seville's rich Muslim influences.

Like many cathedrals, Seville's blend of architectural styles is the result of the lengthy construction time, spanning centuries. The stained-glass windows date to the 15th century, while the bells in the minaret and the Renaissance chapter room were added in the 16th. All in all, the cathedral is home to five naves, a tower that rises to 322 feet, a detailed altarpiece by more than a handful of artists over the decades, a treasury with works by Goya and Murillo and, perhaps most impressively, the remains of Christopher Columbus.

God in the details
The beauty of the cathedral is due in part to its scale and its history, but travelers to Seville should take the time to enjoy the complex's many sensory pleasures. First and foremost, those healthy enough should tackle the dozens of ramps that lead to the top of the Giralda tower. From the lookout platform, viewers get a panoramic view of the city. According to Fodor's, the ramps were designed to allow two horsemen to pass abreast, and Ferdinand III rode his horse to the top in order to get a better view of the city he had just conquered.

Just as sweet is the Courtyard of Orange Trees on the church's northern side. The clean smell of citrus is accompanied by bird song and a fountain where people once went for ablutions before entering the mosque. The trees provide some much needed shade during Andalusia's unbearably hot summers, and a pleasant stroll in the spring and fall.

Share
Recommended Tours

Baltics Highlights

7 days from $1,785 pp*
Custom Private Tour
The scent of rich pine forests lingers in the breeze as the 13th-century ruins of Turaida Castle are revealed before your eyes in the lush Gauja River valley in a medieval sanctuary untouched by the march of time.
More Info

Budapest, Vienna, Prague Signature

7 days from $2,044 pp*
Custom Private Tour
The aroma of dark roasted Viennese coffee hangs thick in the air as you tread the cobblestone laneways and bask in the elegant architecture, atmospheric cafes and refined restaurants in one of the most beautiful cities in Eastern Europe.
More Info

Highlights of Eastern Europe

10 days from $2,800 pp*
Custom Private Tour
The rhythmic trot of your horse and the soft crunch of your carriage wheels upon cobblestones is a seductive soundtrack to accompany the stunning ancient architecture of Vienna’s charming Ringstrasse.
More Info
Kensington Advantage
Personalized itinerary with private guide & driver. Award winning value.
  • Personalized itinerary that fits like a glove
  • Full attention of your own private guide & driver
  • In-country offices for 24/7 peace of mind
  • Multi-award winning
  • 30,000 delighted clients

With the inside track on the new, the old, the off-the-beaten track and the out-of-this-world, you won't find a more knowledgeable team of destination specialists.

Meet Our Experts
Curators of extraordinary experiences, you won't find a more skillful team.
30,000 Delighted Customers
"Kensington, you've done it again...perfection!"

Don't take our word for it.
Here's what our clients say.

"Fabulous trip. Every aspect from the planning to execution was excellent."

Newsletter Subscription
Have our hand picked trips, news & specials delivered to you.
Thank you for signing up!

Your details have been received and processed successfully.
Travel + Leisure : World's Best Award 2014 Family National Geographic Traveler : 50 Tours of a Lifetime Travel Leisure Award 2015