Saturday, 27 December 2014

Sensational Structures in Seville.

After Tegan and Andy's departure, we really only had one more day to see Seville as we'd planned a day trip for the next day. There were a few 'must see' items still on my list and fortuitously it was relatively straightforward to wind a path between them. Although Mum had hoped to catch the tram into town (to save her feet) Dad and I decided that as our first stop was halfway there we'd walk instead.

This stop was the Plaza de Espagna in Parque Maria Luisa, a semi-circular building built for the Ibero-American Exposition in 1929 and proclaiming the talents of the different regions of Spain. Built in red brick, what is delightful is that the decorative detail is all done in ceramics; ceramic pots along the roof line, decorative (if boring) gargoyles, lamp posts and the guard rails of the ponds, fountains and bridges that grace the area. 


Around the foot of the semicircle is a series of decorated sitting areas each one decorated differently with ceramics tiles and a central story panel. Each one is dedicated to a town in Spain. With the exception of old ladies trying to give you bits of rosemary (which often isn't even rosemary) and offering to read your palm, and the occasional person selling castanets or fans, it felt like a rather tranquil place. 

Having satisfied our eyes and taken more than enough photos we did jump on the tram system to head the rest of the way into the centre of town. As part of my research into things to see and do in each place we visited, I stumbled upon a historical house museum. These appeal to me as they usually depict the house and contents as they stood at the time of the (wealthy and often eccentric) owner's death or during their life. One of my favourite museums in Paris is exactly this, as house where the eccentric wealthy owners would raise ceilings and change the fundamental size and shape of rooms in order to display/insert the ceiling frescoes they'd bought during their jaunts to Italy. 

In Seville, the house is the Museo Palacio de la Condesa de Lebrija. It was owned by a wealthy Condesa (in her own right) who's husband was the mayor of Seville. She'd inherited property from her family and on this land (and through purchases from other private owners) she amassed a collection of Roman mosaic floors. 

Like the Jaquemart-Andres in Paris, she was also not adverse to knocking down the walls of her Moorish house to fit the mosaics in properly. A corridor was redesigned to accommodate this octagonal mosaic. 

It really was a crazily beautiful place as it was a strange assortment of Moorish walls and Roman floors downstairs, and 19th Century upstairs with heavy lashings of religious iconography. For instance she had her own private chapel complete with scary baby Jesus and one of the rooms was named the Bishop's room, being reserved for her confessor who was often required to stay the night.  

Again, while downstairs photos of the mosaics and mudejar style rooms were allowed, upstairs they were not. After this museum and a lunch of potato tortillas (seems they don't come without) we treated ourselves to ice cream before parting ways. Mum and I to do some window shopping then visit the Cathedral while Dad wandered off in the other direction towards the river. 

One of the greatest problems we seemed to find with Spain, and not just because it was the festive season, was the opening times of the various museums and shops. Several of the museums were discovered to close at 2pm for the day while the shops decided upon the same, opening again in the late afternoon. This often meant that there were several hours where if you hadn't been lucky enough to find an interesting museum open over these then it could be difficult to spend your time efficiently. 

Having actually undertaken a bit of (unintentional) shopping we headed to the Cathedral and joined the queue. It seemed crazy that the queue snaked through the gift shop, around the statue in the courtyard and out the gate as though it is the cathedral in Seville it didn't seem to be that much of a tourist hotspot.
Maybe I'm just getting bored of (Catholic) churches.

Because it's a rather large church, Mum and I decided to tackle it in a systematic manner. this meant that instead of meandering aimlessly, drifting towards things that caught our eye, we travelled clockwise around the complex avoiding only the door that looked like the ultimate exit.

This meant that three quarters of the way around we came to the bell tower or Giralda, the icon of Seville, usually held by their two saints St Justa and St Rufina.

The building in itself is a rather strange one as the route up to the top of the tower is not steps so much as a series of ramps. This meant that it was being undertaken by people in wheelchairs and lots of people with prams. Still, the views were probably worth it. 

What was more interesting though was that the route up had little window ledges around its exterior into which you could dive and take a detailed look at the stone lacework that decorates the cathedral. 

Unfortunately the gargoyles seem to have been confined to the outermost façades as opposed to decorating every façade.

Wandering back in we saw more cathedral before finding a few small unusual rooms in amongst where the treasures of the Sacristy were displayed.

Sala Capitular

(Can't remember what this room was)

Further round we stumbled upon this crazy monument, dedicated to Christopher Columbus (though possibly unintentionally containing the bones of his son instead).

Mum had a strange response to this Cathedral which I'm not sure I understand, particularly as I've never heard her say anything similar about the dozens of other churches we've entered. She found it impersonal.  I'm not sure if this was caused by the lack of warm lighting of the alcove chapels, a lack of candles, the large unadorned spaces within the church or simply the lack of extensive iconography of male saints in agony and female saints in ecstasy. 

We left the Cathedral virtually with it closing behind us, and wandered back to our apartment, via a Christmas Market with real artisans selling things they'd really made. Perhaps it was fortunate that the things I liked were too delicate to travel and the things Mum liked too heavy for our upcoming weight limits.

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