History of Sevilla

Sevilla is the provincial capital and the seat of the government and parliament of the autonomous community of Andalucia (regional government), located in southern Spain. The city of Sevilla is located on the plain of the Guadalquivir river and the Port of Sevilla which once played an important role in commerce between Spain and the Americas.


Sevilla’s 2,000 year history is a blend of various civilizations that have been instrumental in its growth. Its history and architecture are marked by a combination of medieval, renaissance, baroque, and Arabic culture and influences. The Romans invaded the region and Sevilla was known at that time as “Hispalis”. Two nearby cities provide insight into the Roman architecture at that time, including Italica and Carmon, which contain some well-preserved Roman buildings and excavation sites for ruins. The region was successively conquered by the Vandals and Visigoths during the 5th and 6th centuries.

The Islamic Moors invaded the Iberian Peninsula and conquered Sevilla in 712. The City was the capital for the Moorish kings of the Umayyad Caliphate, the Almoravid dynasty, and the Almohad dynasty between the 8th and 13th centuries. During the Reconquista, or reconquest of the Spanish lands from the Moors, King Fernando III of Castile successfully recaptured Seville in 1248. The Moorish influence is still present in much of the architecture and public structures, such as the city wall, and the general aesthetic of the City. The “Mudejar” style is a blend of Muslim and Christian architectural styles stemming from the 12th century, and there are well-preserved pieces of Islamic art and architecture throughout the City.


Sevilla became one of the main hubs in Spain during the 15th and 16th centuries thanks to Christopher Columbus and his expeditions to the New World out of the Port of Sevilla. The City had a royal monopoly for trade with the New World and only sailing ships leaving the Port were allowed to engage in trade with the West Indies. Sevilla flourished during this “golden age”, as all goods imported from the Spanish colonies passed through the Casa de Contratacion in Sevilla before being distributed throughout the rest of Spain. Furthermore, merchants from all over Europe traveled to Sevilla to purchase the goods brought from the West Indies. The City continued to develop during this era due to its strategic position within the Kingdom of Castilla. The population grew to over 1 million, public buildings and churches were erected, and infrastructure was greatly improved.

In the late 16th century, Sevilla’s trade monopoly ended when the port of Cadiz became authorized as a port of trade.  A plague ravaged Sevilla in 1649, reducing the population by almost half and affecting the viability of the City for over a century and a half. By the 18th Century, Sevilla’s national and international importance began to diminish due in part to the weakening of the Kingdom of Castilla with the unification of the Spanish Empire with foreign dynasties. Furthermore, the harbor by the Guadalquivir river, which provided the viability during the trade era, began to silt up resulting in an economic downturn. Sevilla’s population once again began to increase during the 19th and 20th centuries with an economic revitalization from the growth of urbanization and industrialization. It remains today the municipal, economic, cultural, and artistic capital of Andalucia. 

The Cathedral of Sevilla

One of the main monuments in Sevilla is its massive Cathedral. The Cathedral was built between 1402-1506, at the site of the same large, rectangular base-plan of the Muslim mosque it replaced. The total area covers 11,520 square meters. The Christian architects added the extra dimension of height and is considered the largest Cathedral in the world measured by volume, surpassing St. Paul’s Cathedral in London and St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome. It has the longest central nave of all churches in Spain, rising 42 meters.

The Cathedral is adorned in gold features, stained-glass windows and iron screens closing off the side chapels. During Corpus Christi and Immaculate Conception religious observances, altar boys with castanets dance in front of the high altar. The Cathedral houses the tomb of Christopher Columbus, who was originally buried in Havana, Cuba until the remains were transferred to Sevilla after the Cuban revolution in 1902. The northeast corner contains the Royal Chapel which holds the body of Fernando III (“The Saint”) along with his wife and son Alfonso the Wise. 

La Giralda

Two parts of the original mosque that were preserved in the Cathedral were the Moorish entrance court known as the Patio de los Naranjos and the tower known as La Giralda. 

La Giralda is the minaret of the mosque that now serves as the bell tower of the Cathedral and is named after the “giraldillo” or weather vane on its summit. The tower was built in 1184-96 and is an example of Almohad architecture. La Giralda is one of three remaining Almohad minarets in the world (the others are in the Moroccan cities of Marrakesh and Rabat).

The Moorish tower was used both as a call to prayer for the faithful and as an observatory over the city. La Giralda was so venerated by the Moors that they wanted to destroy it before the Christian conquest of the city in 1248, but was prevented by King Alfonso X who threatened the Moors if it was destroyed. La Giralda was later refurbished after an earthquake in 1356 and four more levels were added at the top for the belfry between 1560-68 and topped by an Italian bronze sculpture called “Faith.”  

Alcazar Palace (los reales Alcazares)

The Alcázar of Sevilla is a fortified palace ordered by Abd Al Ramn III  and constructed during the 12th century Almohad reign. The palace was rebuilt in 1364 for the Christian ruler Pedro I (“The Cruel”) and is one of the most important examples of Mudejar architecture in Seville, blending the Moorish and Christian influences. All that remains of the Almohad palace today is a section of wall and part of the original garden plan. The numerous rooms, patios, gardens, and halls in the palace vary in architectural styles from Islamic to Neoclassical. The beautiful Mudejar palace was chosen as residence by many monarchs in the centuries after it was built. It is now the residence of the present royal family when visiting Sevilla.



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