Seville Cathedral is an enormous late medieval Christian temple. It was built in the centre of the Andalusian capital and today it is one of the must-see places on your first visit to Seville. In this post we are going to tell you everything you need to know to organise your visit.
For a more complete experience we have prepared two other articles: curiosities of the Cathedral of Seville and illustrious characters buried in the cathedral. But if you still want much more, we have prepared a free pdf guide with expanded content. You can download it and consult it on your computer or mobile device at any time.
Downloadable guide only available in Spanish
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LA MEZQUITA ALJAMA DE SEVILLA (THE MAJOR MEZQUITA)
To talk about the Cathedral of Seville it is necessary to go back many years. And one of the singularities of this cathedral is that it has integrated part of the old Aljama mosque of Seville into its enclosure.
With the arrival of the Almohads to power in al-Andalus, the construction of a new Great Mosque began. It was built between 1172 and 1198. In less than 100 years it will be consecrated as a cathedral, but we will tell you more about that later.
The courtyard or sahn, the Perdón gate and the minaret or Giralda have been preserved from the aljama mosque. The first retained its layout and the galleries of pointed horseshoe arches on two of its sides. The third remained almost intact, but an additional set of bells and the Giraldillo, the sculpture that gives its name to the bell tower, which we will see later, were added.
To know more about the Great Mosque of Seville we recommend you to go to “Notes on the Great Mosque of Almohad Seville” by Alfonso Jiménez Martín (Artigrama, no. 22, 2007, 131-153 – I.S.S.N.: 0213-1498). And to learn more about Seville we recommend our private cultural visits.
EL PATIO DE LOS NARANJOS Y LA PUERTA DEL PERDÓN
The large orange blossom-scented courtyard is one of the most beautiful places in Seville. It was originally the place where Sevillian Muslims used to practice ablutions before entering the mosque for prayers. This is one of the reasons why water has a significant presence in the courtyard as a purifying element. In addition to the fountain of Visigothic origin, the entire courtyard is crossed by small canals that connect the orange groves. In medieval times, the ablutions fountains were fed by ten cisterns that make the subsoil of the courtyard of the Orange Trees practically hollow.
Although much renovated with Renaissance plasterwork in the 16th century, the Gate of Forgiveness was the main access to the courtyard of the mosque. It is a huge pointed horseshoe arch that captivates all who pass through it. As you enter you begin to perceive the sumptuousness of the cathedral with the Puerta de la Concepciónalmost opposite.
The Orange Tree Courtyard has another gate facing east. It is popularly known as the door of the Lizard. Although that is a story we have reserved for the post about curiosities of this cathedral.
The Giralda is no more and no less than the minaret of the ancient mosque. However, it is not just any minaret, its dimensions are truly colossal. It was originally about 95 m high, making it one of the tallest buildings in Europe. With the Christian reforms it reached the current 104 metres, rising above other tall towers such as Pisa and London’s Big Ben.
On the inside it is ascended by a ramp so wide that it was possible to climb on the back of a horse. On the outside, its verticality is accentuated by the openings which are decorated with lobed arches and sebkas (diamond-shaped nets).
It dates from the Almohad period, when the mosque was built. However, the mosque underwent many changes over the years. The first alterations replaced the yamur (a metal finial made of spheres of different sizes) with a crucifix after the mosque was consecrated as a cathedral. Later, in the 16th century, a profound transformation was undertaken. The last section was widened and a series of bells were added. In addition, several smaller bodies were added, on top of which a 4-metre-high female statue was placed. This is the famous “Giraldillo”, an image that represents “victorious faith” and functions as a weather vane.
THE CONSTRUCTION OF THE CATHEDRAL OF SEVILLE
The Cathedral of Seville, as with all other great Christian temples, is a symbol of the exaltation of the Christian faith. The construction of the new cathedral on the site of the old mosque represents the substitution and replacement of one faith for another. It is the largest Gothic cathedral in terms of floor area, but it is also one of the largest cathedrals in the world today.
In 1248, just under 100 years after its completion, the Great Mosque of Seville was consecrated as a cathedral. In other words, the building was maintained, but with a different form of worship. This date can be considered the beginning of the cathedral as a temple. However, it was not until 1433 that construction work began.
When work began at the end of the Middle Ages, most of the cathedral was designed and built in a late Gothic style. However, the construction and renovations were extended over time and some parts of the temple have a Renaissance (16th century) or Baroque (17th and part of the 18th century) style.
WHAT IS THE CATHEDRAL OF SEVILLE NAMED?
Everybody knows it as the “Cathedral of Seville”, but it has a much longer and more bombastic name. It is called “Santa, Metropolitana y Patriarcal Iglesia Catedral de Santa María de la Sede y de la Asunción de Sevilla”. That said, let’s take a look at the most important parts of the cathedral.
What to see of the Cathedral of Seville (parts)
It is the Christian temple with the largest surface area in the world (this is detailed in the post about curiosities, but let’s take a look at some of its main parts. Here is another post about what to see in Seville and the best guided tours around the city.
HIGHER CHAPEL AND RETABLO
In the main chapel of Seville Cathedral is the great main altarpiece, which is nothing more than a great collection of works of art. And although it is considered to be a single work of art, in fact one of the largest in the world, the fact is that numerous sculptors and painters worked here. It took more than 80 years to complete the altarpiece. The initial commission was given to the Flemish sculptor Pedro Dancart in 1482, but even older carvings were added to enhance the glory of the work.
We cannot go into all the scenes that are represented, but we can tell you that there are 45 scenes represented between the main body and the side streets. In these 45 scenes there are more than 200 polychrome sculptures and the whole structure that surrounds it is covered in gold leaf.
The main body is joined to the upper part by motifs of Muslim origin. It is a body with geometric decoration with octagons. Inside these figures you can see a kind of cone-shaped pattern known as muqarnas pine cones. Both the lacquerwork and the muqarnas will surely remind you of places like the Alhambra or other Andalusian buildings.
The Royal Chapel of Seville Cathedral houses the Virgen de los Reyes (13th century sculpture), patron saint of the city. It is located at the head of the cathedral, although it was not always here. In the 15th century there were two other royal chapels which were demolished in order to build the current one.
Unlike most of the Gothic temple, the Royal Chapel was built in the Renaissance style. It has an impressive half-orange vault decorated with coffered ceilings and busts of monarchs.
This is also the entrance to the crypt, the burial place of kings and queens and completely covered with Roman-style mosaics. The Royal Chapel contains the tombs of Beatriz de Suabia, Alfonso X, Fernando III and their famous urn, among others. But we will tell you more about this later in the post about famous people buried in the Cathedral of Seville.
OTHER RENAISSANCE SPACES
Briefly we will tell you that, in addition to the Royal Chapel, there are other Renaissance-style spaces in Seville Cathedral. This is the case of the Chapter House and the Main Sacristy.
In the case of the Chapter House, we enter an oval space designed with great elegance. Some consider it to be the most innovative Renaissance space in Andalusia. It was the meeting place of the cathedral chapter. The start of the vault is marked by a series of marble high reliefs and the mahogany armchair is the original from the 16th century.
The Great Sacristy is a large Greek cross space with little development of the arms. Perhaps what is most impressive on entering is the intense decorative stone programme. The vault rests on enormous pendentives that are almost more impressive than the vault itself. Another of the stone aspects that will surprise you are the gigantic attached columns in composite style and on plinths. And as is the case in all the spaces of Seville Cathedral, there is an abundance of medium and large paintings by various artists, in this case with a predominance of Murillo.
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Despite the fact that it may seem older, most of the organ in Seville Cathedral dates from 1901. Both the case and the sculptures were built in 1724. However, since its beginnings the Sevillian church has had six other organs which, for one reason or another, have been replaced. It is located in the choir arch and its dimensions are colossal. It has more than 7000 pipes. In fact, it is made up of two large identical instruments, although they have now been electrified and are played from a keyboard located in the choir.
CAPILLA DE LA VIRGEN DE LA ANTIGUA
As you can imagine, Seville Cathedral has countless chapels. We cannot show them all, but we would like to focus on the chapel of the Virgen de la Antigua for its particular beauty and history. Oral tradition is lost among myths and legends about the origin of this image. The most popular is perhaps the one that tells that the image of the Virgin appeared to Ferdinand III through a wall of the old mosque. However, current research points to a less “miraculous” origin, as it seems that it was painted in the 15th century on the wall of the mosque. When the new temple was built, the image painted on the wall was transferred to the new cathedral.
The chapel of the Virgen de la Antigua is presided over by a large Baroque altarpiece from 1738. It was commissioned by Archbishop Luis de Salcedo y Azcona, who has his tomb there on the right side. On the left side you will find the tomb of Cardinal Diego Hurtado de Mendoza. About this last one we tell you more in the post about illustrious figures resting in the Cathedral of Seville.
SACRIST OF THE CHURCHES
Among other spaces in Seville Cathedral, we have decided to talk to you about the Sacristy of the Chalices because it is one of the most beautiful places in the church. The late Gothic architectural decoration is a good example of this. The style was maintained by criteria of homogeneity with the rest of the cathedral, as it was built at the beginning of the 16th century, when the Renaissance trend was already beginning to consolidate in Spain. In fact, the ribs of the vault are purely decorative.
Another of the attractions of this place is the extraordinary collection of paintings it contains. The works are dated between the 15th and 19th centuries. The authors include Francisco de Zurbarán, Alejo Fernández, Juan de Valdés Leal, Jacob Jordaens and even Francisco de Goya.
Now we want to talk to you about the exterior roofs of Seville Cathedral. You can enjoy the interior roofs during your visit, but if you want to go a step further, the cathedral offers a guided tour of its roofs and roof terraces. This high walk is ideal to learn about the construction process of this enormous mass of ashlar masonry, a work of engineering that had to calculate the weights of the vaults to withstand the passing of the centuries. You can access little-known places and enjoy some very special views of the city.
This activity cannot be done with any guided tour agency, not even with us. You will have to book your visit on the official website of the Cathedral of Seville. If you want to visit the interior of this spectacular Sevillian temple or other iconic areas of the city accompanied by an expert local guide, don’t miss our private tours of Seville.
IGLESIA DEL SAGRARIO (THE SAGRARIAN CHURCH)
The west gallery of the courtyard of the Orange Trees was known as Our Lady of the Pomegranate. It had been converted for Christian worship with chapels and a Plateresque doorway. All this was demolished in the first half of the 17th century to build the beautiful church of the Sagrario. In 1662 it was completed in a purely baroque style. What impresses us most is its spectacular sequence of stone vaults. And it is precisely this that threatens the building with ruin since its origin, as the church of the Sagrario has major stability problems. On several occasions the church has been closed for renovations. If you have time to spare after your visit to Seville Cathedral, we recommend a walk around the interior, as access is included in the general entrance fee to the monumental complex.
(Currently closed for restoration)
MONUMENTAL DOORS OF THE CATHEDRAL OF SEVILLE
In addition to the Door of Forgiveness mentioned at the beginning, the Cathedral of Seville has several doors of extraordinary beauty and sumptuousness. In the map at the end of the post you will find all of them.
PUERTA DEL PRÍNCIPE (PRINCE’S DOOR)
Although it may seem very old to you, the Puerta del Príncipe or San Cristóbal was completed at the end of the 19th century. However, for its decoration a neo-Gothic style reminiscent of the original style of the cathedral was used. The use of decorative historicism is a 19th-century artistic trend that was widespread throughout most of the world. Just inside the door you will find an enormous bronze sculpture. It is a copy of the Giraldillo, with the fantastic neo-Gothic façade as a backdrop. This sculpture was placed here in 2011, although the piece was made earlier during the restoration process of the Giralda. You are sure to see this place, as this is where the ticket offices and one of the entrances to the cathedral are located.
PUERTA DE CAMPANILLAS and PUERTA DE PALOS
These twin doors are located on either side of the chancel of Seville Cathedral. The origin of these doors lies in the communication with the former quarters of the cathedral chapterhouse. They can be differentiated by their location and the decoration of the tympanum. The Campanillas has a sculptural relief with the theme of the entry of Jesus into Jerusalem. Its name comes from a bell located in a door with a wooden gate, which pre-existed in this same place and whose function was to warn the cathedral workers of the entrance to work.
The relief on the Palos door depicts the Adoration of the Magi. Its name derives from an ancient closed wooden arch from medieval times, which has also disappeared today.
THE MAIN FAÇADE AND PUERTA DE LA ASUCIÓN (THE ASSUMPTION DOOR)
On the main façade of Seville Cathedral you will see three large doors that coincide with the three interior naves. It has two smaller doors on the sides. They are known for the biblical theme depicted in their tympana. The one on the left is the “Baptism” and the one on the right is the “Nativity”. Of these two doorways, we recommend that you look at the decoration inside the sharp triangles (gables) above the pointed arches. This type of decoration is called flamboyant and is characteristic of the late Gothic style in Europe. The curved, thin decorative motifs are reminiscent of the flames of fire.
The central one is the largest door and is known as the Assumption door. It is honestly impressive to stand at its foot and look up. The door is usually closed, and is opened occasionally during specific festivities, protocol visits and solemn entrances. We have more information on this and many other sections in the downloadable pdf guide to Seville Cathedral.
PUERTA DE LA CONCEPCIÓN (CONCEPTION DOOR)
To end this section we have left what, in our opinion, is the most beautiful doorway in Seville Cathedral. The door of the Concepción gives access to the temple from the patio de los Naranjos, hence it is also known as the Puerta de los Naranjos (Door of the Oranges).
As with the door of the Asunción and the door of the Príncipe or San Cristóbal, a large part of the decoration is not original from the 15th century. At that time the door was left unfinished and it was not completed until the 19th century. Of course, neo-Gothic was the style chosen to give homogeneity to the whole. However, not everything you see is nineteenth-century. Some parts of the façade, such as the lateral abutments and the upper body with its rose window, are part of the original construction. You can identify the chronology of each element through the tonality of the stone. The lighter limestone corresponds to the 19th century works; the yellowish stone is part of the 15th century cathedral.
Any of these formidable doors could have been added to our article.
charming places in Seville.
TUMBES IN THE CATHEDRAL OF SEVILLE
In the past there was the custom of burying the deceased inside the temples, at least the wealthy people. If you want to know who are the important people who rest here, we invite you to know another article about famous tombs in the Cathedral of Seville.
ORGANISE YOUR VISIT TO THE CATHEDRAL OF SEVILLE
Let’s see now some practical information to organise your visit to the Cathedral of Seville.
WHERE DOES ONE ENTER THE CATHEDRAL OF SEVILLE?
The Cathedral of Seville has two entrances, the door of the Lizard and the entrance next to the door of the Prince. The former is only accessible by online ticket purchase. The Prince’s door is where the official ticket offices are located. Remember that the locations are shown on the map at the end of the post.
CATEDRAL DE SEVILLA TIMETABLE
The opening hours for cultural visits are extensive.
- Monday to Saturday: 10:45am to 6:00pm.
- Sundays: from 14:30h. to 19:00h.
Whether it is Sunday or any other day of the week the last access is one hour before closing time. Moreover, Seville Cathedral is first a temple and then a monument, and religious events are frequently held there, so opening times are subject to change. Please bear this in mind!
HOW TO GET TO THE CATHEDRAL OF SEVILLE?
You can’t miss it, the Cathedral of Seville is the heart of the historic centre of the capital and the nerve centre of tourism. Chances are that your hotel is close to the Christian temple, but if not, Seville has an excellent public transport service. The most responsible options are the metro or bicycles.
The city of Seville is practically flat and a few years ago it opted for sustainable mobility. You’ll find bike rentals at many points. But if you prefer, there are numerous bus lines that connect the whole city.
- Bus: 03, 05, 21, EA, M-132, M-140, M-153
- Suburban train: C1, C4, C5
- Metro: L1 (this line leaves you nearby, but not at the door)
- Light rail Light rail: T1
PRIVATE VISIT TO THE CATHEDRAL OF SEVILLE
If with everything we have told you you are ready to get to know the main monument of Seville, from Andalucía 360 we offer you a private guided tour to enjoy the cathedral in a special way. We are specialists in private tours in almost all Andalusia. Learn more about this visit 👇.
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PLAN OF THE CATHEDRAL OF SEVILLE
If you need a map of the Cathedral of Seville, it is best to use the official one. Here is a link to the pdf document to help you find your way around.
PRICES AND TICKETS TO THE CATHEDRAL OF SEVILLE
If you choose to visit the Cathedral of Seville on your own, the general admission ticket costs: 11,00 € online or 12,00 € at the ticket office. The ticket includes a visit to the Giralda and the Sagrario church.
As in almost all monuments there is reduced admission for different groups (seniors and students). In addition, entrance is free for children under 13 years of age accompanied by an adult and for disabled people over 65%.
In our private tour of the Cathedral of Seville and the Real Alcázar the entrance tickets are already included.
OUR VIDEO OF THE CATHEDRAL OF SEVILLE
MAP OF THE CATHEDRAL OF SEVILLE
Find all the places we talked about in the post on this Google map.
Remember that with the downloadable guide of the Cathedral of Seville you will have all this extended content, free and in pdf to consult it offline.
Downloadable guide only available in Spanish