Travels in Spain: Seville and the Alcazar

November 4, 2015

“In what you divine rather than in what you see lies half the charm of Andalusia, in the suggestion of all manner of delicate antique things, in the vivid memory of past grandeur.  The Moors have gone, but still inhabit the land in spirit and not seldom in a spectral way seem to regain their old dominion.”
— William Somerset Maugham, The Land of the Blessed Virgin

Alcazar: arches within arches

Alcazar: arches within arches

On our second full day in Seville, Carol and I chose as one our main destination the Reales Alcazar, the palace of the Muslim caliphs who ruled Andalusia (A.D. 711 -1492) and later, after their conquest, the palace of the Christian kings.  We had the foresight to ask our hotel receptionist to book us tickets online the night before, so we avoided standing in line at the entrance.

Entrance gate to the Alcazar, Seville

Entrance gate to the Alcazar, Seville

I was looking forward to seeing the Moorish influences on Spanish architecture:  the quintessential horseshoe arch, glazed tiles, geometric patterns, calligraphy, domes, and delicate carvings.  The Alcazar is emblematic of the Moorish design aesthetic.  Rooms opening upon rooms, arches opening upon arches, the detailed grillwork, repeating patterns, stylized motifs, pools and gardens all bespoke an understated elegance and richness that was very opposite the heavy opulence of the Spanish cathedrals we had seen.  The spaces felt light and expansive, like an echo of infinity.

Arch in the Courtyard of the Hunt, Alcazar

Arch in the Courtyard of the Hunt, Alcazar

Painting of St. Mary of the Navigators in the Admiralty rooms, Alcazar

Painting of St. Mary of the Navigators in the Admiralty rooms, Alcazar

It seemed fitting to be walking in the footsteps of Columbus on this October holiday weekend.  The next day would be Columbus Day and a national holiday in Spain.  It was in the Admiralty rooms of the Alcazar where Queen Isabella interviewed Columbus about his voyages of discovery.  The Audience Hall contains a small replica of the Santa Maria and the full painting above included a portrait of Columbus.

Courtyard of the Maidens, Alcazar

Courtyard of the Maidens, Alcazar

Courtyard of the Maidens

Courtyard of the Maidens

“The first glimpse is unforgettable; the fantasy, the lightness, the play of light and shade, the clusters of gold honeycombs at roof level, the slender columns matched two by two, the cusped arches, the lace-like arabesques above them; but it goes on and on like an endless Arab anecdote, full of repetition, until you have the impression that the multiplication table has been set to music.”
— H. V. Morton, A Stranger in Spain

Ceiling in the Hall of the Ambassadors, Alcazar

Ceiling in the Hall of the Ambassadors, Alcazar

I especially liked the ceiling in the Hall of the Ambassadors.  The cube-shaped room represents the earth, and the half-domed ceiling the starry heavens.

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Terrace overlooking the gardens, Alcazar

Terrace overlooking the gardens, Alcazar

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Crane tiles in the Banquet Hall, Alcazar

Crane tiles in the Banquet Hall, Alcazar

Detail of tapestry, Hall of Tapestries, Alcazar

Detail of tapestry, Hall of Tapestries, Alcazar

In the garden, Alcazar

In the garden, Alcazar

“Seville doesn’t have ambience, it is ambience.”
— James Michner

Patio de Banderas, Seville

Patio de Banderas, Seville

Court of the Orange Trees, Seville

Court of the Orange Trees, Seville

Irrigation paths, Court of the Orange Trees, Seville

Irrigation paths, Court of the Orange Trees, Seville

I felt transported to another place and time at the Alcazar, and I was reluctant to leave and re-enter the twenty-first century.  These patios with Seville’s iconic orange trees were a nice transition space.  Seville’s oranges are bitter, the kind used in marmalade, rather than eating plain.

But soon our walking took us back into the hustle and bustle of Seville:

Seville street performer

Seville street performer

Magnificent photos by Aitor Lara graced the side of this building, Seville

Magnificent photos by Aitor Lara graced the side of this building, Seville

Shop window, Seville

Shop window, Seville

Shop window, Seville

Shop window, Seville

Seville street scene

Seville street scene

Shop door, Seville

Shop door, Seville

Our stroll took us across the Puente de Isabel II, the bridge to Triana, which is known for its historic tile factories.

Puente de Isabel II

Puente de Isabel II

Triana, across the Guadalquivir River from Seville proper

Triana, across the Guadalquivir River from Seville proper

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Tile on display in the museum

Tile on display in the museum

Ceramic vase on display in the museum

Ceramic vase on display in the museum

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3 Responses to “Travels in Spain: Seville and the Alcazar”


  1. I still remember the first time I was there. The building is so impressive. I find Sevilla so touristic though but gotta understand why.
    Cheers


  2. stunning pictures !

  3. tbeck2015 Says:

    Beautiful photos.


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