Many different cultures have been present in the Seville’s History. Its legacy has formed for centuries, the cultural, monumental and artistic patrimony that we can admire in its streets and museums.
Among different stories that related the first ages of the city, there is a legend that gives Hercules the foundation of the city. If we want to learn about civilization and the Guadalquivir Valley, a visit to “Museo Arqueologico” (archeological museum) is necessary. Placed in a magnificent building made for Iberian-American Exposition of 1929, the museum is home to treasures explaining the relation with other villages from the other Mediterranean side and about their gods, belonging to the first inhabitants of the city. Among them, the most important treasure is “Tesoro del Carambolo,” an exemplary sample of the eastern influence assimilated by the primitive inhabitants of the mythic “Tartessos.”
Near to the city of Seville, in Alcala del Rio, the final battle that faced Romans against Carthaginians in the year 206 BC took place, and preceded the foundation of the first Roman colony in the area, Italica. Julius Caesar, in the year 45BC, converted the people from Seville into Roman citizens with all their rights and gave the city the name of Julia Romula Hispalis. Few remains from Roman Seville have survived the passing time in the city. “Although there was in Seville great and sumptuous temples, circus…and amphitheatres…all has gone” it was affirmed by Rodrigo Caro in the 17th century. It is one more reason to visit the “Museo Arqueologico,” where the Roman age is magnificently represented with the remains found in Italica.
The city shield remembers two of the most significant personages of the High Middle Ages in the city, San Leandro and San Isidoro, that evokes the Visigoth Age shadowed by the splendor of Arabic Seville that flourished from the year 712.
After the Almoravid period (around the 10th century), came the Almohad age (middle 12th century) when Isbiliya reached its maximum splendor. It was in these times under the Berber dynasty government when the “Mezquita Mayor” (the great Mosque) was built. Its minaret has become one of the city’s greatest symbols. Its characteristic Renaissance culmination crowned with a weathercock that turns according to the wind direction gave it its actual name: the Giralda.
As part of Castilla Reign expansion towards Moslem lands, Fernando III conquered the city in 1248. The mosques then became Christian worship places. One and a half centuries after the conquest, the “Cabildo Eclesiastico” (ecclesiastical council) decided to demolish the Great Mosque, which was in ruinous state, in order to build the cathedral in its place, an indisputable symbol of the Christian Seville. Describing the Middle Ages it is necessary to mention the king Don Pedro, who in the 15th century, built a splendid Moorish palace inside the fortified enclosure of the Old Muslim Alcazar.
Renaissance and Baroque Periods
The city’s golden age began after the Discovery of America in 1492. Seville became the “Puerto de Indias” (India’s port) that monopolized the trade with the New World. The “Casa de Contratacion” (central trading house and procurement) had its headquarter in the Alcazar and the merchants built, nearby, the “Casa Lonja” (guild house), a Renaissance building that some centuries later became the Archivo de Indias. During the 16th and 17th centuries they were many palace-houses built and a very important civil building: “Hospital de las cinco Llagas,” today the Andalusia Parliament.
The 17th century saw the birth of many universal artistic figures in our city: Diego Velazquez, Bartolome Esteban Murillo, Juan de Valdes Leal… The significance of the Baroque Seville attracted many other outstanding artists of the “Siglo de Oro” (golden century), such a Martinez Montañes, Zurbaran and the writers Cervantes, Lope de Vega, who wrote many plays that talk about Seville.
Religion is essential in this age, in which many “Hermandades and Cofradias” began to organize themselves. Apart from many images that still remain in the Holy Week processions today, the sculpture and the age painting have their home in the “Museo de Bellas Arte” (Fine Arts Museum),” ”Hospital de la Caridad” or the impressive church of “San Luis de los Franceses.” All of these locations present Leonardo de Figueroa, maximum figure in the Baroque in Seville.
In 18th century a new “Fabrica de Tabacos” (tobaccos factory) was built. It was an industrial building of great extent that was the stage for the adventures of the mythic “Carmen la Cigarrera” in the Merimée’s novel and Bizet’s opera.
Romanticism in 18th century converts Seville into an exotic destination to travel pioneers. Some of them were good drawers, so they have left notes about a city that still remain intact. Its fortified enclosure was finally demolished in order to ease communications between areas inside and outside the wall making it more extendable. Iron architecture has two outstanding representation in Seville: the “Puente Triana or Isabel II,” the first bridge over the Guadalquivir River between Cordoba and the Atlantic ocean, and inspired the Old Pont du Carrousel from Paris, and its neighbor “Naves del Barranco”.
The 20th century in Seville began with the illusion of the Universal Exposition, that was postponed for different reasons and finally could be celebrated in 1929 by means of Iberian-American Exposition. This event left us the “Plaza de España”(Spain Square), the “Plaza de America” (America Square) and pavilions from the participating countries in different styles that evoke their own pre-Columbian cultures.
The century ended with another important celebration, the Expo of ‘92, that commemorated the 5th centenarian of the Discovery of America. From an urban development point of view, this was not only the incorporation of the Isla de la Cartuja to the metropolitan area but also acknowledging Cartuja as a Technologic Park where many different companies are settled.
Seville also bettered its communications, with the construction of the new San Pablo Airport, Santa Justa high speed Station and the recovery of those areas that were previously occupied by the railway…
In the 21st century, changes in the city did not end with the Expo of ‘92. In the first years of the new century, a large bikeway network of 120 km, was created along the big avenues and the underground is a reality today, with the line 1 of this great project will eventually have four underground lines.
In the past years this has gotten rid of the traffic in Plaza Nueva and Constitucion Avenue. The construction of the first modern streetcar line in the city led to the restoration and a better conservation of the cathedral and Archivo de Indias facades.