Seville in December – The Alcazar

The Alcazar stands adjacent to the cathedral and is a UNESCO world heritage site. A palace and seat of power and repression for a thousand years. It was thought to have been founded in the eighth century and maasively expanded in the eleventh century to serve as the great court of the Abbadid dynasty. Seville was the favoured residence of four centuries of spanish kings. In the twentieth century, it found favour with Franco and in the present day is home to current spanish monarch when visiting Seville. For good reason, it is certainly a tourist attraction. Without an advanced booking we waited 3 hours to get in. Take something to read and drink.

Inside one is confronted by all of the architecture, design and colour that one would expect from a clash, complementarity and contrast of Moor and Spanish aesthetics. Ornate carvings, exquisite 15th century ceramic tiles – I love ceramics – and amazing gardens complete with fountains and live peacocks (an important symbol captured in the decor).

I have to say that I did not work out the logic of the building with its many courtyards and significant rooms; for example, the eye-shattering Ambassadors’ Hall (below left). There is actually a maze in the garden, but the palace itself is sufficiently labrynthine to not need to get further lost, unless one has children.

One of the first courtyards is that of the maidens (below right). It has a longitudinal pond with dipped gardens around it. The arches are lobed and in Mudejar-style. The ceramic tiles adorn the outer walls. The caligraphy is arabic and contrast with the renaissance-style of the upper floor/gallery. It is not possible to walk on the upper gallery, but the guidebook highlights the existence of renaissance wedding medallions and coats of arms from the period.

The Ambassadors’ Hall is the show-off room where official receptions were held. It has a golden celestial cupola that is visible from outside and and lavishly decorated from the inside. It is not particularly well lit, So the guide pictures are much better than what we can manage with our gadgets.

This is particularly true of the Hall of Justice with its stucco decoration. Already very brown from the plaster, the shade – and my struggling eyesight – render the fine plasterwork short on detail, of which there is much – largely drawn from nature; leaves, flowers and shells (fertility).

The tapestry room has five large tapestries cascading down the walls. One is a lesson in developing cartography, the operative word being developing. There is also a magnificent depiction of Spain’s victory over Tunisia in June 1535 (the tapestry was comissioned by Philip V 200 years later, right).

And finally, the sub-terranean bath (left). It is a suitably cool space. It’s big, so presumably it is for sharing.

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