For over 800 years the tower of Seville’s magnificent cathedral (the Giralda) stood as the tallest structure in the city, built at 103 m. Completed in 1195, it was originally the minaret of the Aljama mosque before it became the bell tower of a Christian Church. The structure took 12 years to build.
The name Giralda means “she who turns” after the weather vane on top of the tower. The figure on the weather vane, called El Giraldillo, represents faith.
The Giralda, originally used for calling faithful Muslims to prayer and as an observatory, was highly valued by the Moors. There were plans to destroy it before the Christian conquest of the city in 1248, but a threat by King Alfonso X to kill everyone in the city if the Giralda was destroyed saved the structure.
The tower was severely damaged by an earthquake in the mid-14th century, and replaced by a small belltower and cross. In the 16th century the current belltower was added, producing an unusual hybrid of Moorish and Renaissance architecture.
A series of ramps leads to the bell chamber where you get remarkable views of the city, especially the Alcazar and Barrio Santa Cruz neighborhood. You also get some excellent views of details of the cathedral. The ramps were designed so that two riders on their mounts, either horses or donkeys, could climb the minaret comfortably.
We visited the Seville Cathedral on a rainy day. Despite the clouds and showers, the colors and views from atop the belltower were most memorable!
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