I’m not a religious person, but whenever I travel in Europe, I am always drawn to visiting churches. Many times the social centres of cities are clustered around their most famous churches and religious sites, so it is hard to miss them. And from an architectural standpoint, they usually form some of the most beautiful and picturesque locations. In Seville, Spain, this was certainly the case.
The Seville Cathedral is the third largest church in the world, only behind St. Peter’s in Rome and the Basílica do Santuário Nacional de Nossa Senhora Aparecida in Aparecida, Brazil. It is the largest Cathedral in the world as the other two are not the seats of bishops. Size aside, it is striking from an architectural perspective inside and out.
While touring the cathedral, its size becomes apparent immediately. The height of the ceilings (in the photo below, over 40 metres), the circumference of the pillars, and the walkways and alcoves that seem to go on forever are stunning.
It is also incredibly opulent inside. Widely considered the finest altarpiece in the world, the Pierre Dancart designed focal point draws everyone toward it, mouths slightly agape. If I wasn’t limited by time, I would have loved to study the sculptures and details at much more length.
The Seville Cathedral is famous for housing the tomb of Christopher Columbus. His tomb is held by four figures, representing the four kingdoms of Spain during his life. The sculpture and tomb were some of the last additions to the church being added in 1899 almost 400 years after the original construction of the cathedral was completed.
Another of the features that intrigued me was the cathedral’s main pipe organ. I’ve always found pipe organs interesting architecturally, and the intricate designs, especially at mid height of this one, I found especially captivating.
It would take days upon days to discover all of the interesting aspects of art, design and architecture of the cathedral, so admittedly, I was really only seeing some of the larger features of the church. That being said, perhaps my favourite architectural feature was the dome ceiling of the Renaissance Vault.
As much as I loved the Seville Cathedral, I ended up being more partial to the Iglesia del Salvador. A few days before visiting this church, my wife and I took up residence on its steps for a drink on a Friday night. I have a bit of a habit of drinking in and around churches, so this place already had a soft spot in my heart.
Although it is a much smaller church than the cathedral, it is no less impressive inside. Like all churches in Spain, the main altar is a thing of beauty.
Even the secondary altars are are stunning – there was no expense spared in the use of gold on these Baroque pieces flanking the sides of the main altar.
One of the features I most enjoyed was a close up look at one of the statues that gets paraded through the city during religious festivals. A large number of strong individuals crowd underneath this statue and carry it on their respective shoulders through the narrow streets of Seville. I would love to get back here someday to witness one of those processions.
Joking about drinking on the front steps of the Iglesia del Salvador aside, I think I was more fond of it because it felt more authentically of the south of Spain in design, art and architecture than the cathedral. It was also much less visited, so it felt like a community church, something all of the larger European cathedrals sometimes suffer from as tourists like me walk around gawking inside. Regardless, these two unique and beautiful churches provided an lovely glimpse into catholicism in southern Spain.