Friday, 5 October 2012



We drive to Seville, through rolling hills, avoiding the odd blazing car-crash, and pausing to view the hill-top fort and white town of Teba, where in 1330, Sir James Douglas, en route to Jerusalem carrying the heart of Robert the Bruce, died fighting the Moors, presumably in what was supposed to be some sort of warm-up or pre-season friendly.


We have an excellent apartment, with living room, kitchen, washing machine and terrace, and are taking the opportunity to relax and unwind, as well as appreciating the sights, and a visit to the Flamenco show at el Tablao Arenal.
"Seville is a pleasant city, famous for oranges and women." Lord Byron
Seville is also the capital of Andalucia, and, for some, heart and soul of Spain. Jan Morris locates the heart  in the Escorial Palace near Madrid, but maybe there is more than one.  But wherever it lies, it's currently being kept going by the European Central Bank, and maybe about to lose a major organ or two in the shape of Catalonia.
Giralda tower in Seville
Seville cathedral was completed in 1507 on the site of the great Almohad mosque, of which the minaret remains, now the Giralda tower, topped with a sixteenth century bell tower. The gothic retable may be the largest in the world, with more than a thousand polychrome carved wood figures, but it's covered up for restoration at the moment, but there are paintings Murillo, Goya and Zurburán on view.

More interesting for us was Real Alcázar, which was something of a surprise. It is a royal residence, based on an original fort built by the Moors in the 10th century, and expanded up until the reconquista in 1248, when a palace was constructed. Pedro I mustered an army of architects and craftsmen, including those who had worked on the Nasrid Palaces in Granada, plus others from Toledo and Seville, including Jewish artisans, to a Christian palace synthesising 400 years of Iberian Muslim architectural tradition.

We also appreciated the early twentieth-century architecture around the commercial centre, much of it blending art nouveau with revival mudejar style.


Detail of the Neptune mosaic at Italica
We left Seville in the morning, and drove to the outskirts, to the remains of the Roman city of Italica. Italica was founded in 206 BC by the Roman general Publius Cornelius Scipio Africanus in order to settle Roman soldiers wounded in the Battle of Ilipa, where the Carthaginian army was defeated during the Second Punic War. The emperor Trajan was born here, and the city was massively expanded in his honour, with a huge amphitheatre and temple dedicated to him. There is also a mosaic featuring a heron poking a pygmy up the bum.

A 3D recreation of the city is viewable on YouTube: