Monthly Archives: abril 2021


The Torre del Oro, the Sevillian symbol

On the left bank of the Guadalquivir, next to the Maestranza bullring, stands the Torre del Oro giving its golden reflections to the river since the 13th century. Originally a defensive watchtower that the Almohad governor of Seville Abù l-Ulà ordered to be built in 1220, it was one of the last constructions erected in the Muslim Isbiliya. In 1248, the troops of King Ferdinand III of Castile would take the city for the Christians. A thousand curious stories, legends and hoaxes have circulated about this elegant dodecagonal tower: the first, that of its own construction, which spans five centuries and reflects three different eras in the history of Sevilla.

We know that the Tower of Gold has been known this way since Arab times for its characteristic golden gleams – possibly its name then was Bury al-dahab – but we have not known for sure why until very recently. It was in 2005, during restoration works, that scientists discovered that the glosses are due to a mixture of lime mortar and pressed straw. Thus ended centuries of myths that attributed the name to a supposed tile roof that reflected the sun’s rays or to gold and silver treasures that King Pedro I kept in the tower.

Another of the false legends about the tower states that from its basement crossed the river to the other bank a thick chain destined to cut off the path of enemy ships. The truth of the case is that in Almohad times there was an aquatic walkway, formed by several ships linked by a chain, thus connecting the city with Triana. It was that chain that in 1248 destroyed the Castilian fleet of Admiral Ramón de Bonifaz, who ascended the Guadalquivir in the middle of the siege of the city. Because there are many of those Asturian and Cantabrian sailors, the feat has been immortalized in the coat of arms of Cantabria and in those of towns such as Avilés, Santander or Castro Urdiales.

How could it be otherwise, such a picturesque building could not have had a single use throughout history. After the Christian conquest of Seville, the tower lost its defensive function to be used as a chapel dedicated to San Isidoro de Sevilla, former archbishop of the city. In subsequent centuries, the old watchtower has also served as a prison for members of the nobility, a gunpowder store, and offices for the Harbor Master and Naval Command. Legend also says that King Pedro I took the maidens he courted to the Torre del Oro. The best known in Seville is Doña Aldonza, who is said to have lived in the tower.

The watchtower was declared a historical-artistic monument in 1931 and has been restored several times during the 20th century, partly thanks to the work of the Navy. Since 1944 it houses the Maritime Museum, for which 400 pieces were brought from the Naval Museum of Madrid. On its two floors, the center brings together various nautical instruments, models of historic ships, navigation charts and documents that review the history of the Spanish Navy, as well as Magellan’s world tour. The copy of Johannes Janssonius’s engraving of Seville from 1617 is very curious, in which you can see the walled city and the Torre del Oro before its last addition in the 18th century. Its panoramic terrace with magnificent views of Seville and the mythical reflections of the tower in the Guadalquivir river


The Plaza Mayor in Madrid. A square with a lot of history

The Plaza Mayor is located in the heart of Madrid, a few meters from the Puerta del Sol and the Royal Palace.
It was designed by Juan de Herrera and Juan Gómez de Mora in the Baroque style and is one of the essential visits in Madrid.
Madrid’s Plaza Mayor is 129 meters long by 94 meters wide and is surrounded by arcades and three-story brick buildings.
Throughout the history of Madrid, the Plaza Mayor has been a place for meetings, announcements and celebrations of a civil nature.
In addition, it is loaded with commemorative plaques, historical places and other symbols of great value.
Several architects intervened in the construction of the square, among them Juan de Herrera and Juan Gómez de Mora, who were the true promoters of the project.
With the passage of time and the different fires suffered, the Plaza Mayor has been rebuilt and renovated on several occasions throughout history.
To get to the Plaza Mayor, you can use the different access doors that surround the square, each with a special charm.
In the 15th century, the Plaza Mayor received the name of Plaza del Arrabal, which was replaced by other names such as: Plaza de la Constitución, Plaza Real and Plaza de la República.
The current name has been preserved since the end of the Civil War.
In the Plaza Mayor we can find three places of special interest:
Statue of Felipe III: created in 1616 by Juan de Bolonia and Pietro Tacca, it was a gift from the Duke of Florence to the Spanish king. Until the middle of the 19th century he was in the Casa de Campo.
Casa de la Panadería: it is the most important building and it was the first to begin construction in 1590.
Initially it was the most important bakery in Madrid. The facade is decorated by Carlos Franco.
Arco de Cuchilleros: this arch forms the best known of the nine access gates that the Plaza Mayor has. The name comes from the street with which it communicates, Calle Cuchilleros.


Palacio da Pena and its gardens, the best of Sintra (Portugal)

The Palacio da Pena is a jewel of 19th century Portuguese romanticism, a colorful mix of architectural and decorative styles that stands in the Sintra mountains, a few minutes from Lisbon.
The diversity of palaces, castles and fortresses that we can find in Portugal is overwhelming, but if there is one that stands out above all the others, even for its location and its striking color, that is undoubtedly the Palacio da Pena, in Sintra. This palace, ordered to be built by King Ferdinand II in 1836, impresses both outside and inside and its historical richness made it a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1995 along with the cultural landscape of Sintra.
An experience with which to discover this architectural wonder that is well worth a visit in person as soon as possible.
The mix of styles is tremendous, you will see Neo-Gothic, Neo-Manueline, Neo-Islamic and Neo-Renaissance, and it is that everything exotic fascinated the minds closest to the German-influenced romanticism of the time. The old cells of the friars were converted into large rooms with spectacular vaults, and in 1843 the king decided to expand it by adding a New Palace with even larger rooms. In fact, the striking colors of the complex allow the two constructions to be differentiated: old pink for the Old Palace and ocher for the New Palace.
If the rich interior decoration of each of its rooms seems to exceed your expectations, the Parque de la Pena should not be overlooked, since its landscaping was as important as the palace itself. With trees and plants from all over the world, with winding paths and stone benches where you can rest in the middle of nature, a complex is completed that was rightly declared a Portuguese National Monument in 1910.

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