Copyright
Albert Frederick Calvert.

Southern Spain online

. (page 4 of 13)
Online LibraryAlbert Frederick CalvertSouthern Spain → online text (page 4 of 13)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


apartment, and tried to screen himself by holding her
little daughter, Dona Beatriz, before him. Pedro tore
the child away, and despatched the unfortunate man
with his own hand. The murder took place on
May 19, 1358.

To the west of the court is a little room, elegantly
decorated, and named after the Catholic Sovereigns, by
whom it was restored. Their well-known devices
appear, together with the Towers and Lions, among
the decorations, which reveal the influence of the
plateresque style. The north side of the patio is
occupied by the Cuarto de los Principes, not to be
confounded with a similarly named apartment on the
floor above. At either end of this room is an arch,
adorned with stucco work, admitting to a cabinet or
alcove. That to the right has a fine artesonado ceiling,
and that to the left is decorated in a species of Moorish
plateresque style. An inscription states that the frieze
was made in the year 1543 by Juan de Simancas,
master carpenter.

East of the Patio de las Munecas, and occupying
the north side of the Patio de las Doncellas, is the long
room called the Dormitorio de los Reyes Moros. All
the apartments in the Alcazar are fancifully named,
but the designation of none is quite so stupid and

47



Southern Spain

misleading as this. The columns of the twin windows
on either side of the door appear to date from the time
of the Khalifate. The doors themselves are richly inlaid
and painted with geometrical patterns. The three
horseshoe arches leading to the al hami^ or alcove, also
seem to belong to the early period of Spanish-Arabic
art. The room is so richly decorated that scarce a
handbreadth of the surface is free from ornament.

On the opposite side of the central court is the
sumptuous Salon de Carlos V., the ceiling of which
was constructed by order of the emperor, and is
adorned with classical heads. The tile and stucco
work is the finest in the palace. There is a legend to
the effect that St. Ferdinand died in this room — on his
knees, with a cord round his neck and a taper in his
hand — but it is unlikely that this part of the palace
existed in his time. The guide pointed out the room
to the west of this salon as the chamber of Maria de
Padilla, but this again is, to put it mildly, doubtful.

The upper chambers of the Alcazar, which are not
accessible to the general public, are very handsome.
The floor overlooking the Patio del Leon is occupied
by the Sala del Principe, with its beautiful spring
windows, polychrome tiling, and columns brought from
the old Moorish Palace at Valencia. Adjacent is the
Oratory, built by order of Ferdinand and Isabella in
1504. The tile work is of extraordinary beauty, and
shows that the Moors had not a monopoly of talent in
this kind of decoration. The fine Visitation over the

48



The Pearl of Andalusia

altar is signed by Francesco Nicoloso, the Italian. On
the same floor is the reputed bed-chamber of Don
Pedro. Over the door may be seen four death's-
heads, and over another entrance the curious figure of
a man who looks back over his shoulder at a grinning
skull. These gruesome designs commemorate the
summary execution by the king of four judges whom
he overheard discussing the division of a bribe. The
royal apartments on this floor contain some precious
works of art ; but I abstain from mentioning the most
remarkable of these, as pictures are so often transferred
in Spain from one royal residence to another that
such indications are often out of date before they are
printed.

The Alcazar, I think, disappoints most foreigners.
The architectural and decorative work of the Spanish
Moors and their descendants pleases people quite inex-
perienced in the arts by its mere prettiness, its brilliance,
its originality, and its colour ; and it delights still more
those who are able to appreciate its marvellous com-
binations of geometrical forms, its exquisite epigraphy,
and all its subtle details. But the average traveller
stands between these two classes of observers. He looks
for grandeur where he should expect only beauty, and
his eye is wearied by the wealth of conventional orna-
mentation. What I think is conspicuously lacking in the
Alcazar, and to almost the same extent in the Alhambra,
is atmosphere. Memories do not haunt you in these
gilded halls. There is nothing about them to suggest

49 7



Southern Spain

that anything ever happened here. The legends tell
us the contrary ; but assuredly no one was ever less
successful In impressing his personality on his abode
than were the founders and inhabitants of the Alcazar.

The gardens are really the most pleasing spot within
the enclosure. They form a delicious pleasaunce, where
the orange and citron diffuse their fragrance, and magic
fountains spring up suddenly beneath the passenger's
feet, sprinkling him with a cooling dew. I noticed
some flower beds shaped like curiously formed crosses,
which the gardener told me were the crosses of
the orders of Calatrava, Santiago, Alcantara, and
Montesa. You are also shown the Baths of Maria de
Padilla, which are approached through a gloomy arched
entrance. In the favourite's time they had no other
roof than the sky, and no further protection from
prying eyes than that afforded by a screen of orange
and lemon trees. In Mohammedan times the baths
were probably used by the ladies of the harem.

But if the Alcazar is a disappointment to the majority
of visitors, I cannot conceive the Cathedral being so,
despite the unfavourable criticism to which it has been
subjected. The exterior, it is true, is unimpressive,
and the vastness of the pile is largely responsible for
the powerful effect proclaimed by the interior. But
when the worst has been urged, this, the third largest
church in Christendom, remains a grand, a solemn, and a
magnificent temple, thoroughly Christian in atmosphere
and details.

50



SEVILLE GARDENS OF THE ALCAZAR



The Pearl of Andalusia

I like the story of its foundation better than the silly-
tales about Don Pedro, or about crucifixes helping jilted
damsels. It has, moreover, the very unusual merit of
being true. After the conquest by St. Ferdinand the
old mosque of the Almohades was " purified," and
served as the cathedral till, towards the end of the
fourteenth century, it became practically ruined by
earthquakes. The dean and chapter took counsel
together, and at a conclave held in the Court of the
Elms, on the south side of the mosque, it was resolved
to build a new church forthwith. Then uprose a
zealous prebendary and cried : " Let us build a church
so great that those who come after us will think us mad
to have attempted it ! " The proposal was adopted with
acclamation; and the great-hearted priests bound them-
selves to contribute from their own stipends as much
money as might be necessary, should the revenue of the
See prove unequal to the cost of the undertaking. They
could never hope to see the fruit of their labours. I
do not think the name of any one of them has been
preserved. The architect alike has been forgotten.
All concerned sought only the greater glorification of
their faith. Such greatness of spirit deserved a noble
monument.*

The Cathedral took one hundred and seventeen
years to build, the first stone having been laid in 1402

* Instances of this lofty spirit are frequent in the history of the Spanish peoples. When, after
their first uprising against the mother country, the people of Honduras (Central America) met in
Congress to frame a Constitution, a priest rose and proposed that before anything else was done,
every slave in the country should be set free. And' the measure was carried unanimously and
enthusiastically by the Congress, which must have included many slaveholders. It took the United
States forty years to follow this example.

51



Southern Spain

and the lantern having been finished by Juan Gil de
Hontanon in 15 19. Of the mosque certain portions
were left : the Giralda, the Patio de los Naranjos, and
the portal called the Puerta del Lagarto. The latter
is named after the wooden model of an alligator which
hangs from the roof. Three or four centuries ago the
mummified form of a real alligator hung there. It
was one of the gifts of an Egyptian khalifa to the
daughter of a Castilian king, whom he sought in
marriage. The saurian was accompanied from the
banks of the Nile by various animals peculiar to that
fertile region, but these interesting offerings failed to
make any impression on the heart of the Infanta.
Thus the forlorn-looking effigy of the reptile is in
reality an affecting memorial of unrequited love.

Churches, it has been remarked, were considered
in the Middle Ages very proper repositories for
curiosities of all sorts. The cloister of the Lagarto
contains also an elephant's tusk, weighing seventy
pounds, and a horse's bit, said to be that of Babieca,
the Cid's charger.

Very grateful is the sudden cool of the great church
when you enter it from the sun-scorched plaza. Then
there comes over you a feeling of profound reverence,
followed very soon by an infinite restfulness. There
is no place in Seville where you more willingly linger.
A holy calm pervades the whole building, and you
wonder that it should have suggested to Theophile
Gautier such fantastic comparisons. If it were not the

52



The Pearl of Andalusia

temple of Christ, I could believe it to be the temple of
Silence.

The Puerta del Lagarto is the favourite entrance,
but when the day comes for a painstaking examination,
you would do well to begin at one of the entrances in
the west front. Of these there are three : the Puerta
Mayor, the Puerta del Bautismo, and the Puerta San
Miguel. All are enriched with good statuary, the
graceful and vigorous statues of the side doors being
the work of Pedro Millan, a fifteenth-century sculptor
of renown. Entering, we set foot on the fine marble
floor and make out the stupendous church to be
composed of a nave and of two aisles on either side.
The nave, you are told, is one hundred feet high and
fifty feet wide. The noble columns, almost free of
adornment, which uphold the spacious vaults recede in
the far distance like trees in an overarching avenue.
The eff'ect, fine as it is, might have been much finer if
the centre of the nave had not been blocked up by the
choir. The " Trascoro," or screen, facing the west
entrance, is richly adorned with red columns. Over
the altar is a fourteenth-century picture of the
Madonna, and a painting by Pacheco, the Inquisitor,
representing St. Ferdinand receiving the keys of
Seville. Over one of the beautiful little side altars of
the choir is one of the rare examples of good Spanish
sculpture — a Virgin, by Juan Martinez Montanez.
On the altar side the choir is shut off by a sixteenth-
century railing, attributed to Sancho Munoz. This

S3



Southern Spain



protects from intrusion their reverences the canons,
who sit in stalls, exquisitely carved between the years
1475 '^^'^'^ ^53^' The patterns and coloured inlaid
work of the backs reveal Moorish influence. The
lectern was the work of Bartolomd Morel. When the
lantern collapsed in 1888, the choir was severely
damaged. The architect who restored the fabric
proposed to move it considerably nearer the high altar,
but the proposal was stupidly rejected. A good
opportunity for improving the appearance of the
Cathedral was thus lost.

The retablo of the high altar is the quintessence of
late Gothic sculpture. It is a marvellous work of
extraordinary delicacy and elaboration. Each of the
forty-five compartments into which it is divided
contains a subject from the Bible or from the lives of
the saints, carved, painted, or gilded with the rarest
skill. Begun by the Fleming Dancart, in 1479, ^^^^
wonderful triumph of the carver's art was completed
by Spanish artists in 1526. The earlier work is in the
middle. Crowning it is a gilt crucifix and the statues
of Our Lady and St. John.

There are some very interesting objects in the
Sacristy, as it is called, between the reredos and the
hind wall of the chancel. The sacristan will show you
the reliquary, shaped like a triptych, which came from
Constantinople and was presented to the old cathedral
by Alfonso the Learned. The double folding door is
also said to have come from the Moorish temple.

54



The Pearl of Andalusia

With a glance at the fine terra-cotta statues by Miguel
Florentin, Juan Marin, and others, we pass behind
the chancel wall, and see before us the plateresque
Royal Chapel, built by Charles V. over the remains of
certain of his ancestors. Beneath the altar lies the body
of St. Ferdinand in crown and royal robes. He lies
here in the heart of his fairest conquest, even as his
descendants, Ferdinand and Isabella, sleep in the heart
of Granada. You may see his sword, the handle of
which was denuded of gems by Pedro the Cruel, lest
they should excite the cupidity of others. That royal
humorist also lies here, near his saintly ancestor and the
one woman whom he ever loved, the gentle Maria de
Padilla. Then there is to be seen the Virgen de los
Reyes, an image presented by St. Louis of France to
St. Ferdinand of Castile. (Strange that when saints
filled the thrones of Europe, things went on no better
than they do now !) Another relic highly prized is
the Virgen de las Batallas, an ivory statuette which St.
Ferdinand used to carry at his saddle-bow. These
memorials of the heroic past give you little time or
inclination for an examination of the chapel itself,
which has a lofty dome, and is flanked at the entrance
by twelve good statues by Peter Kempener — whom
Spaniards call Campana. At least (so I read) he drew
them on the wall with charcoal for a ducat each, and
they were executed by Lorenzo del Vao and Campos

in 1553-

This chapel and the reredos of the chancel must be

55



Southern Spain

called, I suppose, the great sights of the Cathedral,
though to some its chief treasures will be the numerous
works of Murillo enshrined in its chapels and depend-
encies. For myself, I like the building for its own
sake, or, to use a very hard-worked word, for its
atmosphere. As you cross the nave, looking upwards,
where the light streams through the tall clerestory
windows, you will be tempted to neglect the dark
chapels in the aisles, and to revel for a while in these
exquisite symphonies in coloured glass. Few of them
are of Spanish workmanship. Master Christopher the
German (Micer Cristobal Aleman) began the first — the
first stained-glass window in Seville — in 1 504, the work
being afterwards carried on by the German Heinrich,
the Flemings Beernaert of Zeeland and Jan Beernaert,
Carel of Bruges, and Arnulf of Flanders. The best
windows are those adorned with the Ascension, St.
Mary Magdalen, Lazarus, and the Entry into Jeru-
salem, by Arnulf and his brother, and the Resurrection,
by Carel of Bruges.

In the south transept is a monument, striking in
itself and of very recent erection, which will in the
course of time attract more pilgrims than the soldier
saint's shrine. For here are contained the remains of a
man who added not a Moorish city but a continent to
the realm of Leon and Castile. The ashes of Christo-
pher Columbus repose in a coffin which is borne on
the shoulders of four figures of bronze, representing
the kingdoms of Castile, Leon, Aragon, and Navarre.

56



SEVILLE INTERIOR OF THE CATHEDRAL



The Pearl of Andalusia

These figures are not wanting in majesty and expression.
All are crowned and wear semi-sacerdotal garb. Castile
holds an oar, Leon a cross. Behind them come Aragon
and Navarre, sombre of countenance, wearing shirts of
mail. On the bosom of each is displayed the national
escutcheon : the Towers of Castile, the Lions of Leon,
the Bats of Aragon, and the Chains of Navarre. The
pall bears words traced by Isabella herself:

" A Castilla y Leon,
Nuevo mundo dio Colon,"

and round the pedestal is an inscription which relates
how the body of the immortal Admiral of the Indies
was brought here when the " ungrateful America "
revolted from the Spanish yoke. But however much
the Spain of to-day may honour Columbus dead, it is
hardly for her to reproach any land with ingratitude
towards him.

Half-way between the main entrance and the choir,
the Great Navigator's son is buried. An inscription
on a slab invites the reader to pray for the soul of Don
Fernando Colon, who, as Ford very truly says, would
have been considered a great man if he had been the
son of a less great father. He rendered important
services to literature, and left behind him a library of
1 5,000 volumes, including some manuscripts of extreme
rarity. It was ultimately acquired by the Crown, and
constitutes the basis of the Biblioteca Columbina, housed
in the Patio de los Naranjos.

57 «



Southern Spain

The Royal Chapel is flanked by two little chapels,
one of which, dedicated to St. Peter, contains some
Zurbarans, impossible to distinguish in the dim light ;
while in the other (Capilla de la Concepcion grande) is
a fine monument of Cardinal Cienfuegos and a crucifix
attributed to Alonso Cano. Opening on to the north
side are the chapels del Pilar, de las Evangelistas, de las
Doncellas, de San Francisco, de Santiago, de las Escales,
and del Bautisterio. In the latter is one of Murillo's
most famous works, " The Vision of St. Anthony of
Padua." Of Cano's works there is a specimen, the
" Virgin and Child," over the altar of Belen, adjacent
to the Puerta de los Naranjos. Valdes Leal and Juan
de las Roelas are represented in the chapel of Santiago,
and Herrera the younger by an ambitious " Apotheosis
of St. Francis " in the chapel of that saint. In the
Capilla de las Escalas are two works of Luca Giordano,
strong in drawing, colour, and character. The same
chapel contains the fine tomb of Bishop Baltasar del
Rio, dating from about 1 500.

In the south aisle are the chapels of the Mariscal,
San Andres, las Dolores, la Antigua, San Hermenegildo,
San Jose, Santa Ana, and Santa Laureana. These
chapels are richer in sculpture than in painting.
Kempener designed the beautiful altar-piece in the
Capilla del Mariscal, and Montanez the grand statue
of St. Hermenegildo in his chapel. On the west side
of the Puerta de San Cristobal, over a small altar, is
the " Generacion " of Luis de Vargas — the much

58



The Pearl of Andalusia

praised "leg" picture which has given its name to the
chapel. The fresco of St. Christopher that faces it is
remarkable only for its size. You find such pictures
of the saint at the entrances to many Spanish churches,
the old belief having been that those who gazed upon
it would not die unpreparedly that day. A much
more ancient and interesting mural painting in the
Byzantine style is to be seen in the large chapel of the
"Antigua," where it was placed in 1578. The retablo
of St, Anne's Chapel is also very old, and comes from
the former cathedral. The next chapel, San Jose, is
adorned by Valdes Leal's " Espousals of the Virgin."
The Cathedral does not contain any fine ancient
tombs. One of the best is that of Archbishop
Mendoza, by Miguel Florentin, in the Antigua
Chapel.

As every visitor to Seville professes a special
devotion to Murillo, he will probably overlook the
fine "Nativity" by Luis de Vargas to the right, on
entering, of the Puerta del Nacimiento, and hurry at
once to the more famous master's " Guardian Angel,"
between Puerta Mayor and Puerta del Bautismo. His
" St. Leander " and " St. Isidore " are to be seen
in the great Sacristy, where they are eclipsed by
Kempener's beautiful " Descent from the Cross,"
before which Murillo himself used to stand for hours
in rapt contemplation. The French cut this priceless
work into five pieces, intending to remove it, and
although their design was frustrated, the subsequent

59



Southern Spain

restoration was badly effected. The Sacristia de los
Calices is a storehouse of art treasures. Here you
may see Goya's " Saint Justa and Saint Rufina," a
" Trinity " by " El Greco," the " Angel de la Guarda "
and "St. Dorothy" of Murillo, the "Death of a
Saint " by Zurbaran, and the superb crucifix of
Montanez. A " Conception " by Murillo is in the
Chapter House, a splendid hall in the Renaissance
style.

In the great Sacristy is preserved the " treasury " of
the Cathedral. It includes a wonderful monstrance
by that prince of goldsmiths, Juan de Arfe ; and
something more interesting in the shape of keys
presented to St. Ferdinand on the surrender of the
city. The key presented by the Jews is iron-gilt and
bears the inscription in Hebrew : " The King of
Kings will open, the King of all earth will enter."
The key offered by the Moors is silver-gilt, and the
Arabic inscription reads : " May Allah render eternal
the dominion of Islam in this city."

Attached to many (if not to all) Spanish cathedrals,
one finds large chapels which are the official parish
churches of the cities — the parochial clergy being
distinct from the diocesan chapter. At Seville, as at
Granada, this chapel is called the " Sagrario," and is
built at the west end of the Patio de los Naranjos and
entered from a door in the north aisle of the Cathedral,
near the Capilla del Bautisterio. Built between 1618
and 1662 by Miguel Zumarraga and Fernando de

60



SEVILLE PATIO DE LOS NARANJOS



The Pearl of Andalusia

Iglesias, the church is in the Baroque style, and roofed
with a single and very daring arch. The rich statues
that adorn the interior are by Dayne and Jose de Arce.
There is a notable retablo by Pedro Roldan that came
from a Franciscan convent now suppressed. In one
of the side chapels is a fine " Virgin " by Montanez.
Beneath this church the Archbishops of Seville are
now buried.

As we emerge from this vast temple, we remain for
a few seconds dazzled by the sunlight. Then as we
turn to the left we notice a rectangular, classic-looking
building, standing between the Cathedral and the walls
of the Alcazar. This is one of the numerous deserted
Lonjas or Exchanges of Spain. The Patio de los
Naranjos was formerly infested by the merchants and
brokers of the city, to the great scandal of the devout.
Archbishop de Rojas prevailed upon Philip II. to erect
an Exchange or Casa de Contratacion, as Sir Thomas
Gresham had just done in London. The building was
begun in 1598, at precisely the moment when the
commerce of Seville began to decline. It reflects the
spirit of Philip II. and of his architect, Herrera — stern,
sober, simple. There is a fine inner court, with Doric
and Ionic columns. Here the South American archives
are deposited, a rich mine for some future historian
who shall have the patience to examine them. As an
exchange, the Lonja soon proved a failure. It was
early deserted by business men, and is best remembered
as the seat of Murillo's Academy of Painters.

61



Southern Spain

The spacious days of Charles V. and Philip II. were
productive of innumerable public buildings, mostly in a
quasi-Roman style and all very pompous and oppressive.
The Town-hall or Ayuntamiento of Seville is an
extremely ornate structure, in what is called the
plateresque or Spanish Renaissance style. It stands in
the Plaza de la Constitucion, where the electric cars
perform intricate evolutions. Its effect is lost through
its being placed on the ground level, without terrace,
steps, or approach, or even railings to prevent inquisitive
urchins staring in at the windows. The building is long
and remarkably narrow, and of two storeys. I have
seldom seen a public building more elaborately adorned
or more badly placed. The interior is more satisfactory.
The lower council chamber is a magnificent hall, worthy,
as a Spanish writer remarks, of the Senate of a great
republic. A noble staircase, with a fine ceiling, leads
to the upper council chamber, which has some splendid
artesonado work. Opposite — that is, on the east side
of — this building is the Audiencia or Court-house,
where I whiled away a hot afternoon by assisting at a
Spanish trial. The case was of no particular interest,
but the differences in the procedure and constitution of
the court from our own were worth noting. There
were three judges, who wore black silk gowns, without
wigs or bands. Over their heads was the arms of Spain,
and on the desk, facing the president, a large crucifix.
The jury sat on chairs on each side of the judges. A
desk was reserved for the public prosecutor, another

62



The Pearl of Andalusia

for the prisoner's advocate. The judges took far less
part in the proceedings than they do in France. The


1 2 4 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13

Online LibraryAlbert Frederick CalvertSouthern Spain → online text (page 4 of 13)