Copyright
Albert Frederick Calvert.

Southern Spain online

. (page 5 of 13)
Online LibraryAlbert Frederick CalvertSouthern Spain → online text (page 5 of 13)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


case seemed to be left entirely to the public prosecutor,
who, it is just to say, allowed the accused to make long
rambling statements, without the least attempt to
interrupt or confuse him. The public at the rear of
the court appeared to take far more interest in the
proceedings than any immediately concerned in them.

The Plaza de la Constitucion, outside the court, is
the place of execution. But the death penalty is very
rarely inflicted in Spain. Two or three years ago the
Crown could find no pretext for pardoning two
particularly atrocious murderers, who were accordingly
put to death by the garrote in this square. The
people of Seville, not being accustomed like the more
enlightened Britons to some two dozen executions a
year, showed their sense of the awful occurrence and
of the disgrace to their city by donning the deepest
mourning.

But the stranger does not come to Seville to visit
courts or to hear about public executions — unless
these happened two or three centuries ago, when as
Sir W. S. Gilbert somewhere observes, they are
looked at through the glamour of romance. The
searcher for the beautiful is usually rewarded
here by finding it in unexpected corners of the
monotonous labyrinth of lanes and alleys. Plunging
into the maze of white-walled dwellings in the north-
eastern quarter of the city, a minaret only less

63



Southern Spain

beautiful than the Giralda seems to beckon us from
afar. It appears and reappears, and we lose our
way a dozen times before we stand at its foot. It
is a beautiful tower in the purest Almohade or
Mauritanian style, without any features borrowed
from Christian architecture. The highest edifice, this,
in Seville, except the Giralda. From its summit
Cervantes used to scan the streets below, at certain
hours of the day, for the form of a local beauty of
whom he was enamoured. Here, of course, stood a
mosque in Mussulman days, on the site of the
adjacent church of San Marcos. The portal is very
fine, but the Moorish features are the work of
Mudejar and not Almohade artisans.

We wander on, and are presently surprised by the

superb frontal of the convent church of Santa Paula.

It is faced with white and blue azulejos, the work of

Francesco of Pisa and Pedro Millan, Over the arch

are disposed seven medallions illustrating the birth of

Christ and the life of St. Paul, the figures white on

a blue ground. On the tympanum of the arch is

displayed the Spanish coat of arms in white marble,

flanked by the escutcheons of the inevitable and

ubiquitous Ferdinand and Isabella. Having seen this,

it is hardly worth our while to enter the church, which

contains the tombs of the founders, Dom Joao de

Henriquez, Constable of Portugal, and his wife

Donha Isabel. In the same quarter of the city,

though some distance away, is a monument of some

64



SEVILLE PLAZA DE SAN FERNANDO



The Pearl of Andalusia

interest — the church of Omnium Sanctorum, built in
1356 on the site of a Roman temple. Here again
there is a tower graceful enough, in its lower storey
recalling the Giralda. The church exhibits a rather
happy combination of the Moorish and Gothic styles.
On one of the doors is the coat of arms of Portugal,
commemorating the pious generosity of Diniz, king
of that country. This must have belonged to the
earlier structure.

Finding your way back to the Sierpes, you may
inspect the interesting Church of the University.
Here repose the members of the illustrious Ribera
family, which looms very large in the history of Seville.
Their remains were brought hither on the suppression
of the Cartuja, outside the town. The oldest tomb is
that of the eldest Ribera, who died in 1423, aged 105.
He thus lived through the reigns of Alfonso XL,
Pedro the Cruel, Enrique II., Juan I., Enrique III.,
and Juan II., yet, as is usually the case with
centenarians, he failed to engrave his name as
deeply on history as did some of his shorter lived
descendants.

The famous Duke of Alcala, the owner of the Casa
de Pilatos, is commemorated by a fine bronze effigy
— one of the few sepulchral monuments of this kind
in Spain. At the feet of Don Lorenzo Figueroa a dog
is sculptured, most probably the symbol of fidelity,
but some say, his favourite. Over the altar are three
good pictures by Roelas, one of the ablest interpreters

6s 9



Southern Spain

of the Andalusian spirit. Here, too, are a couple of
works by Alonso Cano, " St. John the Baptist " and
" St. John the Divine." The statue of St. Ignatius
Loyola by Montanez is said to be a faithful likeness of
the saint. It was coloured by Pacheco the Inquisitor.

The adjacent University was originally a Jesuit
college, and was built in the middle of the sixteenth
century, after designs by Herrera. It is not very well
attended to-day, and from the outside would be taken
for an inconsiderable college. It seems to have been
much more flourishing a hundred years ago, when our
countryman Blanco White attended its courses. The
original university was founded by Canon Rodrigo de
Santuella in 1472, in the Colegio Maese Rodrigo, near
the Cathedral.

From the last resting-place of the Riberas in the
centre of the town it is not far to their old home, the
Casa de Pilatos, though Daedalus himself might easily
get lost in this labyrinth of streets resembling each
other as closely as those of an American city. The
names of some of these thoroughfares — Francos,
Gallegos, Genoves — remind us of the days of St.
Ferdinand, when the room of the banished Moors
was filled by settlers, not only from all parts of Spain,
but from the rest of Europe. It was the same with
all the towns resumed by the Spaniards. These
foreign colonies had their own laws and customs, and
yet they were entirely absorbed by the natives and left
no trace or influence behind them. The Spaniards

66



The Pearl of Andalusia

possessed, in those days at any rate, the same
wonderful capacity for the absorption of other races
displayed by the Anglo-Saxons in America. There
was nothing new in this ; for they had absorbed
the Visigoths, just as they had absorbed the Romans
before them. The Castilian tongue is indeed Latin,
but I fancy that the people of Spain are as much
the children of the soil — autochthones — as the Athenians
themselves.

Reflections like these — which I do not expect will
profoundly influence ethnologists — occupied me as I
pursued my tortuous course to the Casa de Pilatos.
When I at last found it, I was struck by the plain and
dignified exterior. To the left of the door I observed
a plain cross of jasper. The story goes that in
October, 1521, the Marquis de Tarifa, on his return
from a pilgrimage to Jerusalem, placed this cross against
the wall and counted thence the fourteen stations of
the Cross, according to their order in the Holy City.
The last fortuitously coincided with the Cruz del
Campo, raised near the Canos de Carmona in 1482.
I doubt if the marquis had any such thought when
he raised this jasper cross, for the distance from the
Praetorium at Jerusalem to the chapel in the Church of
the Holy Sepulchre that marks the site of Calvary is
greatly less than the distance between the two points
mentioned here in Seville. But why the house was
called after Pilate is not easy to determine. It was
begun in 1500 and finished thirty-three years after by

67



Southern Spain

Don Per Afan de Ribera, first Duke of Alcala, and
sometime Viceroy of Naples. This great nobleman
was the Maecenas of his generation. Not only did he
enrich his house with priceless works of art and a fine
library — since removed to Madrid — but he made it
the rendezvous of all the art and talent of Andalusia.
Hither came Gongora, the poet, to converse, it is said,
with Cervantes. Here Pacheco, the artist-inquisitor,
discussed the mission of art with Herrera. Here
came Rioja, Cespedes, Jauregui, and others of less
note. The example set by the Medici was followed
by many of the great grandees of Spain at this time.
The Velascos presided over a coterie of literati at
Burgos ; the Duke of Villahermosa, at Zaragoza,
affected to delight in the company of the brilliant and
learned. Even so small a place as Plasencia had its
own patron of the arts in Don Luis de Avila, and in
Madrid there was " the feast of reason and the flow of
soul " at the mansion of Don Antonio Perez. But for
all its associations, like the Alcazar, the Casa de Pilatos
remains very much like a museum.

The building illustrates the fashion of the Mudejar
and Renaissance styles, almost to the effacement of the
former. In the architecture of this epoch we usually
find an Arabic groundwork nearly concealed by
ornament of the newer style. The geometrical designs
remain, but the flowing inscriptions, so important a
feature of Moorish decoration, have gone. A thousand
details would show the veriest tyro that this was not

68



SEVILLE CASA DE PILATOS



The Pearl of Andalusia

the work of Moors, yet the central court bears
a general resemblance to the Alcazar. Pedro de
Madrazo directs attention to the harmonious variety
of the arches and windows, and compares it to the
admired disorder of the forest and plantation. I
imagine the architect had the Court of the Lions, at
Granada, in his mind. Here dolphins uphold the
upper basin of the fountain, and noble statues of the
deities of Greece and Rome — the gift of Pope Pius V.
— stand in the angles of the court. Hence you pass
into the so-called Prastorium, with its splendid coffered
ceiling and beautiful tiling, where you may distinguish
the Spanish azulejos of the best moulds by the designs
stamped on them of fanciful monsters, grotesques, and
escutcheons. Then there is the superb staircase with
its " half-orange " ceiling, and the chapel with its
mixed Gothic and Mudejar features. What grandee
in Europe has a finer home than this ? And yet, I am
told the owner. His Grace of Medinaceli, comes here
but seldom.

There are many old mansions in Seville worth a
walk on a cool day — and a glimpse. They are not
great sights, such as those we have already seen in
the city, or such as are more numerous in Paris and
Rome, Brussels and Venice. But those visitors who
are really interested in Seville, and are capable of
appreciating Moorish and plateresque art in their
various imitations and combinations, will enjoy these
little excursions. There is an interesting old house at

69



Southern Spain

No. 6, Abades. It is now a boarding-house, and you
may live there in princely fashion for six francs a day.
No one knows how old it is. It belonged at the
beginning of the fifteenth century to a family of
Genoese merchants called Pinelo. In 1407 the Infante
Fadrique, uncle of Juan II., lodged there. What was
the occasion of his visit to Seville I forget. Afterwards
it became the property of the " abbes " or " abades "
of the Cathedral. Many of these reverend gentlemen
still patronize the establishment, and may be seen
puffing their " Puros " in the court, which is said to be
a fine example of the Sevillian Renaissance style.
That style I conceive to have been compounded
of all pre-existing styles. Digby Wyatt, however,
considered the house to be much more Italian than
Spanish. It is a vast place, where dark corridors seem
to lead indefinitely into space.

There is rather less to reward your curiosity at the
Palacio de las Duenas, a vast mansion belonging to the
Duke of Alba. Once it boasted eleven " patios," with
nine fountains and one hundred columns of marble.
A fine court, surrounded by a graceful arcade, remains.
The staircase recalls that of the Casa de Pilatos. Our
countryman Lord Holland stayed here a hundred
years ago. He was a great admirer of Spanish
literature at a time when it was hardly as much a
matter of interest to foreigners as it is at present.

Then there is the Casa de Bustos Tavera, where,
according to Lope de Vega, Sancho the Brave used to

70



The Pearl of Andalusia

visit the " Star of Seville " ; and the Casa Olea, in the
Calle Guzman el Bueno, with a hall of Mudejar
workmanship dating from the days of Don Pedro.

It is the romantic aspect of Seville that has impressed
some visitors much more than its historical or archaeo-
logical side. Over the poets and dramatists of the
Romantic school the city exercised a strange fascination.
Byron and Alfred de Musset found the atmosphere of
the place most congenial. Through their rose-coloured
spectacles every girl they met in these narrow white
streets seemed " preternaturally pretty." The principal
business of the inhabitants in the 'twenties and 'thirties
of last century, to judge by the French poet's descriptions,
was love-making, strumming the guitar, and duelling.
That Spain was ever a romantic country in the vulgarly
accepted sense of the term, I doubt. Roman Catholic
customs and institutions forbid that free intermingling
of the sexes from which result the thousand and one
emotions, complications, situations, and catastrophes
that are the ingredients of romance. In countries like
Spain, where the canon law obtained, there could be,
for instance, no runaway matches, no desperate flights
in a post-chaise to a church (say) over the Portuguese
border, with an irate father in pursuit. There could
not have been, and cannot be at the present time, any
walks with the beloved down the moonlit grove, any
trysts by the stile or the ruined keep, any rendezvous
among the rose-bushes. If a Spanish girl did any of
these things, she would indeed, in French parlance,

71



Southern Spain

have thrown her cap over the mill. The affair would
no longer have the complexion of a romance but of a
sordid intrigue. This being so, I was delighted to hear
that occasionally clandestine marriages are resorted to
in Spain, and that fond lovers find a means of uniting
in defiance of stern parents, even in Andalusia. The
couple, accompanied by a few friends, contrive to sit
next to each other in church, as far out of sight of the
rest of the worshippers as possible. Their troths are
plighted in an undertone just loud enough for the
witnesses to hear, the ring slipped on under cover of
the mantilla, and the hands joined at the precise moment
the all-unconscious celebrant turns towards the congre-
gation at the end of the mass and pronounces the
benediction. In the eyes of the Church the two are
married as irrevocably as if the Cardinal Lord Arch-
bishop of Toledo had performed the ceremony. The
vows have been exchanged before witnesses in a sacred
edifice, and an anointed priest has simultaneously
blessed the contracting parties from the altar. What
can parents do ? The Don may rage, the Dona may
upbraid, but when the Church makes itself an
accomplice of lovers, even in Spain the law must
acquiesce. And there is no divorce !

That genuine romance tinges the lives of Spanish
men and women, few who know them can doubt. But
the Andalusia of musical comedy, the creation of which
is largely due to the poets of the Romantic school, does
not exist. Seville never was a glorified Cremorne ; and

72



SEVILLE CASA DE PILATOS



The Pearl of Andalusia

persons of a Byronic turn would find adventures suitable
to their mood more readily by the banks of the Thames
and the Hudson than by those of the Guadalquivir.

For all that, some romantic stories are told about old
Seville, and one of these has some foundation of truth.
About the middle of the seventeenth century, the city
re-echoed with reports of the wild and desperate doings
of a certain wealthy gallant, Don Miguel de Marana by
name. By some he is called De Manara. Marriage
with the heiress of the Mendoza family did not sober
him, though an alliance with so solemn a thing as money
generally brings the most hot-headed Latin youth to his
senses. Like many other wicked persons, our gallant
had a nice taste in art, and is said to have encouraged
Murillo. Now comes the remarkable and the improving
part of the story. It is not safe to vouch for the
accuracy of the details of any part of it. One morning
Seville woke up to find — no doubt to her unspeakable
consolation — the wicked De Marana a changed man.
He became a saint — an ascetic in the seventeenth-
century acceptation of the word. The wine-bibber
forswore even chocolate as too strong a beverage.

What had happened to produce so edifying a
change } Accounts vary. The most picturesque
explanation is that the Don, prowling about the
streets one night, perceived a funeral procession
approaching. Curiosity impelled him to look at the
face of the corpse, which was uncovered, and lo ! it
was his own.

73



Southern Spain

If you doubt the sincerity of Don Miguel's
conversion, you have only to visit the Church of
La Caridad, which, together with the adjoining
hospital, he founded and wherein he was buried. I
do not think you will share the opinion of
Sir W. Stirling- Maxwell that this is the most elegant
church in Seville, but you will be rewarded for the
visit by seeing some very remarkable works of art.
Near the entrance are the two extraordinary pictures
which proclaim the artist, Valdes Leal, to have been a
master of realism. One of these exhibits a corpse at
which, Murillo declared, you must look with your
nostrils shut. The church contains six canvases by
Murillo himself—" Moses Striking the Rock," " The
Miracle of the Loaves and Fishes," " The Charity
of St. Juan de Dios," " The Annunciation," " The
Infant Jesus," and " St. John." The third is really
the finest of these pictures, though the first, commonly
called " La Sed " (Thirst), is the most generally
preferred. The figures are, as usual in this master's
compositions, ordinary Seville types. Over the altar
is another great work, " The Descent from the
Cross," by Pedro Roldan.

The " Caridad " has indeed the most important
collection of pictures in southern Spain, next to the
Museo, as the old Convent of La Merced is now
called. There, of course, some of the greatest works
of art by Spanish masters are to be seen. There you
may see the " St. Thomas of Villanueva " giving

74



The Pearl of Andalusia

alms, Murillo's favourite picture ; his beautiful
" St. Felix of Cantalicio," and " St. Leander and
St. Buenaventura," and his famous " Virgen de la
Servilleta " which was not painted on a serviette. On
the south wall hangs his " Saints Justa and Rufina "
(holding the Giralda), exquisitely coloured, and on the
north wall the admirable " St. Anthony de Padua."
But one grows a little weary of Murillo in Seville.
Zurbaran, the great painter of monks, is well
represented by the wonderful " St. Hugh in the
Refectory," and " Apotheosis of St. Thomas Aquinas."
This last picture, I am told, was carried off by Soult,
and recovered by Wellington at Waterloo. The older
Herrera's " St. Hermenegild " is good, but by no
means Andalusian. The native temper finds more
truthful expression in the works of Roelas, Valdes
Leal, Cespedes and Frutet, which may be studied to
the best advantage here. Curiously enough, the
gallery contains not a single work by Velazquez,
who was born in Seville ; nor any paintings by
Alonso Cano or Luis de Vargas. Spanish sculpture, of
which one sees so little, is not unworthily represented
by a beautiful St. Bruno by Montanez, and by some
busts and crucifixes of less importance. The students
of Andalusian art must also visit the Hospital de la
Sangre, near the Macarena Gate, for some splendid
works by Zurbaran and by his less-known forerunner
Roelas. The three pictures ascribed to the last named
are, however, very awkwardly placed and difficult to see.

75



Southern Spain

Murillo's house is still standing in the Plaza de
Alfaro in the old Ghetto. Here he died on
April 3, 1682, after his fall from the scaffolding
at Cadiz. His studio is shown filled with several
undoubted works of his brush. The house belongs
to the executors of the late Dean Cepero.

The Duke de Montpensier has a fine collection of
pictures at his ugly Palace of St. Telmo, near the
Torre del Oro. Among them is included a sketch by
our late Queen, when she was still a princess. The
palace looks on a parade which is much resorted to by
the Sevillanos in the summer months. Here you see
the boys playing at the inevitable bull-fight. One
who takes the part of toro has a real bull's horns with
which he " gores " his comrades with great ferocity.
The insistence on this brutal " sport " among the
Andalusians has taken the form of acute monomania.
Exasperated strangers have been heard to declare that
in southern Spain you hear of but two things —
Toros y Moros. In another corner of the promenade,
you will come upon a party of little girls going
through the peculiar and stately dances, or rather
measures, of their country, to the accompaniment of a
low chant and a clapping of hands, in which the boys,
looking on from a distance, will join. Boys and girls,
unless they are quite babies, are seldom seen together.
You pass on and find a group of citizens seated at the
little tables round a kiosk, refreshing themselves with
lemonade and being entertained by a conjuror — a fine-

76



The Pearl of Andalusia

looking man — who sends round the hat after every
two or three tricks. In the ordinary way you are
asked for alms more often than in Granada, but not,
of course, to anything like the same extent as in
London. English travellers are given to commenting
on the mendicity in foreign cities, but I must confess
that nowhere have I met with so many beggars as in
our own capital. In Spain the fraternity chiefly haunt
the steps of churches, the one spot in our happy
country that they seem to avoid.

We reach the beginning of the Delicias Gardens,
which extend two or three miles southward along the
river bank. All the rank and fashion of Seville —
and a great deal besides — turns out in summer
evenings to drive in the Delicias. The concourse of
vehicles is immense, but reminded me rather of the
return from the Derby than of Rotten Row. The
great ambition of the Spaniard is to possess a
conveyance, and he seems to care little how dilapidated
or ancient it may be, so long as it goes on wheels.
Side by side with the handsome equipages of the
Sevillian aristocracy, you will see a wretched Rosinante
painfully dragging what I took to be the original "one-
hoss shay," or the carriage in which Lord Ferrers was
driven to the scaffold. It is impossible to restrain a
smile, but after all a conveyance is a real necessity in a
climate like this, and if a man cannot afford a good
carriage, he must needs put up with a bad one. The
traffic is well regulated by mounted police. The foot-

77



Southern Spain

paths are also crowded, and when night falls, everyone
adjourns to the numerous open-air cafes and kiosks to
drink light beer and lemonade. Sober, steady Spain !
How certain of our reformers at home would love
you, if they but knew you ! Where in the world
(except in the East) are men more abstemious or
women more staid and demure ?

If you wish (as of course, being a modern traveller,
you are sure to do) to study the life of the people,
you had better betake yourself to the other end of the
city — to the Alameda de Hercules, so called after two
columns which the natives believe were presented by
that muscular demigod. Here a perpetual fair seems
in progress. There are the usual booths, with fat
ladies, boneless wonders, and dwarfs, and more
questionable exhibitions. On a platform sat three
depressed and underfed wretches, who, I thought,
were to be immediately garrotted. Suddenly one
sprang up and gave a very clever rendering of the
arrival and departure of a train at a country station.
He was vociferously applauded, and, thus encouraged,
danced a sort of " cellar-flap " with great animation to
the indispensable accompaniment of hand-clapping. In
a popular assembly of Andalusian town and country
folk, the modern observer ought, I am well aware, to
find many extraordinary and significant phases of
humanity, exhibiting the striking individuality of the
people, their race-consciousness, their psychological
import, their evolutional significance, and so forth. I

78



SEVILLE GARDEN OF THE CASA DE PILATOS



The Pearl of Andalusia

blush to confess that in the crowds applauding the
ventriloquist or gaping at the fat lady, I saw only a
collection of good-humoured ordinary people, enjoying
themselves much after the fashion of ordinary people
in England.

Perhaps the Sevillano is more his real self on these
occasions than when disporting himself at the world-
famous fair, which begins on the Monday after Easter


1 2 3 5 7 8 9 10 11 12 13

Online LibraryAlbert Frederick CalvertSouthern Spain → online text (page 5 of 13)