Catedral de Santa María de la Sede, Catedral de Sevilla or simply Seville Cathedral if you are not a native Spanish speaker, should be on your “must see” list in Seville.
It is the third oldest in Europe behind St. Paul’s Cathedral in London and St. Peter’s Bascilia in Rome, and took over a century to build. The Cathedral is known for it’s Gothic design and influence. It’s also unique because it was built on the site of a grand Almohad Mosque. If you are an architecture wonk, you’ll notice it and has the same rectangular base-plan. In fact, two parts of the mosque were preserved when Christian architects began construction: the entrance court (called Patio de los Naranjos) and the Giralda, which was converted to a bell tower.
Two things made this visit memorable and unique. They were both accidental, making it hard for me to give exact details to replicate this during your own visit.
We discovered while in the bell tower that it is, in fact, an operational bell tower. After getting over the shock of these enormous bells going off over our head, it was quite a spectacle to watch them effortlessly toll and chime around the tower. While this is tough on the ears (especially after spending my younger years rocking out at concerts), it is amazing.
Again, completely by accident, we happened to be visiting the Cathedral the day of a special parade and service. I’m not catholic and won’t even pretend to know what it was about. However, watching the processional from the bell tower and then seeing them slowly enter the Cathedral was a treat. Often times we forget Cathedrals, Mosque’s, etc., especially ones built so long ago, are places of worship.
Finding the Cathedral is pretty easy, it’s really the heart of the Santa Cruz neighborhood. Self guided audio tours are available when you purchase your ticket, although any guidebook is just as informative. Even you don’t want to be serenaded by bells, make sure your ticket includes a visit to La Giralda.
Fun Fact: The Tomb of Christopher Columbus resides at Seville Cathedral. (He was originally buried in the Cathedral of Havana, on the island he discovered during his first voyage in 1492. In the chaos of the Cuban revolution, Spain transferred his remains to Seville.) Photos are permitted throughout the Cathedral.