Spain


For the final day on our brief visit to Sevilla, here’s another Glimpses of the World photo, which shows a panoramic view of the beautiful city:

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The book’s caption for this photo reads: “From the summit of the old Moorish spire, the Giralda [the tall spire in the photo above, originally a minaret and now the cathedral’s bell tower], the view of Sevilla is one of exquisite beauty. Clasping it in beauty, like a silver girdle, is that stately river, whose Moorish name (the Guadalquiver) sounds, even when pronounced in English, like a strain of music. It is a very ancient city, famous for distinguished men, lovely women, palm trees and orange groves, charming courtyards, fine churches, and many rare paintings by Murillo and Velasquez. From Sevilla two of the most celebrated Roman emperors, Hadrian and Trajan, went forth to wear the imperial purple of the world. Here the gifted Moors reigned for many centuries in splendor. Each house in Sevilla, however plain its exterior may be, will have its pretty courtyard paved with marble and enclosed by walls enameled with glazed tiles. In these charming patios occur in the soft delightful evenings of Sevilla the little informal social parties, which render a residence here agreeable. A few modern squares are to be found here, but it is often unpleasant to cross their broad expanse of fiery sunlight, and the narrow, Moorish streets, into which the sun only fully enters for an hour at noon, seem better suited to its climate.”

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From among the many photos I took in Sevilla in 2010 here, first, is one of the Giralda and a bit of the city’s massive cathedral.

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And as you can see here, the view from the Giralda (the first photo is from one of the windows on the climb up the tower, and the other two are from the top) is still one of “exquisite beauty,” as our book’s authors claimed 120 years ago.

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In this photo, the complex with the crenellated wall is the Real Alcázar, which we peered inside in yesterday’s post.

Even though Semana Santa and Easter are behind us, I think we’ll stay in Sevilla for a couple more days.

Going back to our Glimpses of the World book, here’s a late-nineteenth-century interior photo of the Real Alcázar … which is remarkable because the rooms are shown furnished.

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The book’s caption for this photo says: “The Alcázar (a name derived from Al Kasr, the “house of Caesar”) is a Moorish palace, begun when Arabian Caliphs ruled in Spain in 1181. It was, however, largely rebuilt by the [fourteenth-century] Christian sovereign, Pedro the Cruel. The room portrayed in this illustration is the boudoir of Maria de Padilla, the beautiful lady whom Pedro loved and secretly married. … The Alcázar of Sevilla is in some respects more beautiful than the Alhambra. At all events its Moorish ornamentation has suffered less from the ravages of Time and Man. Its exquisite tile-work and the stucco tapestry of its walls are like mantles of finely woven lace. Behind this palace are lovely gardens, laid out by Charles V, and abounding in myrtle hedges and orange groves, bright with their glistening leaves and fruit of gold. The windows of this apartment command a view of those gardens, and no doubt the beautiful Maria de Padilla has often looked out upon their charming terraces and breathed their perfume-laden air.”

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If you were to tour the Real Alcázar today, you could wander through gorgeous — but empty — rooms, and lovely courtyards and gardens.

Here are a few glimpses of the elaborately beautiful walls and doorways in the Real Alcázar, which I took in 2010:

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If you’re still following along with my trip back to Spain for Holy Week, here is a lovely (about half-an-hour-long) video of a portion of the Easter Sunday “Resurrection” procession in Sevilla. Each procession has two pasos: one that depicts a particular point in the Holy Week story, and one that features an elaborately dressed Virgin Mary. The pasos, many of them hundreds of years old, are carried along their route by a multitude of men who are underneath the paso. The points in the videos you may’ve watched from Friday’s post and in this one, where the paso stops, is when those men have a bit of a break. Then you can sometimes hear the bang of a doorknocker-type contraption that is the signal for the men to hoist the paso back up and begin its “dance” down the street. All of this is unbelievably impressive in person, especially given their size and apparent weight, but you can get a feel for it from these various videos.

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When I followed this particular procession on Easter Sunday 2011, the candles on the Virgin’s paso had burned way down and were dripping wax rather alarmingly by the third time I saw her, in the early afternoon. And I think people on balconies along the route must toss rose petals onto the fabric of the canopy as she passes by, because by that third time I saw her, petals came floating down every time the paso was hoisted back up.

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Again, if the embedded video won’t play, click here to watch it on YouTube.

Today, I wanted to share with you what is probably my favorite of the photos I took when I was in Sevilla for Semana Santa in 2011:

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And, then, the interior of the same church … I took these photos in 2010:

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(I’m going off topic for the next couple of days. If Spain’s Holy Week celebrations aren’t something that interests you, please check back in on Monday!)

We’re nearing the end of Holy Week, and I’ve been reminiscing about Semana Santa. Having studied medieval history (which is, in many respects, the history of religion) in college, and with my affinity for Spain, and with my parents having lived there for a couple of years … I’d known about and heard stories of the various Semana Santa (Holy Week) processions for quite a long time. And even though I’m not Catholic, I really, really wanted to see the spectacle in person.

Two years ago, I finally made it to Sevilla at the right time to be able to see some of them for myself. And, of course (as it always seems to do when I’m in Sevilla), it rained. So much so, in fact, that most of the processions were cancelled. If you’ve been reading the blog for a while and remember back to the week before Easter in 2011, you’ll know that I did catch a bit of one procession that managed to go out between rainstorms on Saturday. And then I was lucky enough to see the glorious Easter Sunday procession several times … basically following it around town as it wound slowly from its home church, to the cathedral, and back again. Each of these processions, I’ve been told, typically lasts about ten hours.

None of the many stories I’d heard about Semana Santa, though, had truly prepared me for the experience: the scent of incense, the massive crowds, the eerie music, and the huge, elaborate pasos.

If you’d like to see and hear just a bit of it for yourself, here are snippets of two Good Friday processions, one from 2008 and one from 2010:

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If these embedded videos won’t play on your computer, click here and here to view them on YouTube.

Yesterday was the Royal Andalusian Carriage Club’s annual carriage exhibition in the bullring in Seville, Spain. I say it’s an annual event, but this was the first time since 2008 that it was actually held as planned.

The first year that we had a CAA trip to Seville, in 2009, to visit private carriage collections and the feria and to see the carriage exhibition, the exhibition was rained out and cancelled.

The next year, I went back to Seville again, to try to see exhibition. Again. Believe it or not, it was rained out. Again!

Last year, we had another CAA group in Seville, to visit more carriage collections and, we hoped, to finally see the carriage exhibition.

But what happened? Rain. Again. The sand surface of the bullring was deemed too wet to accommodate all the horses and carriages, so the exhibition turned into a hastily organized parade in the street (you can see more photos here). The parade was impressive and beautiful.

But after three tries, I still haven’t managed to see the carriage exhibition in the bullring.

I’ve heard that yesterday’s weather was perfect, so I’m looking forward to seeing photos of this year’s event!

UPDATE: Almost as soon as I posted this, Bart sent a link to sixteen gorgeous photos from yesterday’s exhibition. Thanks, Bart!

As I mentioned yesterday, the Carthusian (oldest, purest) strain of Spanish horses was bred — starting in the fifteenth century — by the Carthusian monks who lived and worked at this monastery:

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The horse-breeding operation is now carried out at a modern facility farther outside of town, and this former monastery is now, we were told, a private convent. Sadly, it’s not open to the public, so we could merely admire the facade and imagine how ornate and beautiful it must be on the inside.

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