Day 11: Spain – A Day in Sevilla

The Ladies ready for a busy day in Sevilla

The Ladies ready for a busy day in Sevilla

We began our day with a trip to the Museum of Fine Arts. The museum is located in a former convent. The building was built in 1594, and the museum was founded in 1839. In the 1830s, the government of Spain seized and shuttered many of the monasteries and convents scattered around the country. Many of the valuable paintings were saved and hidden by the monks until they could be redisplayed in the museum a few years later. The museum contains a healthy dose of Murillo and Zurbarán, along with several other Spanish artists.

A wonderful Annunciation:  The Father (upper left) sends the Holy Spirit (the dove) to overshadow Mary bringing about the incarnation of the Son (the little baby with the cross in the midst of the beam of light on his way into Mary's womb)

A wonderful Annunciation: The Father (upper left) sends the Holy Spirit (the dove) to overshadow Mary bringing about the incarnation of the Son (the little baby with the cross in the midst of the beam of light on his way into Mary’s womb)

Three details from a Last Judgement:  This, the first, a picture of the resurrection

Three details from a Last Judgement: This, the first, a picture of the resurrection

Heaven:  The souls of the saved are ushered into everlasting peace.

Heaven: The souls of the saved are ushered into everlasting peace.

Hell:  A monster opens his fiery mouth as demons drag damned souls into Hell

Hell: A monster opens his fiery mouth as demons drag damned souls into Hell

I've seen many paintings of the penitent, Jerome, but this is the first sculpture of the subject I've seen

I’ve seen many paintings of the penitent, Jerome, but this is the first sculpture of the subject I’ve seen

The courtyard of the Museum of Fine Arts.

The courtyard of the Museum of Fine Arts.

The beautiful nave what was once the monastery's church, now filled with fine art.

The beautiful nave what was once the monastery’s church, now filled with fine art.

The crossing of the transept and the nave (ceiling)

The crossing of the transept and the nave (ceiling)

From there, we walked to the Plaza de Toros de la Real Maestranza de Caballería de Sevilla (The Seville bullfighting ring, which hosts world-famous bullfighting). Unfortunately (or, fortunately), the full fighting season recently ended. The season runs from Easter Sunday through October. Although we couldn’t experience the bullfight, we, at least, were able to visit the museum and walk out into the arena where the fight takes place. It was very interesting, although I think it would be difficult to watch such a contest.

Walking through the halls of the Bullring

Walking through the halls of the Bullring

Entrance to the Bullfighting Museum in the Sevilla Bullring

Entrance to the Bullfighting Museum in the Sevilla Bullring

This fine-looking bovine is considered to be the greatest bull in Seville bullfighting history.

This fine-looking bovine is considered to be the greatest bull in Seville bullfighting history.

The gate through which the bullfighter enters the bullring

The gate through which the bullfighter enters the bullring

Inside the ring, looking at the bull gate, from which the bull enters the ring

Inside the ring, looking at the bull gate, from which the bull enters the ring

In the Seville Bullring

In the Seville Bullring

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Just a few blocks from the bullring, sits the grand Seville Cathedral, the largest Gothic church in the world. When it was completed in the 1500s, it stripped the Hagia Sophia (in Istanbul) of its claim to fame as the largest church of any style of architecture in the world. At this time, it is the third largest. It’s other claim to fame is as the church in which the remains of Christopher Columbus reside. Columbus was 54 years old when he died in 1506 in Velladolid, Spain. He was initially buried there, but then his remains were moved to Seville. From there, they were taken to the Dominican Republic, as Columbus had requested. They were then moved to Cuba, and, finally, back to Seville when Cuba became independent from Spain. Columbus, a renowned world traveler, is said to have traveled as much dead as he did alive!

The Seville Cathedral

The Seville Cathedral

The tallest altarpiece ever?  This altarpiece of the high altar is 65' tall (the height of Beatitude's mast) and contains 44 scenes from the lives of Jesus and Mary carved from walnut and chestnut, and covered with unreal amounts of gold leaf

The tallest altarpiece ever? This altarpiece of the high altar is 65′ tall (the height of Beatitude’s mast) and contains 44 scenes from the lives of Jesus and Mary carved from walnut and chestnut, and covered with unreal amounts of gold leaf

The interior of the Cathedral was undergoing a lot of renovation.  Looking through the choir toward the back of the nave

The interior of the Cathedral was undergoing a lot of renovation. Looking through the choir toward the back of the nave

The Altar de Plata in what would be the transept

The Altar de Plata in what would be the transept

Stained Glass depiction of Seville's two patron saints, Santa Justa and Santa Rufina, killed in Ancient Roman times for their faith.  They are depicted throughout the Cathedral.

Stained Glass depiction of Seville’s two patron saints, Santa Justa and Santa Rufina, killed in Ancient Roman times for their faith. They are depicted throughout the Cathedral.

Looking from the back of the nave, over the choir, to the high altar

Looking from the back of the nave, over the choir, to the high altar

I love the ceiling!

I love the ceiling!

The beautiful burial place of some important bishop in a side chapel

The beautiful burial place of some important bishop in a side chapel

Columbus' final resting place after all of his travels (including his post-mortem ones)

Columbus’ final resting place after all of his travels (including his post-mortem ones)

The tomb of Christopher Columbus

The tomb of Christopher Columbus

In the treasure, Spain's most valuable crown (The Corona de la Virgen de los Reyes) with thousands of tiny precious jewels and the world's largest pearl.

In the treasure, Spain’s most valuable crown (The Corona de la Virgen de los Reyes) with thousands of tiny precious jewels and the world’s largest pearl.

My view of the Cathedral from atop the Giralda Bell tower.

My view of the Cathedral from atop the Giralda Bell tower.

After a quick bite, we finished our sightseeing with a trip to the Hospital de la Caridad (Charity Hospital), which was founded in the 17th century by Don Miguel Mañara. It is still a working charity, so our entry fees went to helping the local poor. Mañara may very well have been the inspiration for the infamous playboy and enthusiastic sinner, Don Juan. (The legend of Don Juan originated from a play set in 17th-century Seville. So, at least, it makes sense.) The founder of the charity was all that and more until his radical change of heart, after which he dedicated his life to worshipping God and helping the poor. We did Don Miguel a favor by stepping on his tomb, which sits at the entrance of the church – right where he requested, so that all who entered would step on him. His tomb states, per his request, that he was “the worst man in the world.” The church in the hospital contained a magnificent Baroque altarpiece and beautiful artwork, including two large paintings by Murillo.

The ladies in the chapel of the Hospital de la Caridad

The ladies in the chapel of the Hospital de la Caridad

The altarpiece of the chapel

The altarpiece of the chapel

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We’ve finally adapted to a Spanish schedule for eating our meals. Cindy and I are usually early dinner eaters (as in, 4-6 p.m.). Here, the restaurants are open from 1-4 p.m. for lunch. They then close for 4 1/2 hours and reopen at 8:30 pm for dinner. So, at 9 p.m. tonight we made our way down to an Italian restaurant on the Alameda for dinner. We enjoyed good food to end a good day in Seville.

The birthday girls in one of their favorite and most frequented sites:  Souvenir Shops

The birthday girls in one of their favorite and most frequented sites: Souvenir Shops

The Alameda de Hércules, built in 1574, on which our hotel is situated

The Alameda de Hércules, built in 1574, on which our hotel is situated

Day 10: Córdoba and Sevilla

Tuesday, the 15th, was a travel day. But, we didn’t let that interfere with our enjoyment of Spain’s wonderful sights. We left our hotel in Toledo earlier than usual so that being in our rental car, a Toyota Yaris, would not be the only thing we did on that day. For three and a half hours, we drove across the central plains of Spain, which are occasionally dissected by mountain ranges. Our ultimate destination was Seville, but we elected to make a stopover in Córdoba, a city in Andalusia, and a major Islamic center in the Middle Ages. It is home to La Mezquita, what must be one of the most unusual churches in the world. The site was home to a 6th century Visigoth church prior to its razing and the construction of a massive and impressive mosque over the top of it in 784. (Muslims invaded and conquered Spain in 711 A.D.) When the Christians reconquered Córdoba, the mosque was converted to a Christian church in 1236. Then, in the 16th century, a large Renaissance Cathedral was built right in the midst of the mosque. This history makes for one unique architectural experience. The mosque was never destroyed, but the church was constructed in the middle of it all. So, when touring the site, one experiences a blend of Islamic and Christian aesthetics in a manner unseen elsewhere. We marveled at both the history and the beauty as we toured La Mezquita.

Next to the Mezquita in Córdoba.  We, of course, visited the souvenir shop. :)

Next to the Mezquita in Córdoba. We, of course, visited the souvenir shop. 🙂

External architecture of the  Mezquita

External architecture of the Mezquita

The mosaic floor of the 6th century Visigoth church which has been excavated beneath the floor of the existence church

The mosaic floor of the 6th century Visigoth church which has been excavated beneath the floor of the existence church

Inside the Mezquita

Inside the Mezquita

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Beatiful ceiling above the Mihrab (the mosque equivalent of a high altar in a Christian church)

Beatiful ceiling above the Mihrab (the mosque equivalent of a high altar in a Christian church)

Mihrab to left amidst other Islamic architecture

Mihrab to left amidst other Islamic architecture

The glorious Renaissance Cathedral erected in the midst of the mosque.  The mosque portion is about 30' high.  The Cathedral portion is 130' high.  This likely says something about the different religions.

The glorious Renaissance Cathedral erected in the midst of the mosque. The mosque portion is about 30′ high. The Cathedral portion is 130′ high. This likely says something about the different religions.

Wonderfully carved wood stalls in the choir.

Wonderfully carved wood stalls in the choir.

The dome of the Cathedral

The dome of the Cathedral

Looking over the choir down the nave to the back of the Cathedral

Looking over the choir down the nave to the back of the Cathedral

The Villaviciosa Chapel of 1236 A.D.  The ceiling visible above; the floor covered with the tombs of nobility.

The Villaviciosa Chapel of 1236 A.D. The ceiling visible above; the floor covered with the tombs of nobility.

Rooms of the 6th century Visigoth church

Rooms of the 6th century Visigoth church

One of the altarpieces in a side chapel

One of the altarpieces in a side chapel

After a quick lunch, we hopped back into our car for the remainder of the drive to Sevilla, where we would spend the next two nights. One hour later we arrived at our hotel, the Patio de la Alameda, which is situated on a busy plaza (La Alameda de Hércules) in the northern portion of the old city. After settling in, I took a short walk to the Basilica de la Macarena (No, they don’t do the Macarena there) to see the gorgeous 17th century Roman Catholic wooden image of the Blessed Virgin Mary, which is especially venerated in Seville, Spain. She is an image in the category of “Our Lady of Sorrows,” depicting the sadness and suffering of the mother of Jesus during the Passion Week. The sculpture with a sorrowful face and five crystal tears dates back to the late 1600s. Her grandeur and brilliance does not disappoint in person.

Hotel Alameda, our home in Sevilla

Hotel Alameda, our home in Sevilla

The interior courtyard of our hotel in Sevilla

The interior courtyard of our hotel in Sevilla

Interior of the beautiful Basilica de la Macarena

Interior of the beautiful Basilica de la Macarena

La Macarena, Seville's most popular image of Mary.

La Macarena, Seville’s most popular image of Mary.

La Macarena, a.k.a., the "Weeping Virgin" for the five crystal teardrops cascading down her face.

La Macarena, a.k.a., the “Weeping Virgin” for the five crystal teardrops cascading down her face.

Another look at the interior

Another look at the interior

Our evening entertainment was of the authentic Sevillian variety. Flamenco is an art form which originated in Andalusia in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. Seville is a hotbed of Flamenco. We chose to attend a performance at the Casa de la Memoria, a former Sephardic Jewish mansion which now hosts one of the most authentic flamenco demonstrations in the city. We were mesmerized by the excellent guitarist and the wonderful dancers and singers. Flamenco is intense! We sat right in front of the stage and cold feel the passion and the heightened state of emotion and expression — the soul (“duende”) — of the performers. Wow!

My dates for a night of Flamenco

My dates for a night of Flamenco

Flamenco at La Casa de la Memoria

Flamenco at La Casa de la Memoria

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We finished our evening with Tapas at a restaurant just off the Alameda. After an excellent meal we retired to our hotel.

Walking back to the hotel afterwards

Walking back to the hotel afterwards

Tapas joint in Sevilla

Tapas joint in Sevilla

Great tapas after the Flamenco show

Great tapas after the Flamenco show

Day 9: Holy Toledo!

The Cathedral of Toledo is one of the world’s greats. It is a high Gothic cathedral which took more than 250 years to build (1226-1493). There are five naves, a transept, and a double ambulatory (passageways behind the main altar). The interior is grand and lofty. There is beauty all around. Upon entering these medieval cathedrals and churches, I always imagine myself to be an average peasant of the times, overwhelmed with the immense size and beauty which transports me to heavenly places. In addition to the magnificent church interior ringed by beautiful chapels, the art contained within would make any museum happy. After sleeping in a little on this morning, we visited just before lunch. Enjoy our photos of this great church!

Toledo Cathedral at Night

Toledo Cathedral at Night

Interior Toledo Cathedral

Interior Toledo Cathedral

Choir exterior, Organ, Interior

Choir exterior, Organ, Interior

A look at the high altar through the wrought-iron grille

A look at the high altar through the wrought-iron grille

Oldest stained-glass window in the Cathedral

Oldest stained-glass window in the Cathedral

The impressive gold on wood altarpiece of the high altar.

The impressive gold on wood altarpiece of the high altar.

Notice the central scenes on the high altarpiece.  Below - The nativity; Central - The assumption of Mary; Above - The crucifixion with the 9 ft. tall Christ

Notice the central scenes on the high altarpiece. Below – The nativity; Central – The assumption of Mary; Above – The crucifixion with the 9 ft. tall Christ

One of the many side-chapels in the cathedral

One of the many side-chapels in the cathedral

The Baroque altarpiece beneath the Transparente (a unique hole cut into the ceiling to allow light into the Cathedral)

The Baroque altarpiece beneath the Transparente (a unique hole cut into the ceiling to allow light into the Cathedral)

Looking into the Sacristy.  The art on its walls is like a mini-Prado with several masterpieces.

Looking into the Sacristy. The art on its walls is like a mini-Prado with several masterpieces.

El Greco's "Spoilation" (Christ being stripped of his garments).  His first masterpiece after arrival in Toledo.  Displayed in the room where priests prepared themselves for the mass.

El Greco’s “Spoilation” (Christ being stripped of his garments). His first masterpiece after arrival in Toledo. Displayed in the room where priests prepared themselves for the mass.

Goya's Betrayal of Christ

Goya’s Betrayal of Christ

El Greco's St. Joseph and the Christ Child

El Greco’s St. Joseph and the Christ Child

Titian's Paul III

Titian’s Paul III

Rafael's The Virgin of the Veil

Rafael’s The Virgin of the Veil

Cindy before El Greco's Crucifixion

Cindy before El Greco’s Crucifixion

A view over the choir toward the apse, from the back of the nave

A view over the choir toward the apse, from the back of the nave

Inside the choir.  The lower carved, wooden stalls have scenes from the reconquista on them, each with the name of a town which was reconquered, culminating in the final victory at Granada

Inside the choir. The lower carved, wooden stalls have scenes from the reconquista on them, each with the name of a town which was reconquered, culminating in the final victory at Granada

Another beautiful El Greco

Another beautiful El Greco

After touring the church, we had lunch at the Platea restaurant, not far from the Cathedral. Then we made our way across the old town to the Santa Cruz Museum which has several of El Greco’s works among its collection. The museum is housed in what was originally the Holy Cross Hospital, established by Cardinal Mendoza as a charitable institution for the care of the sick, old and poor. I was disappointed that El Greco’s The Veil of Saint Veronica was away in Germany, but a highlight was El Greco’s Immaculate Conception of Mary.

El Greco's Assumption of Mary (or Immaculate Conception), depending on your source,   in the Santa Cruz Museum

El Greco’s Assumption of Mary (or Immaculate Conception), depending on your source, in the Santa Cruz Museum

A wing of the Santa Cruz Museum

A wing of the Santa Cruz Museum

By the time we made it back to our hotel, the sun was setting, the wind had picked up, and we were pretty chilly. This would be our last night in Toledo. Tomorrow, we head further southward.

The birthday girls found Santa Claus on the streets of Toledo!

The birthday girls found Santa Claus on the streets of Toledo!

The Toledo "Supermoon" from our hotel window

The Toledo “Supermoon” from our hotel window