Before we went to Andalucia I had read about Seville Cathedral being, apparently, the largest Gothic example of its kind in the world. Given this rather grandiose description, and the fact that I have seen some rather impressive medieval Cathedrals back home in the UK (Westminster Abbey, York Minster, Durham, Lichfield, Salisbury and Canterbury to name just a few) I don’t mind telling you that I was expecting something preeeeety big from Seville.
Unfortunately, when I finally clapped eyes on this “monster” for myself, I have to admit to being ever so slightly underwhelmed.
I think the problem is that when I think of a Cathedral I think of very tall buildings, with spires and towers soaring up towards the heavens………and Seville just isn’t like that. The main body of the Cathedral (discounting the Giralda bell tower) is only 37m high. Now don’t get me wrong, that’s not insubstantial, but that height just isn’t in proportion to the 126m long by 83m wide rest of the building. So what you get, rather than the usual soaring, slender and elegant Cathedral buildings that I’m used to, is something that is frankly a bit squat and a bit too square.
What I do like about Seville though, is the variety of architectural styles that it encompasses. To start with, it is a real clash of two cultures – Islamic and Christian. The original 12th Century Mosque was consecrated as a Cathedral in 1248, after the Christians finally reconquered the city from the Moors. However, during the subsequent Christian re-development works (mainly from the 15th Century Gothic through the 16th Century Renaissance to the 17th Century Baroque) the Mosque’s beautiful Orange Tree Courtyard was conserved as was the minaret, which today forms the lower two-thirds of the magnificent 98m tall Giralda bell tower:
A major disadvantage in having a building that is so long and wide, but relatively low, is that what windows there are really struggle to let in enough light to see properly…let alone take photographs. This is exacerbated by the fact that light is further restricted because the long North side of the Cathedral faces out into the dappled shade of the Orange Tree Courtyard, and the equally long South side is adorned with a maze of chapels, rooms and passages.
To be honest, I’d be hard pressed to think of a Cathedral building that was as poorly lit as Seville….and that is saying something. This, coupled with the fact that I was a “travelling-light-without-tripod-tourist-photographer”, made for less than ideal photographic conditions.
So I apologise in advance for the interior shots below – but needs must I’m afraid as I had to seriously compromise with wide-apertures and high-ISO settings. Well either that or simply not to bother at all…….which of course would never do. Note to self though – must invest in a light travel tripod.
© Mark Simms Photography (2013)