Cathedral of Contrasts

Anyone who has been to Seville will tell you that the impressive 16th-century cathedral is the main attraction – and it should be, since it’s the largest Gothic cathedral in the world (and third-largest church in Europe). We’re not really big on touring churches in general, but even from the outside it’s pretty impressive, so when we walked by on our way to the Alcázar we put the cathedral on our sightseeing list and ended up checking it out the very next day.

Our first impression upon entering was that it really reminded us of St. John the Divine, and made us a little homesick for our old neighborhood in NYC. It was a favorite place to take out of town guests, and they had a kickass Halloween program…but I digress. At any rate, it was a nice to think for a moment that we were back in New York (though without the winter weather!). Being in lively Spain has made us wish we had some friends here to share it with us, so feeling like we weren’t so far from home was nice for a moment.

The second thing I noticed was that there was a sit-in of local unemployed teachers taking place just past the entrance. They chose an effective place to make their message heard, because I certainly went home and Googled their cause. I was surprised to find out that the protest had been going on since October! That’s some serious commitment, and an interesting foil for the Occupy protests, considering they haven’t been kicked out after all this time. It was also a heaping dose of perspective since we were there as tourists who had been traveling for as long as they had been protesting the loss of their jobs.

Maybe it was because of that protest, but the disparity between the richness of the cathedral and the relative poverty of those who most likely labored to built it resonated with me, especially when I examined the carvings on the organ. I’m guessing the figures are supposed to be sinners, but to me it looked like the enormous organ was resting on the backs of impoverished citizens. It’s only fitting then, that Columbus’ tomb is also proudly displayed within the cathedral (whether his bones are inside is another story), since he is a figure that is seen as both a hero and villain – depending on which eyes you are using.

Nevertheless, the cathedral was beautiful and inspired me to snap a lot of striking photographs. Everything was enormous and intricate – from the 7,000 pipe organ to the High Altar depicting scenes from Jesus’ life that is so covered in gold leaf that I thought it was solid gold. After we had seen everything in the main cathedral, we set out to climb the Giralda, which is now the belfry but was once the minaret of the mosque that was demolished and replaced by the current cathedral (are you seeing a theme emerge?). It wasn’t a super arduous climb since the path is composed of 35 ramps rather than stairs, and there were several lookout points to break up the ascent. I probably could have done without the obnoxious teenage tour group that was counting each ramp as we went up, but that’s another issue.

The views at the top were AH-MAZING. We have learned at this point in our travels that the best way to get truly oriented to a city is to see it from the highest possible vantage. We could see all of Seville, and for that I probably would have paid the admission price just to go up the Giralda.

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