La Giralda Tower of Sevilla Cathedral

Supposedly designed by the man claimed to have invented algebra and widely recognized as the symbol of Seville is the Giralda Tower. This magnificent piece of architecture is the minaret of the main Almohad mosque. The city of Seville is in the region of Andalucia, which is the Spanish province where you can feel the strongest Moorish or Muslim artistic and cultural influence. Any lengthy historical contact of two cultures is bound to produce very interesting results. In many buildings across Seville, you will come across them side by side or on top of each other.

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Muslims began arriving in Spain by the VIIth Century. They quickly conquered the Iberian Peninsula and moved into France until they were defeated at Poiters in 732. Rulers come and go. In 1170, the Almohad Empire transferred its capital to Seville from Northern Africa. The Almohad imperial dynasty originated in modern day Morocco around 1132 and quickly took control of Northern Africa and Muslim Spain. The dynasty ended in 1269, although they had been pushed out of Spain a few decades earlier. They were the builders of the Giralda Tower. Its construction took 12 years to complete having begun in 1184 to mark the accession of Abu Yusuf Ya'qub al-Mansur to the throne. Muslim rule in Spain ended in 1492.

The Giralda is sister to two other towers, the Koutoubia minaret in Marrakech and the unfinished Hassan tower in Rabat. One can endlessly debate as to which is the most exquisite. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Our suggestion is to visit all three, but we are here in Seville, so let us gaze at the Giralda Tower. The overthrow of Muslim rule permitted the new Christian powers to either destroy or modify a lot of their architecture. One can only imagine what the Giralda Tower would have been had it not been altered, but its current state is accepted and beloved by all. The Christian architectural additions were mostly in the Gothic style. A slight detour: prior to leaving the city, the Almohads wanted to destroy the tower, but were threatened on the pain of death from doing so.

Picture of the imposing tower of Sevilla Cathedral called La Giralda

Picture of the bells in the minarette of Sevilla Cathedral

In a few words, the tower is over 100 metres (320 feet) high. It was once possibly the tallest structure in the world. Calls to prayers were made from its summit. There used to 4 enormous gilt copper apples, but they fell down after an earthquake in 1365. Once the Christian kingdoms retook Spain, they modified part of the tower by adding a small bell tower. Beginning in 1558, more changes were made under the direction of Hernan Ruiz. After 10 years, he unveiled them: a series of bells in arched niches with 4 bronze urns at each top corner, but the master touch was the rotating 4 metre high bronze statue that represented the victory of faith in Christ. Simply breathtaking! There is a total of 25 bells. And that is where the name comes from: the statue functioned as a weathervane, which in Spanish means giraldillo.

The lower walls are over 2 metres thick. Look carefully and you can pick out 4 different types of brickwork. Each one gives a different impression. There are no stairs. You can reach the top via the series of ramps for a view that can not be described in words. Centuries ago, you can ride a horse to the top. It is probably frowned on now. Look for King Afonso X's motto "it did not abandon me" on the tower, but there is a lovely Arabic inscription to the praise of God as well. The Giralda Tower has been a World Heritage Site since December 29 1928.

A picture of the tower when walking up to it

Some of the views over the cathedral itself and the city are quite incredible from this tower

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