I’m not sure how or why my obsession with old churches in Europe in began. Maybe I like old churches because I have the soul of a very old woman (this is a running joke between Kevin and I because of some of my more quirky tendencies). We’re not sure how else to explain my affection for TV shows like Matlock and Wheel of Fortune, or my deep desire to be asleep by 10pm.
To indulge my grandmotherly ways, we visited a handful of the Churches of Sevilla during our month living here. I strategically spaced them out to avoid giving Kevin church fatigue, which I believe is a real condition that can only be remedied by dark chocolate and red wine. (Thankfully, there is plenty of both of those things available here in Europe.) We visited Sevilla’s biggest and most famous church, the Cathedral, made a stop at the Church of the Savior which holds a much-revered statue of Christ, and we went to the Basilica de la Macarena, home of the Macarena statue that has ties to that annoying song that we’ve ALL danced to…
Cathedral & Bell Tower
Sevilla’s Cathedral is a beautiful monster of a building. In fact, it’s the third largest church in the world, coming in behind St. Paul’s Cathedral in London and St. Peter’s at the Vatican in Rome. Like so many of Spain’s churches, it was built on the site of an old Mosque that stood in this spot until the Spanish Reconquista roared through Spain, kicking out all the moors. When plans for the construction of this Cathedral began in 1401, builders announced their plan to build a cathedral so big that “anyone who sees it will take us for madmen.”
And boy howdy, madmen they were. The sheer awesomeness of the Cathedral is tough to describe in a blog post, so you’ll have to go visit it yourself. It’s amazing just to be inside such a massive building, imagining the engineering feats it took to build a structure like this so many years ago.
The Altar adds to the wow factor of the Cathedral – it’s the largest altarpiece ever made. It definitely is blingy, ornamented with a ridiculous amount of gold leaf. It took three generations to complete, and tells the story of Jesus and Mary with 44 different carved scenes. It certainly does make you feel small!
If all of that isn’t enough for you, Sevilla’s Cathedral also allegedly holds the remains of Christopher Columbus. Because his body was moved around so much after his death (it started in Valladolid, Spain, moved to Sevilla, then to the Dominican Republic, then to Cuba, then finally back to Sevilla, wow), some people doubt that the remains are actually his. A DNA test was performed to give “some evidence” to substantiate that the remains are indeed Christopher Columbus’. I’m not sure what percentage sure we are that it’s actually Columbus in there, but “some evidence” was good enough for me to be excited to see the tomb.
Our favorite part was climbing the Giralda bell tower. The climb is made easy by the fact that there are hardly any stairs, just one long spiraling ramp! The tower was formerly the minaret of the mosque that previously stood here; the ramp was chosen instead of stairs so that someone could ride a donkey up to the top of the tower five times a day to give the Muslim call to prayer. The views from the top are absolutely beautiful, well worth the climb.
If jewelry is your thing, the treasury is home of the world’s largest pearl!
- It costs 9 euro to get in. This ticket includes admission to one of Sevilla’s other churches, the Church of the Savior (described below).
- It’s worth the effort to also visit the Cathedral during Mass (for free), when you can hear the organ played by the Cathedral’s talented organist. Check their website for updated times, but when we were in town, Mass was held every day except Saturday at 10am, with an additional 1pm Mass on Sundays. They shoo you out pretty quickly after mass, so we recommend also paying to visit. Otherwise you’ll miss most of the best sights!
Church of the Savior
If you’re already planning to visit the Cathedral, it’s worth making a stop at the Church of the Savior since it’s included in the Cathedral ticket price. In fact, you can buy the 9 euro combo ticket here, which always has shorter lines.
The Church of the Savior is Sevilla’s 2nd biggest church, and is decorated in the Andalusian Baroque style. Baroque doesn’t exactly jive with my personal decorating tastes. It’s a bit, um, ornate for me. The cathedral was absolutely dripping with silver and gold leaf, and everything that could possibly be covered with ornate carvings was packed full of ‘em.
Why visit this cathedral? It’s a great chance to see one of the floats that is carried in each year’s Holy Week Parade.
It’s also home to the famous Christ of the Passion statue. Pilgrims and Worshippers come from near and far to pray here and kiss his heel.
Also, there is a statue of an angel with a sword and shield, standing on top of a DRAGON. A dragon! Clearly you must visit.
Basilica de la Macarena
There is a rivalry in Sevilla unlike any others, the rivalry of the Virgin Marys. There are two top contenders, La Esperanza de Triana, who lives in the Church of Santa Ana, and Virgen de la Macarena, who lives in the Basilica de la Macarena. According to Rick Steves, it’s customary here upon meeting someone to ask which Virgin Mary they favor. I’m going to have to practice my Spanish skills a bit more before giving that a go so I don’t ask someone “who is your favorite virgin?” No bueno.
Now let me blow you away with another piece of trivia. The band that sings that catchy 1990s hit that we’ve ALL danced to, the song we all think we know the words to but totally don’t, is from Sevilla. I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that the Los del Río band members were allegiant to the Virgen de la Macarena because of the name of their huge hit song, “The Macarena”.
Let me further blow your mind by linking you to the song’s music video. Since it was a hit before Youtube was born, I had never seen the music video! Disclaimer: I take no responsibility if watching this video causes you to get sucked into Youtube and waste hours watching 90’s music videos.
In all seriousness, this church is a fun visit since it’s free. It’s worthwhile if you combine it with a stroll on the nearby riverside walking path. However, I’m pretty sure I had more fun watching the Macarena music video than I did visiting the Basilica.
Tourist Tip: It’s free to visit the church (open daily 9:30-14:00 & 17:00-20:30), but costs 5 euro to visit the treasury, which holds some of the most impressive Holy Week Parade floats.
We Want to Hear From You!
What’s the most awesome church you’ve visited? Westminster Abbey in London? The Cathedral in Cologne, Germany? Let us know so we don’t miss it as we bounce around Europe!