Cathedral of Seville

Seville's Cathedral occupies the site of a great mosque in the late 12th century. Later, Christian architects added the extra dimension of height. Its central nave rises to an awesome 42 metres and even the side chapels seem tall enough to contain an ordinary church. The total area covers 11,520 square metres and new calculations, based on cubic measurements, have now pushed it in front of Saint Paul's in London and Saint Peter's in Rome, as the largest church in the world.

Sheer size and grandeur are, inevitably, the chief characteristics of the Cathedral, but as you grow used to the gloom, two other qualities stand out with equal force - the rhythmic balance and interplay between the parts, and an impressive overall simplicity and restraint in decoration. All successive ages have left monuments of their own wealth and style, but these have been restricted to the two rows of side chapels. In the main body of the cathedral only the great box like structure of the coro stands out, filling the central portion of the nave.

This opens onto the Capilla Mayor, dominated by a vast Gothic retablo comprised of 45 carved scenes from the life of Christ. The lifetime's work of a single craftsman, Pierre Dancart, this is the ultimate masterpiece of the cathedral - the largest and richest altarpiece in the world and one of the finest examples of Gothic woodcarving anywhere. The guides provide staggering statistics on the amount of gold involved.

At the end of the first aisle are a series of rooms designed in the rich Plateresque style in 1530 by Diego de Riano, one of the foremost exponents of this predominantly decorative architecture of the late Spanish Renaissance. Through the ante chamber, you reach the Capitular with its magnificent domed ceiling mirrored in the marble decoration of the floor. There are a number of paintings by Murillo here, the finest of which, a flowing Conception occupies the place of honour.

Alongside this room is the grandiose Sacrista Mayor which houses the treasury. Amid a confused collection of silver reliquaries and monastrances are the keys presented to Fernando by the Moorish and Jewish communities on the surrender of the city, sculpted into the latter in stylised Arabic script are the words 'May Allah render eternal the dominion of Islam in the city'.

The tomb of Christopher Columbus is always of great interest to scholars and tourists alike.

The climb to the top of Giralda is considered well worth the effort for the views alone.

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