I vow to God I quake with surprise, Could I describe it, I would give a crown, And who, that gazes on it in the town But starts aghast to see its wondrous size; Each part a million cost, I should devise: What pity 'tis, ere centuries have flown, Old time will mercilessly cast it down! Thou rival'st Rome, O Seville, in my eyes! I bet, the soul of him who's dead and blest, To dwell within this sumptuous monument, Has left the seats of sempiternal rest! A fellow tall, on deeds of valour bent, My exclamation heard. "Bravo," he cried, "Sir Soldier, what you say is true, I vow! And he who says the contrary has lied!" With that he pulls his hat upon his brow, Upon his sword-hilt he his hand doth lay, And frowns--and--nothing does, but walks away!"
Far more ineffaccable even than the record left by Philip's life upon the history of Seville and Spain is that of this immortal soldier and scribbler, who "believed he had found something better to do than writing comedies."
The soft, sonorous syllables of Guadalquivir (from the Arabic Wad-el-Kebir, or The Great River) would picture to the imaginative eye a river far more poetic than the sluggish stream that loiters across the wide plain and fruitful valley until it pierces the amber girdle of crenelated walls and embattled towers which enclose the treasures of Seville. On its broad bosom have swept the barks and galleys of Phoenicia and Greece, of Roman, Goth, and Moor. On its shores Columbus lowered the sails of his caravel and presented Spain with a new world on Palm Sunday, 1493; Pizarro and Cortez here first embarked their greedy and daring adventurers; hither Pizarro returned with hoards of gold and silver treasures from Mexico and Peru, for the Council of the Indies restricted all the trade of the colonies to the port of Seville. The valley through which the river descends is sheltered from the cold tablelands lying northward by the Sierra Moreña chain. Gray olive trees, waving pastures, and fields of grain cover its slopes. A soft, tempered wind whispers through the grassy meadows of La Tierra de Maria Santissima, and the atmosphere is so dry and clear that far away against the horizon objects stand out in clear silhouette. So vivid are the colors that the smoky olive groves, the orange and lemon-colored walls, the fir trees, the chalky white of the stucco, the fleshy, prickly leaves of the cacti, and the tall standards of the aloes seem photographed on the brain.
In a fair and fruitful land lies the city, and her spires pierce a smokeless, unspotted sky.
In the heart of the city, set down in the very centre of her life of song and laughter and childish simplicity, surrounded by crooked streets and great airy courts, in the widest sunlit square, lies her Cathedral.
The first impression made by a building is generally not only the most distinct but the truest. That produced by Seville's Cathedral is its immensity of scale.
Toledo la rica, Salamanca la fuerta, Leon la bella, Oviedo la sacra, Sevilla la grande,
runs the Spanish saying. The size is overpowering. Each of the four side aisles is nearly as broad and high as the nave of Westminster Abbey, while the arcades of Seville's nave have twice the span. To the impressionable sensitiveness of Théophile Gautier it was like a mountain scooped out, a valley turned topsy-turvy. Notre Dame de Paris might walk erect under the frightful height of the middle nave; pillars as large as towers appear so slender that you catch your breath as you look up at the far-away, vaulted roof they support.
Here are the first impressions of two early Spanish writers. Cean Bermudez finds that, "seen from a certain distance, it resembles a high-pooped and beflagged ship, rising over the sea with harmonious grouping of sails, pennons, and banners, and with its mainmast towering over the mizzenmast, foremast, and bowsprit." Caveda is struck by "the general effect, which is truly majestic. The open-work parapets which crown the roofs; the graceful lanterns of the eight winding stairs that ascend in the corners to the vaults and galleries; the flying buttresses that spring lightly from aisle to nave, as the jets of a cascade from cliff to cliff; the slender pinnacles that cap them; the proportions of the arms of the transept and of the buttresses supporting the side walls; the large pointed windows to which they belong, rising over each other, the pointed portals and entrances,--all these combine in an almost miraculous effect, although they lack the wealth of detail, the airy grace, and the delicate elegance that characterize the cathedrals of Leon and Burgos."
Such are the varying impressions of ancient critics. To the student's question, "To what period of architecture does the Cathedral of Seville belong?" we must answer, "To no period, or rather to half a dozen." Authorities and writers will give completely different information, and Seville has found more willing and loving chroniclers than any other of Spain's churches. Gallichan classes it as the "largest Gothic cathedral in the world," and Caveda calls it "a type of the finest Spanish Gothic architecture."
The interior of the main body of the church is pure, severe Gothic, the sacristy major, highly developed Renaissance; the main portions of the exterior are what might be termed for want of a better word "Spanish Renaissance--plateresco"; other details are Moorish, classical, late florid Gothic, rococo, and so forth. As if to add to the incongruity of the architectural hodge-podge, it is surrounded by shafts of old Roman columns as well as Byzantine pillars from the original mosque, sunk deep into the ground and connected with iron chains. The total impression to any student of architecture is one of outraged law and order, composition and unity. Recalling the carefully membered and distinctly developed plan of the great Gothic churches of France, the expressive exteriors of the huge Renaissance cathedrals of Italy, the satisfying perspective of English monastic temples, one feels the hopelessness of attempting a comparison between this huge, impressive undertaking and any accepted standards or schools. It is something so entirely different and apart, a mighty and unbridled effort which cannot be classified nor grouped with other churches, nor studied by methods of earlier architectural training. It is full of romance,--a building romantic as the Cid, a child of architectural fervor or even architectural furor. Centuries of Spanish history and religion and the various temperaments of different and inspired races have created it and fostered its growth. Like many of its sister churches, the artisans that labored on it were gathered from different lands and their work stretches through centuries of time and architectural thought. There is the sparkling, oriental fancy of the Mudejar, the classic training of the Italian, the brilliant color and technique of the Fleming and Dutchman, the skilled and masterful chiseling of the German, and the restless pride and domination of the Spaniard. You find it expressed in every way,--on canvas, in wood and clay and stone, on plaster and in glass. It is a museum of art from the fifteenth to the nineteenth centuries, with portions still waiting for the work of the twentieth. The artists range from Juan Sanches de Castro, "the morning star of Andalusia," in 1454, to Francisco Goya, the last of the great Spanish painters.
It is colossal, incongruous, mysterious, and elusive. It breathes the spirit of the middle ages with all their piety and loyalty to church and crown, and their unparalleled ardor in building religious temples. Gazing at it, you feel the same religious fervor that flung the arches of Amiens and Chartres high into the northern air and rounded the dome of Santa Maria del Fiore under Lombardy's azure vault.
If you stand in the Calle del Gran Capitan, or better, the Plaza del Triumfo, best of all, near the gateway of the Patio de las Banderas, where the Cathedral and the Giralda pile up in front of you, unquestionably you have before you Spain's mightiest architectural work, a sight as impressive as the view from the marble pavement of the Piazzetta by the Adriatic.
The lofty tower is entirely oriental. The walls of the Cathedral which rise from a broad paved terrace consist below of a classical screen, whose surface is broken by a Corinthian order carrying a Renaissance balustrade and topped by heavy, meaningless stone terminations. Windows with Italian Renaissance frames pierce the ochre masonry. Above rises a confusion of buttresses, kettle-shaped domes, and Renaissance lanterns, simple, massive walls, some portions entirely bare, others overloaded with delicate Gothic interlacings full of Spanish feeling; flowers and rosettes, broad blazons and coats-of-arms,--above all, a forest of Gothic towers, finials, crockets, parapets, and rails peculiarly Spanish in carving and treatment. There is practically no sky line. The interior of the nave and aisle vaulting are entirely concealed externally by the parapets and walls.
So lacking in sobriety is the first view!--but you are ready to echo the Spanish saying,--
Quien no ha visto Sevilla No ha visto maravilla.
or the words of Pope, "There stands a structure of majestic fame!"
The Spanish Christians in Seville, like those who obtained possession of other Moorish strongholds, first appropriated the old Arab mosque for their house of worship. Later, when it no longer sufficed, they and their fellow-believers elsewhere built the new cathedral on, around, or adjacent to, the old consecrated walls. Like all other churches from which Islam had been driven, the great mosque of Seville was dedicated to Santa Maria de la Sede. The famous Moorish conqueror, Abu Jakub Jusuf, had laid the foundation stones of his mosque and tower in 1171, building his walls with the materials left by imperial Rome, and laying out orange courtyard and walls in a manner befitting his power and the traditions of his race. It belongs to what architectural writers have for convenience called the second period of the Spanish Arabs, between 1146 and about 1250, under the Almohaden dynasty. This was the period of the Moors' greatest constructive energy,--they no longer blindly copied the ancient architecture of Byzantium, but endeavored to create a bold and independent art of their own.
After the capture of Seville in 1248, Ferdinand at once consecrated the mosque to Christian service, and it was used without alteration until it began to crumble. Its general plan was probably very much like the one in Cordova, a great rectangle filled with a forest of columns: its high walls of brick and clay supported by buttresses and crowned with battlements enclosed an adjacent courtyard with fountain and rows of orange trees, abutted by the bell or prayer tower. The courtyard and tower remain with but slight changes or additions; portions of the foundation walls, the northeast and west porticos, decorative details and ornamentation still to be found on the Christian church are all Moorish. The plan and general structure have been restricted by the lines of the old Moorish foundations. There are no documents extant that give a trustworthy account of what portions of the old mosque were allowed to remain when the Christians finally decided to rebuild, but the most cursory glance at the outline of the Cathedral shows how organically it has been bound by what was retained. The mosque must have been built on as large and magnificent a scale as the one which still amazes us in Cordova. The peculiar, oblong, quadrilateral form was probably common to both.
On the 8th of July, 1401, the Cathedral Chapter issued the challenge to the Catholic world which to the more practical piety of to-day rings with a true mediæval fervor. Verily a faith that could remove mountains! The inspired Chapter proclaimed they could build a church of such size and beauty that coming ages should call them mad to have undertaken it. And their own fat pockets were the first to be emptied of half their stipends. The pennies of the poor, grants from the crown, indulgences published throughout the kingdom, all went to satisfy the ever-grasping building fund.
In 1403 the work of tearing down and commencing afresh on the old foundations was begun. These measured about some 415 feet in length by 278 feet in width. The old mosque or the present church proper is now only the central edifice in a rectangle of about 600 by 500 feet. This is the size of a village, with its courts, its tower, the great library of the Cathedral Chapter where books were collected from all over the lettered world by the son of Columbus, the parroquia or parish church, the endless row of chapels, some larger than ordinary churches, the sacristy, the chapter house and offices. It became the largest church of the middle ages, covering 124,000 square feet; Milan covers only 90,000, Toledo, 75,000, and Saint Paul's in London, 84,000. Among the churches of all ages, Saint Peter's, with an area of 162,000 square feet, alone exceeds it in size.
In 1506, under the archbishops Alfonso Rodriguez and Gonzalo de Rojas, the building was completed. For a century the work had been carried on with such reckless haste that inferior building methods had been employed, which led to subsequent disasters. On December 28, 1511, to the consternation of the devout workmen, the great central dome fell in during an earthquake, carrying with it or weakening many of the vaults and much of the masonry below. After the earthquake, some of the large piers supporting the great crossing as well as the adjacent ones were found filled with the most carelessly laid rubble and earth, with no carrying power nor resistance. About 1520 the building might in the main be said to be finished. Externally it has never been completed, although in the nineteenth century the west front was finished and its central doorway ornamented. An extensive restoration which took place in 1882 was interrupted by the second earthquake of 1888, during which the dome again fell in. To-day it is all rebuilt.
The entrance is at the west end. The plan, as I have said, was governed by the old basilica-shaped mosque. The transepts do not project beyond the chapels of the side aisles, and at the east end it differs from most Spanish churches in having a square termination instead of an apse. Also along the east wall chapels have been built between the buttresses similar to those between the north and south sides. The central portions of the east end open into the great Capilla Real. There are nine doorways to the church.
In studying the plan, it is interesting to note what Mr. Ferguson has indicated, that similarly to what is found in the Indian Jain temples, the diagonal of the aisle compartments has the same length as the width of the nave. The original documents and accounts of the church, which have disappeared, were probably burnt among Philip II's papers destroyed by the great Madrid fire.
Scarcely two of the Cathedral's many biographers agree as to its architects, its historic precedents or what part of the work was actually inspired by earlier Spanish architecture and national builders. Naturally Spanish writers attribute workmanship, precedents and builders all to their own Peninsula, while the different foreign authorities vary in their estimates. Distinctly Spanish features of construction as well as ornamentation are found side by side with others which unquestionably came from masters trained beyond the Pyrenees. In various places vaulting is found thoroughly German in its complexity and florid detail. Several authorities point out the resemblances between Milan and Seville, not that the ornamentation of the frosted and encrusted Italian misconception can be intelligently compared with the Plateresque carving, but there is a certain mixture of local and foreign feeling in both. In Seville French and German feeling seems to be struggling under Spanish fetters, just as in Lombardy the German seems to be laboring with Italian comprehension of Gothic, finally abandoning the inorganic scheme for a lovely, riotous, and marvelous attempt at carving to which the material no longer placed any limitations.
The Spanish architect of the middle ages was placed in a novel situation, and his art had very peculiar and unusual influences bearing upon it. Gothic methods of construction and ornamentation had slowly spread over the country with the growing sovereignty of Aragon and Castile, and in spite of the corresponding decline of the Arab kingdoms, Moorish art began to work hand in hand, as far as was possible, with the forms of the Christian invader, although the hostility between the races hindered any extensive fusion of the two. They began, however, to influence each other for good or bad and to flourish side by side. The result might be called architectural volapük. In Seville it is certain that, whatever the nationality of the original architect and however incongruous and expressionless the exterior may finally have become, the interior is less exotic, less unquestionably a French importation, than in either of the great Gothic churches of Toledo or Burgos. When we recall the organic completeness, the truthful exterior expression, of interior lines and construction in the greatest Gothic cathedrals of France, we turn with sadness to the outer form of so fair a soul as that of Santa Maria of Seville, the work of the most famous architects of her age. Some attribute the original plans of the church to Alfonso Rodriguez, others to Alfonso Martinez, who was Maestro Mayor of the chapter in 1396, others again to Pedro Garcia; a long list of names follows: Juan the Norman, Juan de Hoz, Alfonso Ruiz, Ximon, Alfonso Rodriguez, and Gonzalo de Rojas, Pedro Mellan, Miguel Florentin, Pedro Lopez, Henrique de Egas, Juan de Alava, Jorge Fernandez Alleman, Juan Gil de Hontañon and the masters who after the earthquake hurried to Seville from their buildings in Toledo, Jaen, Vittoria, and other places. Casanova is the last of her many architects.
Correctly speaking, there is no façade. The Cathedral runs from west to east, the western or main entrance portal being pierced by three ogival doorways, the Puerta Mayor with a modern relief of the Assumption, the Puerta del Nacimento or de San Miguel to the south, and the Puerta del Bautizo or de San Juan to the north. Saint Miguel has a relief of the Nativity of Christ, Saint Juan, one representing Saint John baptizing. In the moldings surrounding these, are very exquisite little figures of early sixteenth-century work executed in terra-cotta. They are full of the best Gothic feeling, splendidly fitted to their spaces, alive with the expression of the imaginative period of their sculptor, Pedro Millan. Above and around the door of San Juan is a Gothic tracery of the most elaborate character.
One cannot refrain from comparing the sculptural work of these three doorways. Riccardo Bellver's modern Assumption over the central doorway is as congealed as the terra-cotta sculptures above and around the side portals are admirable. They are unquestionably among the most interesting bits of relief as well as figure sculpture of their kind produced in Spain during the fifteenth century. Pedro Millan stands out as a great mediæval master, not only from the consummate skill with which the drapery is treated but from the living, breathing personality and attitudes of the men and women around him, which we still gaze at in the truth of their curious, naïve, fifteenth-century light.
As the whole western façade was not completed in its present form until 1827, much of its work is as poor as it is modern.
There are two entrances to the eastern end, richly decorated with fine terra-cotta statues and reliefs of angels, patriarchs, and Biblical figures, attributed to Lope Marin. In the northern façade there are three,--one classical and of very little interest leading to the parish church; the second is the Puerto de los Naranjos.
In the Puerta del Lagarto, where the Giralda abuts the Cathedral, there hangs a poor stuffed crocodile, once sent by a Sultan of Egypt in token of admiration to Saint Ferdinand. The beast, having died on his way from the Nile, could never crawl in the basins of the Alcazar gardens, but found a resting-place under the shelves of the Columbina library.
On the opposite side of the orange-tree court is the Puerta del Perdon. The Florentine relief above, representing the crouching traders as they were driven from the Temple, naturally spoils the effectiveness of the magnificent Moorish portal below. Its horseshoe curve, with delicate Moorish interlacing, arabesques, frieze and bronze doors, is a curious and striking note of a bygone age, leading as it does to the walled and fragrant courtyard of its builders, and the fountain where they made their ablutions. Later Renaissance statues of the Annunciation and Saint Peter and Saint Paul, as well as Florentine pilasters and ornament, flank the Moorish moldings in an utterly meaningless manner.
On the south is the gate of San Cristobal, or of the Lonja, finished only a few years ago.
In and out of these many entrances the populace stream, to worship, to whisper, to gossip, to rest, to bargain, to beg, and to make love. The whole drama of life in its conglomerate population goes on within the walls of the Cathedral. It is the most frequented thoroughfare, where the people enter as often with a song on their lips as with a prayer. The great edifice with all the ceremonial of its religious services is woven into their life, as is the sound of the guitars and castanets that echo within its portals and courtyards. The church and her children are not strangers. The Sevillian does not approach her altars with religious awe and fear, but with a childish trust; he kneels down before them as much at home as when rolling his cigarette on the bench of his café. The Cathedral, like the houses nestling and crumbling around it, opens wide and hospitable gates that lead to the refreshing shade and comfort within.
The western front is practically the only one which presents the Cathedral unobscured by adjacent buildings climbing up its sides or struggling between the buttresses,--or which is not concealed by enclosing screenwork. To the north the walls of the Orange Court block the view; to the east, the high screen; and to the south, the chapter house and the Dependencias de la Hermanidad and the sacristy. The mass of domes with supporting flying buttresses, ramps and finials above it, all remind one curiously of a transplanted and ecclesiasticized Chambord.
[Illustration: Photo by J. Lacoste, Madrid
CATHEDRAL OF SEVILLE
Gateway of Perdon in the Orange Tree Court]
As the plan conforms to the conditions of the old rectangular mosque and has neither projecting transepts nor semicircular chevet, it can scarcely be called Gothic. It consists of nave and double side aisles,--the nave 56 feet wide from centre to centre of the columns and 145 feet high, and the inner side aisles 40 wide and about 100 high. Outside these is another aisle filled with various chapels.
At the crossing of the nave and transept, we have the typical, small Spanish octagonal dome,--in this instance covering possibly what was in the original mosque a central octagonal court. It is a construction rising some hundred and seventy feet above the level of the eye, admitting light below its spring into what in the French Gothic edifices would usually be the gloomiest portions of the building.
The side aisles differ slightly in width, the two lateral ones being filled with various chapels. There are nine bays, separated by thirty-six clustered pillars, some of them perfect towers in their huge and massive strength. Their detail and outline are excellent, all of the greatest simplicity and restraint. The delicate engaged shafts which surround the huge supports of fifteen feet diameter terminate below the vaulting ribs in delicately interlaced palm-leaf caps. Nothing is confused or intricate. Sixty-eight compartments spring from the various piers with a loftiness reminding one of Cologne. The groining differs very much. The greater portion is admirably plain, of simple quadripartite design; other parts are fanciful and elaborate, recalling florid German prototypes. The five central vaults forming the cross under the dome alone have elaborate fan-vaulting; the geometrical design is as excellent as its detail. The richness given this central and most correct portion of the great roofing is all the more effective by contrast with the plain, unelaborated groins of the surrounding vaults. The petals of the flower, the very holy of holies, between the choir and the Capilla Mayor, before the high altar, are what is most beautiful and enriched.
The lighting is very unusual, and better than either Leon or Toledo. Ninety-three windows are filled with the most glorious glass. There are two clerestories to light the body of the church, one in the walls of the second side aisle, admitting light above the roofs of the chapels, the second in the nave. Added to this come the huge lights of the five rose windows.
In Seville, as in Toledo and many of the other great Spanish cathedrals, the general view of the interior is blocked, and the majestic effectiveness of the columnar rows marred, by the placing of the great choir in the centre of the edifice.
But the interior effect is nevertheless one of the most inspiring produced by the imagination and hands of man. All truly majestic conceptions are simple and, though we may at times wonder at the secret of their power, we always find their enduring grandeur due to a hidden simplicity. This is true of the Parthenon, of the Venus of Milo, and the Sistine Madonna. Whoever enters the Cathedral of Seville is struck first of all by its simplicity. The tremendous scale of the interior is unperceived, owing to the just proportion between all the parts. There is height as well as width, massiveness and strength, boldness and light. None of the detail is petty or too elaborate, but simple and effective, making a harmony in all its parts. Even the furniture carries out the tremendous boldness and grandeur of the edifice. Bells, choir books, candles, altar chests, are all on the same grandiose scale. It has true majesty in its simplicity of direct, honest appeal, and a proud unconsciousness, because it is free from the artificiality which is invariably vulgar. The truly beautiful woman needs none of the devices of art. The shafts and vaults and string courses in Seville's Cathedral need little ornamentation to bring out their beauty; they are in fact as effective as the elaborate carving of Salamanca and Segovia. Seville preaches a great lesson to our twentieth century, of peace, rest and completeness. It has room for all its children; they may kneel at eighty-two different shrines and find romance or encouragement or the consolation they are seeking. Some churches are strangely secular in their restlessness of feeling, while others breathe an atmosphere full of poetry, exaltation and the infinite peace of the Gospels. Seville's religion is for the humble and simple as much as for the grandee. It is not only the great cathedral church of the archbishop and bishop, the eleven dignitaries, forty canons, twenty prebendaries, twenty minor canons, twenty veinteneros, twenty chaplains and the host of a choir, but the beloved home of the poor, miserable, starving sons and daughters of Santa Maria de la Sede.
Although architecturally the injurious effect of placing choir and high altar in the middle of the church cannot be overstated, from the point of view of ritual, of closely uniting the officiating body with the worshipers, it is undoubtedly a far happier arrangement than where the prayers and psalms proceed from the extreme apsidal termination. In the former case the religious guidance seems to emanate from the very soul of the edifice, and to reach all humble worshipers in the remotest nooks and corners.
The Spanish nature craves the sensuous and theatrical in religious rites, and not far-away but intimately, as part and parcel of it. In the time of the great ecclesiastical power of the bishopric of Seville 20,000 pounds of wax were burned every year, 500 masses were daily celebrated at the 80 altars, and the wine consumed in the yearly sacrament amounted to 18,750 litres. Seville's children wished to be close to the glare and flicker of the wax candles and torches and to hear distinctly the unintelligible Latin service. Seek the shade of the cathedral when the July sun is burning outside, or during one of the nights of Holy Week, when the great Miserere of Eslava is sung, and you will find it the most thronged spot in all Seville. In the words of Havelock Ellis: "Profoundly impressive,--around the choir an impassive mass, in the rest of the church characteristic Spanish groups crouched at the bases of the great clustered shafts, and chatted and used their fans familiarly, as if in their own homes, while dogs ran about unmolested. The vast church lent itself superbly to the music and the scene. It was a scene stranger than the designs of Martin, as bizarre as something out of Poe or Baudelaire. In the dim light the huge piers seemed larger and higher than ever, while the faint altar lights dimly lit up the iron screen of the Capilla Mayor, as in Rembrandt's conception of the Temple of Jerusalem. In the scene of enchantment one felt that Santa Maria of Seville had delivered up the last secret of her mystery and romance."
If you enter the church from the west through the main portal, or the Puerta Mayor, the whole length of the nave is broken by various structures. On the axis, under the second vault, is the tomb of Fernando Colon; the fourth and fifth vaults contain the choir; the sixth comes under the dome; the seventh and eighth take in the Capilla Mayor and Sacristia Alta; back of the ninth and terminating the eastern end, rises the great Renaissance royal chapel (Capilla Real). Fernando Colon deserves to live not only in Seville's history but in the memory of all Spain, first and foremost for being his father's son (by his mistress Beatrix Enrigues), and, secondly, for leading a most pious and studious life and devoting his time and fortune while traversing Europe during the first half of the sixteenth century, to the purchase of the most valuable books and manuscripts of the time. These he united into the famous Columbina Library and presented to the Cathedral Chapter. The enormous wooden tabernacle erected every Passion Week over the great Discoverer's son, to reach the very arches of the vaults overhead, is as hideous as the inscription is touching. Three caravels are inlaid on the slab, between which runs the legend, "A Castilla y a Leon mundo nuevo die Colon"[a] (To Castile and Leon Columbus gave a new world), and the following inscription: "Of what avails it that I have bathed the entire universe in my sweat, that I have thrice passed through the new world, discovered by my father, that I have adorned the banks of the gentle Bati and preferred my simple tastes to riches, in order to gather around thee the divinities of the Castalian Spring and offer thee the treasures already gathered by Ptolemy, if thou in passing this stone in Seville, dost not at least give a greeting to my father and a thought to me."
Directly back of Fernando Columbus' tomb rises the rear surface or trascoro of the choir. The choir, which occupies the fourth and fifth bays, is enclosed by the most elaborate walls, except at the entrance to the east, where it is screened by the remarkable iron reja. This, as well as the rejas of the choir, is in design and workmanship a marvelous example of mediæval craft, quite as fine as the screens of Toledo and Granada and the best work of the German forgers and guilds. The design, from 1519, harmonizes splendidly with the ironwork facing it. Its gilding must have improved as each century has toned it down. Now in the evening hours when it catches the reflection of some light, the spikes look like angels' spears rising flame-like out of the mysterious twilight and guarding the holy places beyond.
The choir, placed so nearly under the dome, naturally suffered greatly by its fall. A portion of the 127 stalls has been so well restored that it is difficult to distinguish the old from the new. "Nufro Sanchez, sculptor, whom God guarded, made this choir in the year 1475." The subjects are as usual from the New and Old Testaments, and the character of the carving constantly betrays Moorish influence. The pillars as well as the canopies and the figures themselves are possibly entirely Gothic, but one glance at the gaudily inlaid backs shows Arab workmanship. Along the outer sides of the choir around the four little stonework niches, which serve as smaller chapels, the Gothic carving (some of it executed in transparent alabaster), works more happily than usual in combination with the later Plateresque or Renaissance, here containing the fine feeling of the Genoese school. One piece of sculpture stands out from all the rest, viz., the Virgin, carved by Montañes. Her hands are of such exquisite girlish delicacy, of such immature and dimpled softness, that one cannot pass them by without a feeling of delight.
The organs, which form a part of the choir, have an incredible number of pipes and stops. According to a remarkable old tale, they were filled with air by the choir boys, who walked back and forth over tilting planks placed on the bellows. Whether or no the boys still have this happy outlet for their ecclesiastic activities, the music means little to the Spaniard, and their design still less to the architect's eye.
The Capilla Mayor faces the choir, merely separated from it by the space lying directly under the dome and forming the intersection of nave and transepts. As the church services constantly require the simultaneous use of the choir and the high altar of the Capilla Mayor, a portion of the intermediate space or "entre los dos Coros" is roped off during service time for the clergy to pass from one to the other. The Spanish taste for pomp and magnificence centres in all its extravagance about the high altar, while a more subdued richness characterizes the surrounding stone and iron work which encloses the sanctuary on all sides. Not only on the front, complementing and balancing admirably the facing reja of the choir, but on the western ends of the sides, immense ornamental iron screens bar the way. The front one is quite overpowering in size, rising some seventy-five feet above the altar. The Spaniard was equal to any undertaking in the days of early Hapsburg splendor under the pious Reyes Catolicos. With the aid of Sancho Munoz and Diego de Yorobo, a Dominican Friar, Francesco de Salamanca designed them (1518) and then superintended the welding, gilding and the final erection in 1523.
The east end of the Capilla Mayor is formed by the magnificent retablo, almost four thousand square feet in size. One is immediately struck by its immense proportions and the infinite amount of carving bestowed on it. Its great scheme was conceived in 1482 by the Flemish sculptor Dancart, evidently a man of prolific and versatile imagination. If we try to compare it with the work of English churches, we might best liken it to the great altar screens. This and the retablo at Toledo are probably the richest specimens of mediæval woodwork in existence. Portions of the execution are somewhat inferior to the conception, and yet the artists who labored on it with loving skill until the middle of the following century carried out all their work with a richness and delicacy which make it not only a representative piece of late Gothic sculpture but one of the most magnificent specimens of this branch of Spanish art. Its various portions embrace the whole period of florid Gothic from its earlier, more restrained expression to the very last stroke of the art, when wood was mastered and carved into incredible filigree work as if it had been as soft and pliable as silver leaf. Everything that could be carved is there, figures, foliage, tracery, moldings and mere conventionalized ornament. The central portions are of the earlier fifteenth century, the outer ones, of the late sixteenth, executed under Master Marco Jorge Fernandez. The wood is principally larch, with minor portions of chestnut and pine. The whole field is divided by slender shafts and laboriously carved bands into forty-four compartments representing in high and low relief various scenes from the life of Christ and the Virgin Mary. In the centre is Santa Maria de la Sede, the patron saint of the church, surmounted by a Crucifixion with Saint John and the Virgin on either side.
Between the retablo and the rear wall enclosing the rectangle of the Capilla Mayor, there is a dark space known as the Sacristia Alta, where is preserved the Tablas Alfonsinas brought from Constantinople to Paris by Saint Ferdinand's son, Alfonso.
Seville ranks high among the churches of Spain in the beauty of its carving. The stone screen that forms the rear of the retablo is filled with admirable Gothic terra-cotta statues, saints, virgins, bishops, martyrs and prelates executed with a little of the curious rigidity of the Dutch School still awaiting its Renaissance emancipation, but with faces full of holy devotion. The modeling is correct and the treatment of the drapery excellent.
Within the enclosure of the Capilla Mayor, there is still to be seen at certain times of the year, a ceremony which has been performed for centuries, and which is certainly the most unique religious rite celebrated in any Christian church. To the Saxon it is most extraordinary. During the last three days of the Carnival or after the Feast of Corpus Domini, we may see boys dressed in costumes perform a dance before the high altar of the Cathedral. Children, so the tale runs, danced, skipped and shouted for joy when the city of Seville was finally taken from the Mohammedans, and these childish demonstrations so touched the hearts of the clergy who entered the city with the conquering army, that they resolved that succeeding generations of boys should perpetuate them forever. Of all the festivals and religious processions culminating in or outside Saint Mary's shrine, surely none can give her so much pleasure as the sight of these little boys dancing and singing in her honor.
This naïf and charming ceremonial is part of the Mozarabic Ritual, the work of Saint Isidore, a metropolitan of Seville a hundred years before the arrival of the Saracens. In his early years, when his elder brother Leander ruled the Gothic Church with stern hand, Isidore had time and talents to master in his cloistered seclusion so much art and science that he became the Admirable Crichton of his day. His work on "The Origin of Things" shows the profundity of his knowledge, his history of the Goths is beyond doubt his most valuable legacy to us, but what endeared him above all to his countrymen was the Mozarabic Rite, of which he composed both breviary and music. The Benedictine monks of Cluny, those architects and chroniclers, who had been obliged to sacrifice their Gallican liturgy for the Roman, could not rest satisfied until they had imposed it on the Peninsula. They were supported in this truly foreign aggression by Constance of Burgundy, Queen of Alfonso VI, and by the masterful Gregory VII, himself a Benedictine. And so Saint Isidore's quaint old hymn with the accompanying melody was banished from all but one or two favored chapels. Fortunately Cardinal Ximenez became its enthusiastic and powerful protector. He endowed in the Cathedral of Toledo a special chapel and had thirteen priests trained for the service, "Mozarabes sodales." In Ximenez' time a German, Peter Hagenbach, first printed "missale secundum regulam beati Isidori dictum Mozarabes," what Saint Isidore called "those fleeting sounds so hard to note down." His breviary was the first Roman one to be used in Spanish churches.
To enumerate the endless rows of chapels with their countless treasures and chaste or tawdry architecture and decoration would be tiresome and unprofitable,--with a plan and guide-book, one may pass them in review. "Sixty-seven of the great sculptors and thirty-eight of the painters here display to the astonished and incredulous eye the masterpieces of their hand," says one. Here is almost every painter belonging to the great Sevillian school of painting of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. They form a veritable museum or a series of small museums, each chapel being a separate room of masterpieces. But here, as in the museum, there are good and bad paintings and statues, and only the excellent are worth attention. They are better worth studying here than elsewhere, for they have been left in the surroundings for which they were intended and painted. Spain's great religious artist did not paint his Madonnas so full of distracting and sensuous loveliness for the walls of the Prado; their smiles, human and pathetic, were for the altars and panels of sanctuaries. Here is the light in which they were studied and for which they were colored; here are the walls and frames which were intended to surround them; they are in the company they would choose, and they were painted with the same religious devotion that inspires the prayers now offered before them. The painter's inspiration sprang from the fervor of his faith.
Three of the paintings are lovely above all others. Two are Murillo's, namely the Angel de la Guarda and the San Antonio of the baptistery; the third is the Deposition from the Cross, by Pedro de Campana (or more correctly Kempeneer), hanging in the great sacristy. This is the painting, Spanish historians will tell you, Murillo loved so well that whenever he was downhearted he would stand in front of it for hours, and become lost to all around him, even forgetting his own Madonnas. One day the sacristan asked him impatiently, why he so often stood there staring. "I am waiting," Murillo answered, "till those holy men have taken the Saviour down from the Cross." It hangs well lighted over one of the altars of the Sacristy. Few faces have ever been painted which convey depth and intensity of feeling in a more affecting way. The agonized faces of the women at the foot of the Cross express all an innocent human heart can feel of compassion, heart-wrung sorrow and despair. The ecstasy with which Saint Anthony, who is kneeling in prayer, gazes at the Child Jesus has seldom been surpassed in reality and power. Entirely lifted beyond the earthly sphere, his features kindle with ardent piety and divine love. The angels surrounding the Infant Jesus have a simplicity of expression which never escapes those who have loved and studied children. The coloring is unique and of a truly penetrating softness. All the little details of the miserable cell in which the saint is kneeling are rendered with the vigorous reality so characteristic of the Spanish school, while in the upper part of the painting one seems to see even the dust particles floating in the rays of sunlight. The shadows have a marvelous transparency.
The Angel de la Guarda, or Guardian Angel, is one of the master's very best works. The purples and yellows of the angel's vesture have kept their depth and richness through all the centuries in which the colors have been drying.
There might be a guide-book dealing with the paintings of the Cathedral alone. How differently it is decorated from the great Gothic cathedrals of the present Anglican Church! In Seville as in Florence, all the fine arts seemed to flower and come to perfection during the sixteenth century. Sculpture and painting were employed to embellish architecture, as in the ancient days of Greece. The sister arts walked once more hand in hand. The figures in stone and still more in terra-cotta which adorn the exterior porches and the more decorative portions of the interior are unusually fine. Many of the bishops, saints and kings have an unmistakable Renaissance feeling. Take, for instance, such a statue as the Virgin del Reposo, so dear to the Sevillians,--you feel in all the handling the period of transition. Such sculptors as Miguel Florentin, Juan Marin, and Diego de Pesquera must have been influenced by Italy when they carved the statues which adorn the Cathedral of Seville.
The contact with Italy and the many Italian workmen gradually induced faithlessness to the earlier Gothic ideals of the founders and builders of the church. The great Maestro Mayor of Toledo Cathedral, Henrique de Egas, was among the first to introduce restraint in Spanish building after the fanaticism of the later flamboyant. In the time of Ferdinand and Isabella, a well-known Toledan published a Spanish abridgment of Vitruvius; this in conjunction with the influence of many foreign artists led the way to classical building. Granada was soon resurrected as a Greek-Roman "Centralbau" and even the crossing of Gothic Burgos was unfortunately restored by Borgoña after classic models.
The new foreign movement found expression in architecture, in sculpture and in painting, often with the most extraordinary attempts to employ the new without discarding the old. Grotesque and fantastic ornaments crown illogical construction.
The royal chapel, the chapter house, the sagrario and the great sacristy are examples of the new-born style. The first two are magnificent specimens of Spanish Renaissance. Each of them is a fine church in itself, and they can only be classed as chapels because they bear that relation and are proportioned to the immense mother church of Seville.
The walls of the Capilla Real form the eastern termination to the Cathedral, and the chapel is very properly planned upon the axe of the church and entered through a splendidly decorated lofty arch. It is about 81 by 59 feet in plan, and 113 feet high to the lantern crowning the really fine dome. A round altar at its eastern extremity is closed off by a typically impressive reja. The architecture is of the magnificence of Saint Peter's in Rome, and not unlike it in detail. Eight Corinthian pilasters support the dome, breaking the wall space into panels and carrying the richest classical cornice surmounted by fine statues of the Apostles, Evangelists and kings. The chapel takes its name from being the burial place of the royal house. Along its walls are the tombs of Saint Ferdinand's consort, of Alfonso the Learned and his mother, Beatrice of Suabia, and the beautiful Doña Maria de Padilla, the mistress of Pedro the Cruel. He himself is buried below in the vault with many other of the royal princes. In the centre of the chapel Saint Ferdinand lies in full armor with a crown on his head. Three times a year he is shown to the soldiers of Spain, who march past with sounding bugles and lowered banners.
The chapel was planned and built by Martin Ganza during the reign of Charles V. Shortly after the defeat of the Moors, an earlier royal one was built upon the same site and added to the old mosque. When the great new Cathedral was planned, the Chapter begged permission to remove temporarily the bodies of the royal personages interred in the chapel,--the holy King Ferdinand, his mother and son. This petition was granted by Queen Joanna on condition that they would rebuild it on a more fitting scale at as early a date as possible. The Chapter preferred, however, to expend all its means and energies on the great vaulting of the Cathedral rather than on the new royal sepulchre, and this was not rebuilt until Charles V finally lost patience over the negligent and disrespectful manner in which the remains of his forbears were treated and wrote to the Chapter, in 1543, commanding them "to start the work without any delay whatsoever, and to bring it to completion as rapidly as possible, and to execute the work as excellently as befitted its royal guests." That the workmen made no delay in obeying the royal commands is shown by the fact that the walls were well up as early as 1566 and finished shortly afterwards.
None of the Spanish cathedrals have a better type of Plateresque architecture and decoration than the sacristy, built during the first half of the seventeenth century. The plan is that of a Greek cross, 70 by 40 feet, and about 120 feet high. Its dome, spanning the great central vault, is a distinct feature in any comprehensive exterior view of the Cathedral. The Sacristy is filled with curious and priceless relics, treasures, and vestments belonging to the church. As Santa Justa and Santa Rufina are in a manner the patron saints of Seville, their picture by Goya hanging here is of interest. Both of them hold vessels of the character of soup dishes; and their faces, taken from Seville models, are of decidedly earthly types.
To the west of the façade as you enter, lies the large sagrario, or parish church. It is a building entirely by itself, 112 feet long, with a single nave spanned by a dangerously bold barrel vault.
Here and there among the chapels you come suddenly on famous subjects by great masters, names renowned in Spanish history or striking works of art. Learning and statesmanship are honored in great Mendoza's monument: the silent mailed effigies of the Guzmans commemorate the thrilling exploits of Spanish arms. What sympathies are stirred as you stand uncovered before the tomb of the great and deeply wronged Discoverer! We hear again the passionate appeals and the vain pleadings of his undaunted faith. The living head was left to whiten within prison walls; its effigy is now proudly carried on the four gorgeous shoulders of the Spanish states; the poor bones, after their weary travels from Valladolid to the Carthusian monastery of Las Cuevas, from Hispaniola to Havana, have finally found a resting-place within the very walls where they were once treated with such contumely,--for here lies the Great Admiral, Cristoforo Colon.
You pass paintings by Alfonso Cano, Ribera, Zurbaran, Greco and Goya,--Murillo's Immaculate Conception, better known than all his other works; Montañez' exquisite Crucifixion, canvases by Valdes, Herrera, Boldan and Roelas. There are subjects curious and out of keeping with our present artistic sentiments, saints walking about with their heads instead of breviaries under their arms, dresses more fitting for the ballroom than the wintry scenery amid which they are worn, marriage ceremonies of the Virgin, Adam and Eve, entirely forgetful of their lost Eden in the contemplation of the Virgin's halo, keys with quaint old Arab inscriptions: "May Allah render eternal the dominion of Islam in this city," saints with removable hair of spun gold and jointed limbs, others snatched from quiet altar service to plunge into the turmoil of battle on the saddle bow of reigning kings. Verily a museum of historical curiosities as well as of the fine arts, satisfying sensational cravings as well as the finer artistic sense.
The structure is revealed to us through a light of unearthly sweetness. None of the Spanish cathedrals are more satisfactorily lighted, for Seville has neither the brilliant clarity of some of the northern churches, which robs them of a certain mystery and awe, nor has it the sinister obscurity of some of the southern, where both structure and detail are half lost in shadows, as in Barcelona.
The light from the cimborio and from the two rows of windows as well as the doors penetrates every chapel with its rainbow hues; it reveals the whole majestic structure, the lofty spring of the arches, the glittering ironwork of the screens, the titanic strength and simple caps of the columns, and breathes celestial life into the army of saints and martyrs. It gives a soul to it all. The effect produced by the early morning and late afternoon light is very different. Santa Maria de la Sede, like all her earthly sisters, has a variety of expressions. At times she burns with animation, even a remnant of earthly passion may glow in her holy countenance, and again she is cold, impassive and nunlike in her gray garb of renunciation.
According to an Andalusian proverb, the rays of the sun have no evil power where the voice of prayer is heard. For this reason, only a few of the highest windows are screened by semi-transparent curtains, and the light pours in unbroken through most of their brilliant tints--down the nave in deep blood reds and indigo blues. The greater portion of the glass is unusually rich in coloring,--perhaps too florid, but typical of the Flemish School of glass-painting. Ninety-three windows were stained during the first half of the sixteenth century, for which the church paid the painters the large sum of 90,000 ducats. The earliest ones are by Micer and Cristobal Aleman, who in 1538 introduced in Seville real stained glass. Aleman's, representing the Ascension of Christ, Mary Magdalen, and the Awakening of Lazarus, the Entry into Jerusalem, the Descent of the Holy Ghost and the Apostles, all in the transept, together with those by his brother Arnao de Flanders, are the best,--better than most Flemish windows of the time in any European cathedral. True, they are somewhat heavy in outline and the coloring lacks softness and restraint in tone, but they have great depth, excellency of drawing and power of expression in faces and figures.
[Illustration: Photo by J. Lacoste, Madrid
CATHEDRAL OF SEVILLE
Illustration: AND THE GIRALDA]
The little chapel, the Capilla de los Doncelles, contains a magnificent sheet of glass representing the Resurrection of Christ, painted by Carlos de Bruges, one of the great Flemish artists. A whole school of foreign painters seem to have gathered round these famous "vidrieros," many of them working in their shops. Among the best known are Arnao de Vergara, Micer Enrique Bernardino de Celandra and Vicente Menardo.
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The Giralda is incomparable, a unique expression of feminine strength. She is as oriental and mysterious as the Sphinx, or might be likened to a great sultana in enchanted sleep. Though her majestic head has towered for centuries beside her Christian sister, they still seem as irreconcilable as their faiths a thousand years ago. It has been a strange companionship. The oriental loveliness and splendor of the Giralda, like that of Seville, are best felt at the twilight hour, when her jewels sparkle in the last rays of the setting sun. With the waning light the coloring becomes purple, then indigo, while the silhouette still stands out in startling clearness and strength against the spotless blue of the evening sky. You feel as if the whole mountain of masonry were slowly but surely leaning more and more from its base and about to bury you in its fall. The vermilion and ochre coloring are like the petals of the rose. Nowhere is the surface uniform, but passes gradually from light cream and buff through warmer amber to brilliant orange and carmine and crimson lake, even to the color of the pomegranate's heart. The exquisite surface of delicate tinting, mellowed by the storms and suns of centuries, is everywhere relieved by the brilliant sparkle, the delicate play of light and shade, of the Moorish designs. When the low rays of the Andalusian sun illumine the Giralda, just touched here and there with dots of molten gold like the orange trees from whose green bed it rises, you see the boldest creation of Moorish imagination in all its splendor. The great Cathedral itself becomes a modest nun with rich, but sombre, cape over her shoulders, beside this dazzling creature glowing with Saracenic fire.
The Giralda is the greatest of all the monuments of that enlightened civilization. She is so different from any other tower that comparison becomes difficult. There is a robustness, an appearance of adequate solidity and strength which are lacking in the Italian towers of Saint Mark's, of Pistoja, or of Florence. This holds true even in relation to other Moorish towers, or such edifices as the Mosque at Cordova, the Alcazar at Seville, or the pillared halls of Granada; all other Moorish work seems to have a certain feminine weakness, a timidity and insecurity, when compared with the tower which dominates Maria Santissima. The Giralda is your first and last impression of this corner of the world, for it embodies all the grace and strength that can be combined in architecture. Old Spanish authorities assert that it was in the very year when believers throughout Christendom were anxiously expecting the end of the world that the Moslem infidels began to build their huge monument. More probably it was started about the year 1185, as the prayer tower or minaret of the mosque which was then rapidly progressing. The Spanish historian Gayangos says that it was completed by Jabar or Gever in 1196, during the reign of the illustrious Almohad ruler, Abu Jakub Jusef, the same monarch who erected the Mesquita at Cordova. Other authorities insist that its original purpose was as an observatory,--but although it may have been used for astronomical purposes, it was certainly erected as a tower from which the muezzin could call the faithful to prayer in the Mosque of Seville. While building it, Gever claims to have invented algebra.
The original tower has undergone skillful but of course detrimental changes from the hands of later generations. We have descriptions and representations of it prior to the changes made in 1500. The main Arab structure was, like almost all Mohammedan prayer-towers, surmounted by a smaller tower and capped by a spire. It was about 250 feet high, and on its summit an iron standard supported, before the earthquake of 1395, four enormous balls of brass. King Alfonso the Wise, in his "Cronica de España," describing Seville in the thirteenth century, says that "when the sun shone upon these balls, they emitted so fierce a light that they might be seen a day's journey away from the city." When Seville was taken by Saint Ferdinand in 1248, the tower was standing in the full glory of its original conception. The thought that it might fall into the hands of the conquerors so horrified its builders that they were only prevented from destroying it by Saint Ferdinand's threat that, if a single brick were removed, not an infidel in Seville should keep his head.
The Giralda had already lost the Byzantine crown which it had worn proudly for five hundred years when, in 1595, it came near total destruction, and was only saved during the terrible earthquake and storm which almost destroyed the city by the interposition of its special protectresses, the potter girls of Triana, Santa Justa and Santa Rufina. There are pictures which show us these blessed Virgins supporting the tower while the wind devils with distended cheeks are blowing on its sides with all their might and main. We are not only grateful to them for this timely intervention, but very glad it cost them so little exertion, for we find them shortly afterwards holding the tower in their hands as lightly as a filigree casket. The architects who restored it about twenty years ago fortunately refrained from all attempts at improving or renovating its sunburned, wind-swept surface.
The Giralda is as strong as it looks. The huge walls have a thickness of eight feet below, diminishing to seven feet in the upper stories. The height to the very top of the crowning figure is 308 feet. In the foundations are bricks, rubble, and huge blocks of earlier Roman and Visigothic masonry; even Latin inscriptions are found immured. The Moors, like all other builders, used the materials readiest at hand; the rejected building stones of one generation become the corner stones of the next.
Below the Renaissance addition with which the tower was terminated in 1568, the broad sides of the shaft had been broken by the Arabs in the simplest and most felicitous manner. The brickwork was treated in three panels with the corner borders very properly broader and stronger than the two intermediate ones. The panels, which could not be of a happier depth, are filled down to eighty feet of the ground with varying Moorish arabesque patterns; the figured diaper-work on all sides is broken in the two outer panels by blind cusped arches, and in the central patterns, by Moorish windows of the "ajuiez" variety. Their double arches are subdivided by small Byzantine columns; these again are framed within larger cusped and differently broken horseshoe curves. Small Renaissance balconies have at a later date been placed below the windows. The small niches comprising the total Moorish composition sparkle throughout with life and charm, and, though no two are alike, they form a harmonious whole. The Arab seemed to have an instinctive aversion from tedious repetition. He would always vary the design just enough to satisfy his imagination and creative faculty, but never sufficiently to disturb the harmony of the general scheme. As with the windows, so also with the arabesques. They begin at slightly varying heights on the different sides of the tower, so that the windows may properly meet the different elevations of the interior stair. Their patterns are not quite the same, neither on the various sides of the tower nor at different heights on the same side. The decoration employed is admirably fitted to a large surface which would have been weakened by strong cutting or deep relief. Considering what Arab art achieved within prescribed limits, the student of Christian art may well deplore that the Koran, in its abhorrence of idol-worship, forbade its followers in any way to reproduce human or animal forms. Forever debarred all the wider possibilities of movement and poetry these would have given them for interior decoration, Moorish art necessarily stagnated to mere conventionalization of floral and natural subjects. These are well adapted to exterior mural surfacing. When we look at the fancifully handled geometric patterns on the Giralda, we can only rejoice that the frescoes added by the later Renaissance artists in the upper arches and along some of the lower surfaces have been washed away by time. They were ineffective; all that remains of Moorish is magnificent. A small arcade, running the width of each side in its single panel, terminates the Moorish work.
It is almost to be regretted that the Renaissance top has been so well done, for its barbarous exotism is sufficient to condemn it. It has excellently fulfilled a dastardly purpose.
The original Moorish termination was taken down by the architect, Francisco Ruiz, who was commissioned by the Cathedral Chapter in 1568 to give it a more fitting crown. His design consists of three stages reaching to a height of about a hundred feet. The first, of the same width as the shaft below, is pierced by openings "to let out the sweet sounds of the bells inside." The second stage consists of a double tier of considerably smaller squares pierced by wide arches. Around the four sides of its upper frieze runs the inscription so legible that all Sevillians who know how may read, "Nomen Domini Fortissima Turris" (Proverbs, xviii, 10). The third stage consists of a double lantern surmounted by a soaring Seraphim, bearing in one hand the banner of Constantine and in the other the Roman palm of conquest. The "Girardello" was cast in gilded bronze by Bartolomé Morel in the year 1568. Intended to symbolize Faith, the name, a diminutive of Giralda, or weathercock, is most inappropriate. Despite her enormous size and weight, the faintest zephyr blowing down from the Sierra Moreña sets her turning on the spire she treads so lightly, whereupon the crowds of hawks resting on Girardello disperse in noisy scolding.
Dumas gazed at her in wonder and admiration. "C'est merveilleux," he said, "de voir tourner dans un rayon de soleil cette figure d'or aux ailes deployées, qui semble, comme un oiseau céleste fatigué d'une longue course, avoir choisi pour se reposer un instant le point le plus proche du ciel."
The great bells of the tower, all baptized with holy oil, a custom very frequent in Spain, are dear to the hearts of those whom they daily call to rest and prayer. As they strike the hours, passers-by look up to see their great tongues protrude. Their sweet peal is heard in the most distant quarters of the city, and beyond on the waters of the Guadalquivir and in the fertile valley through which it flows. The deep resonant note of Santa Maria is the last sound we hear before falling asleep.
Inside you may ascend to the very summit by steps so broad and easy that two horses abreast may go as far as the platform of the bells. Below you lies the city with its scattered white buildings that once housed half a million, and beyond, the valley that enfolded twelve thousand villages. Though dwindled and changed, time has dealt gently with Seville. There is gay laughter in her sunny streets and the olive groves echo with rippling song. Just under your feet throbs the heart of it all. Though repeatedly struck by lightning, the great Cathedral still stands, an everlasting symbol of the Church, triumphant and eternal.
[Illustration: Photo by J. Lacoste, Madrid
CATHEDRAL OF GRANADA
Kennst du das Land we die Citronen blühn, Im dunkeln Land die Goldorangen glühn, Ein sanfter Wind vom blauen Himmel weht, Die Myrte still und hoch der Lorbeer steht?
GOETHE'S Wilhelm Meister.
Thus being entred, they behold arownd A large and spacious plaine, on every side Strewed with pleasauns, whose fayre grassy grownd Mantled with greene, and goodly beautifide With all the ornaments of Floraes pride.