Seville Cathedral: La Giralda

A general view of La Giralda

The most famous part of the Cathedral is without a doubt La Giralda, the former minaret of the Almohad mosque. The architect Ahmed Lbn Baso began building it in 1184, and it was finished by Ali de Gomara in 1198.

The minaret or slender tower has a stone base where ashlars from former Roman buildings of Seville can be seen. The large brick tower itself measures 94m, not counting the statue on its top. On all four sides of the tower there are balconies and windows which illuminate their sections of the stairs inside. As far as half-way up, the walls are divided into three vertical sections with a pattern of rhomboid decoration.

The Almohad face of the Tower

The bell tower of La Giralda

On top of the original minaret there was a second, smaller section covered with a hemispherical dome which was topped by three bronze balls of decreasing size. In 1365 an earthquake destroyed the dome and balls which were replaced by a modest bell gable of little worth. Fortunately in 1558 the chapter of the Cathedral decided to remodel the top of the tower, entrusting the task to the architect Hernán Ruiz II, who over a period of ten years built the admirable belfry and the two circular temple-like structures above, the top one being smaller than the bottom one. The upper Renaissance section and the perfect, harmonious fashion, while the architectural elements of two different cultures, separated in time by four centuries, blend admirably.

A huge sculpture representig Faith was placed on top of the belfry. Without the pedestal it is four metres high and was cast in bronze by Bartolomé Morel who used a mould that was probably modelled by Juan Bautista Vázquez el Viejo(the Elder) who in turn used a design by the painter Luis de Vargas.

El Giraldillo

The face of El Giraldillo

This scilpture acts as a weather vane by turning with the direction of the wind. This explains the popular name of La Giralda (girar=turn) which was later given to the tower.