GIRALDA

Seville
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Why visit the Giralda of Seville?

It’s no wonder that the Giralda tower is a symbol of Seville. Measuring over 100m in height, it is by far the tallest structure in the city’s old town. In addition, its mixture of Moorish and Renaissance architecture is a visual representation of Seville’s long and fascinating history.

Looking at the Giralda, it’s plain to see that there are two distinct sections. The bottom two thirds dates back to the 12th century when it was the minaret for Seville’s Great Mosque. It stood 82m (269 ft) high and was inspired by similar minarets in Rabat and Marrakech, Morocco (many of which are still standing today). Because of its beauty, its unique architecture has also served as an inspiration for towers all over the world.

Once the Christians arrived to Seville in 1248, the mosque was turned into a church and the minaret into a bell tower. The tower was built higher until it finally reached 104m (341ft) into the air. A staggering 24 bells were placed inside of it – the most of any cathedral in Spain. Then, on the very top of the tower, a “giralda” or wind vane was added, giving the famous landmark a new name.

Cathedral and Giralda seen from the Torre del Oro – Seville, Spain
Giralda as seen from the Torre del Oro

Apart from being used for calling to prayer for both Muslims and Christians, the tower has served many other purposes throughout history. Its interior rooms housed the tower’s warden and bell-men. It was also a defensive watch tower and even used for grain storage. In the 15th century, a clock was installed on it. The clock mechanism is still preserved in the interior of the Giralda and can be seen on the way up.

VISITING LA GIRALDA

Access to the Giralda is included in the cathedral’s general admission. However, once you are inside the cathedral, you will probably have to wait in line to climb up the tower. It is not uncommon to take 45 minutes to finally reach the top.

There is no elevator and no stairs. Instead, a wide ramp winds its way up and around the tower. We can thank the Mosque’s Imam who designed the passage way to be wide enough for a horse to be able to maneuver through – that way he could comfortably make it to the top for the call to prayer.

The walk up is not too terrible and thankfully there are windows which allow you to peer out from time to time. There are also a couple of small exhibition rooms with some artifacts related to the building and its history.

Top of the Giralda tower in Seville's cathedral – Spain
Top of the Giralda tower

Since the Giralda is the tallest structure in Seville’s old town, the views are of course unobstructed. However, the tower is so much taller than the rest of the surrounding buildings that you are left looking down on rooftops. The cathedral’s rooftop tour gives a better vantage point and is not nearly as high of a climb as the Giralda.

If you want more intimate views of the city and don’t want to walk up, check out the viewpoint from the Setas de Sevilla which is accessed by an elevator and far less crowded.

LA GIRALDA IN POPULAR CULTURE

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