Seville Cathedral: A Visitor’s Guide to the largest Gothic Cathedral in the World

The majestic Seville Cathedral: A Visitor’s Guide to the largest Gothic Cathedral in the World

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What to expect from this guide

Welcome to The majestic Seville Cathedral | A Visitor’s Guide to the largest Gothic Cathedral in the World. This unmissable guide is specially curated for you to provide historical context as well as practical tips so that you can make the most of your visit to this grandiose sanctuary. You could easily spend a few hours discovering this heritage and in this guide, you will find all the best listed.

Learn about the story of the majestic Seville Cathedral (Catedral de Sevilla), the highlights of the glorious interior, things to do and places to stay nearby.

majestic Seville Cathedral |

I | Story of the majestic Seville Cathedral (Catedral de Sevilla)

Seville Cathedral |
Seville Cathedral, Seville City | Image: © TTS photograper

The official name of Seville Cathedral is Cathedral of Saint Mary of the See (Catedral de Santa María de la Sede in Spanish) but is better known as Seville Cathedral or Catedral de Sevilla in Spanish.

Nothing prepares visitors for the monumental and glorious sight of the majestic Seville Cathedral in the heart of Seville city, the capital of the autonomous community of Andalusia. This Roman Catholic Cathedral is the world’s largest in Gothic architecture and is registered by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site since 1987, along with the Alcázar and General Archive of the Indies.

Construction of the majestic Seville Cathedral was long and ardous, about 106 years to complete.

Here is how it all began …

1 | The history — Good to Know before you go

We know from ancient history, temples and places of worship had been adapted to new spiritual purposes to reflect the spirituality and beliefs of new dominant rulers when a region is conquered. For example the Pantheon of Rome was converted into a church when Christianity became the official religion of the Empire. Similarly, the Hagia Sophia was built in 537 as a cathedral and was the largest cathedral during the Byzantine era in the imperial capital of Constantinople. In 1453, following the fall of Constantinople to the Ottoman Empire, the Hagia Sophia was converted into a mosque. A number of minarets were added over the years and is now officially known as The Holy Hagia Sophia Grand Mosque.

2 | When Seville Cathedral was a Mosque

It is generally recorded that the Moors ruled parts of the Iberian Peninsula for 800 years, from early 8th to late 15th centuries. Although they were expelled from Seville in 1248 and finally from the entire Western Europe by 1492, the Moors had left a distinct legacy and a mark on Andalusian culture which are richly noticeable today. One such legacy was the Almohad mosque, construction of which began in 1172 and completed in 1198.

The Almohads were Berber Muslims with origins in the Atlas Mountains of Morocco. The Almohad Caliph, Abu Yaqub Yusuf who ruled Seville in the 12th century ordered a construction of a new great mosque, aimed at making Seville the capital of Al-Andalus.

The mosque was designed by the well-known Ahmad ben Basso. His design encompassed a rectangular building space of 113 metres by 135 metres. It consisted of 17 prayer halls, a minaret and an ablutions courtyard.

The Moors also brought the distinctive orange trees (bitter oranges!) to Seville and the fragrance of oranges can be experienced in Patio de los Naranjos even today.

3 | When the mosque in Seville became the Cathedral in Seville

With the conquest of Seville by Ferdinand III of Castille in December 1248, the great mosque of the Almohad’s was converted to a cathedral. The spaces were partitioned and chapels created.

After half a century of maintenance and repairs, it was decided that a bigger cathedral was built to reflect the city’s wealth as the city was a major thriving trading centre after the reconquest. Accordingly, it was decided in 1401 by the church elders that they would:

“… build a church so beautiful and so grand that those who see it finished will take us for crazy.”

True to their words, the Seville Cathedral is one of the largest places of worship in Christendom and the largest in Gothic style in the world today built on the very site of the Almohad’s great mosque.

Construction began in 1401 and took over a hundred years to build this landmark in the centre of Seville, when it was completed in 1506. Almost half of the eastern side of the cathedral is occupied by the royal chapel, containing the royal tombs.

Seville Cathedral is also the final resting place for Christopher Columbus and his son Ferdinand (Diego) Columbus.

The belfry that towers over the cathedral and the city has its origin in the 12th century. The origin of base of the Giralda is from the Almohad reign and is the oldest part of this monument.

Recommended read: The Giralda Tower in Seville

With this nutshell history, let’s dive in to the highlights of the majestic Seville Cathedral.

II | Highlights of the glorious interior of the majestic Seville Cathedral

Here are some of the glorious highlights to take note of when visiting the largest Gothic cathedral in the world:

1 | Gothic interior of the majestic Seville Cathedral

Gothic interior of the majestic Seville Cathedral
The towering, massive and slender pillars emphasize the height of the extravagant vaulting, while elegantly arch over to support the ribbed vaults | Image: © georgina_daniel

The astounding sight of this sumptuous Gothic haven is a jaw-dropping experience. With a length of 126 metres by 83 metres wide along with a soaring 37 metres in height at the transept and central nave, this colossal cathedral is extremely spacious, airy and exudes an overall sense of harmony. The towering, massive and slender pillars emphasize the height of the extravagant vaulting, while elegantly arch over to support the ribbed vaults. Much of the vaulting is simple and modest, with some uniquely designed geometrical patterns on the ceiling.

There are five aisles laid out in this rectangular floor plan. Much of the aisles are empty and this adds to the immense space that one feels upon entering this cathedral.

towering columns in the Seville Cathedral
towering columns and beautiful geometrical patterns on the ceiling of Seville Cathedral | © georgina_daniel

The interior is relatively dark but illuminating the interior are the noted 81 stained glass windows which represents the very core of the grandeur of a Gothic cathedral. The oldest stained glass windows dates back to the 13th century, while it is estimated about 75 dates from the 16th to the 19th century.

2 | Silver Altar at Seville Cathedral – A mastery of Sevillian silversmithing

Silver Altar at the majestic Seville Cathedral
Silver Altar at Seville Cathedral showcasing a mastery of Sevillian silversmithing | © georgina_daniel

At the northern arm of the transept, is the magnificent Silver Altar, named after the abundant use of silver by the famous silversmiths of Seville.

The centrepiece is the statue of the Virgin Mary with the Child Jesus with the sculptures of San Isidoro and San Leandro on the sides.

Standing testament to the incredible mastery of Sevillian silversmithing are the large, exquisitely crafted sun-like shaped silver monstrance at the rear of the centrepiece which is topped with an intricately designed silver crown.

Just above the Silver Altar is a fine painting of the Ascension of the Virgin Mary. Above this painting, sits a lovely stained-glass window depicting the Ascension of Jesus, by Carlos de Brujas in 1588.

3 | High Altar Main Chapel (Capilla Mayor) at Seville Cathedral

Main Altar Seville Cathedral
The High Altar is a dazzling showpiece-the largest Gothic altar in the world | © georgina_daniel

In the centre of the Cathedral is the magnificent High Altar. A masterpiece.

The High Altar is an opulent showpiece of Gothic woodcarving measuring 20 metre high and 23 metre wide – the largest Gothic altar in the world. Given its height, the sculptures higher up are larger, just so to keep the perspective when viewed from floor level. The centre piece features the Virgen de la Sede and is surrounded by 45 wood panels of carvings depicting the Life of Christ and His Apostles along with the Life of the Virgin.

The design of the High Altar was initiated by Pieter Dancart, a Flemish artist in 1482. The 45 panels of intricate work of art which include over 200 figures of saints took some 80 years to complete.

The exquisite masterpiece is lavishly gilded with 3 tons of pure gold brought back from the Americas during the Age of Discovery, pioneered by Christopher Columbus.

pretty geometrical ceiling in Seville Cathedral |
beautiful geometrical patterns cover the vaulted ceiling | Image: © georgina_daniel

The vaulted ceiling above is covered with beautiful, geometrical patterns that are aesthetically pleasing. The vaulted ceiling rests on slender, tall and massive columns that are lined up along the naves. Just below the vaulted ceiling are some stained glass windows.

4 | Tomb of Christopher Columbus at Seville Cathedral

Tomb of Christopher Columbus in Seville Cathedral, Seville

One of the last additions to the majestic Seville Cathedral is the monument to Christopher Columbus in 1899. The tomb of Christopher Columbus is one of the famous attractions at Seville Cathedral. His sarcophagus is held aloft by four life-sized statues who symbolically represent the four kingdoms of Spain during his time — Castile, Aragon, Navara and Leon. The bronze plate rectangular bottom of the coffin is inscribed with the coat-of-arms of Spain along with words in Spanish which reads:

Seville Cathedral
The inscriptions: Aqui jacen los restos de Cristobal Colon desde 1796 los guardo la Habana y este sepulcro por de 26 de febrero de 1891 | Seville Cathedral | Image: © georgina_daniel

Aqui jacen los restos de Cristobal Colon desde 1796 los guardo la Habana y este sepulcro por de 26 de febrero de 1891

Translated to read in English:

(Here lies the remains of Cristobal Colon kept in Havana since 1796 and this sepulchre by of February 26, 1891)

Christopher Columbus Seville Cathedral |
viewed from rear of Christopher Columbus’ monument Seville Cathedral | Image: © TTS photographer

The four kingdoms were united into one nation, (modern Spain) by Queen Isabella I and her husband Ferdinand who also funded the explorer’s journey to the New World in 1492.

4.1 | A little about Christopher Columbus

Born in Genoa, Italy, in 1451, Christopher Columbus (Cristobal Colon in Spanish) was the famous explorer and navigator who completed four voyages across the Atlantic. He believed that he ‘discovered’ the New World of the Americas, although he never really discovered North America. His exploration brought much trade and wealth to Seville. He was revered a local hero. He died in 1506 at Valladolid, Spain.

Columbus was buried in Valladolid but was moved to Seville in 1509. He was subsequently moved to Santa Domingo in 1537 but he was moved again in 1778 to Cuba.

It is believed that following Cuba’s independence, the remains of Christopher Columbus were returned to Seville in 1898 and was finally laid to rest in Seville Cathedral. It is guaranteed, according to a DNA test in 2006, that the bones in the coffin at Seville Cathedral is that of Christopher Columbus. Sadly, the coffin only has a fifth or less of his bones.

His sarcophagus that is seen at the Seville Cathedral today was designed by sculptor Arturo Melida and was initially installed in Havana, Cuba before being moved to Seville.

4.2 | Ferdinand Columbus – Second son of Christopher Columbus

Seville Cathedral Andalusia
Ferdinand Columbus’ tombstone is etched on the floor below the central nave near the west entrance in Seville Cathedral | Image: © georgina_daniel

Ferdinand Columbus also known as Fernando Colón, or Hernando Colon was the second son to Christopher Columbus. Ferdinand was a bibliographer and a cosmographer. He wrote a biography of his father entitled, The Life of the Admiral Christopher Columbus by his son, Ferdinand.

Ferdinand also started a private collection of books and created a library called, La Bibliotheca Colombina. This library is now located on the north side of Patio de los Naranjos.

Ferdinand Columbus is buried in Seville Cathedral. His tombstone is etched on the floor below the central nave near the west entrance.

5 | Royal Chapel (Capilla Real)

The Royal Chapel is a lavish Renaissance styled chapel and is the final resting place of King Ferdinand III of Castille, who reconquered Seville, his wife and Alfonso the Wise, along with their descendant King Peter the Just. King Ferdinand was canonised in 1671 and his tomb is inscribed in Arabic, Hebrew, Latin and Castilian.

Much of the Royal Chapel was completed during the reign of Charles V, King of Spain (Castile and Aragon) from 1516 1556. The chapel is surrounded by an 18th century grille. Steps lead to the crypt below.

6 | Side Chapels and Art in Seville Cathedral

Along with statues and tombs, Seville Cathedral is host to some exquisite works of art.

The side chapels are home to some opulent tombs – the Gothic monument of Juan de Cervantes in the Capilla de San Hermenegildo and the tomb of Arcbishop Mendoza in the Capilla de la Antigua are worth seeing.

7 | Sacristy and Treasury

majestic Seville Cathedral
The dome is sculpted with the Final Judgement in three rings | Image: © georgina_daniel

The architectural details of the Main Sacristy (Sacristia Mayor) are an exquisite Renaissance style addition to the Gothic Cathedral. The Greek cross-shaped structure is adorned with columns, richly decorated with plateresque details and crowned by a circular dome. The dome is sculpted with the Final Judgement in three rings (the fiery hell is the lowest ring) and a beautiful roof lantern designed to provide daylight to the hall below.

Preserved within these walls of the sacristy are art treasures that highlight the glorious era of when Christianity was core and religious art flourished in Seville. Finely crafted liturgical items, custodias and crosses made of gold and silver are on display, while the walls are adorned with masterpieces by Goya, Murillo, Campaña (1503 – 1586) and Zurbarán (1598 – 1664).

Click the below to watch a sneak preview. Click the replay button if you wish to watch it again:

The Main Sacristy, Seville Cathedral, Seville

8 | La Giralda of the majestic Seville Cathedral (Bell Tower)

Giralda Tower and Seville Cathedral
Giralda Tower and Seville Cathedral | Image: © TTS photographer

The Giralda is the Bell Tower at Seville Cathedral and stands as a symbol of the city of Sevilla’s multicultural heritage. The tower was originally a minaret to the 12th century Almohad mosque but was converted to a church tower after the reconquest. The base of the tower is a testament to the Almohads influence while later additions were made during the Renaissance years. The tower was topped in the 16th century with a four metre high bronze statue, nicknamed Giraldillo, for its function as a weather vane. A full size copy of this weather vane can be seen at the main entrance to the Cathedral (Door of the Prince).

The Giralda Tower is accessible via ramps. Visitors walk up the 35 ramps and there is a short flight of stairs at the top.

Entry to Giralda Tower is included in all ticket types to Seville Cathedral.

Recommended read: The Bell Tower at Seville Cathedral

9 | Patio de los Naranjos

Seville Cathedral, the fountain in Patio de los Naranjos
the fountain in the centre of Patio de los Naranjos, Seville Cathedral | Image: © TTS photographer

Finally, exiting the Seville Cathedral is via Door of the Conception into a pleasant courtyard full of orange trees, Patio de los Naranjos, located on the northern facade of the Catedral de Sevilla.

Patio de los Naranjos has its origins in the Almohad era. There is a fountain in the centre of the courtyard that once was the spot that served as an ablution area for the Almohad mosque.

This nice little courtyard is perfect to relax in, both before and after visiting Seville Cathedral.

II | Seville Cathedral’s Exterior Highlights

seville cathedral exterior
view over the exterior of Seville Cathedral as you climb up the ramps to the bell tower

The majestic Seville Cathedral has an exterior encompassing magnificent Gothic characteristics. With tall structures, flying buttresses and beautifully adorned doors makes this gigantic structure strikingly pleasing.

There are a total of 15 doors (puertas). Most of the these doors are kept inaccessible and only three primary entrances/exits are often in use. Here are some of the Cathedral’s exterior highlights in addition to the Patio de los Naranjos.

1 | The Door of Assumption or Main Door

Door of Assumption Seville Cathedral |
The Door of Assumption Seville Cathedral | Image: © TTS photographer

This elaborately decorated entrance is located on the west of the cathedral. This remain closed at most times and is open only during festivals.

2 | Door of the Conception | Puerta de la Concepción, Catedral de Sevilla

Door of Assumption Seville Cathedral |

Door of the Conception (Puerta de la Concepción) is a Gothic style door at the entrance to the north facade of the cathedral. This ornate door was crafted by Demetrio de los Rios and the work was completed in 1895 by Fernandez Casanova.

Visitors exit through this door through to Patio de los Naranjos.

3 | Door of the Prince | Puerta del Príncipe

Seville Cathedral
Door of the Prince at Seville Cathedral | Image: ©TTS photographer

Door of the Prince also known as Puerta de San Cristobal and is the entrance to the south of the cathedral. It was built by the same architect, Fernandez Casanova between 1887 and 1895.

Standing in front of Puerta del Príncipe is a bronze statute of a young woman dressed in traditional Roman attire, holding a shield and a cross. She is a symbol of victory of Christian Faith. This sculpture is a replica of El Giraldillo, atop the Giralda Tower. However, this sculpture does not rotate.

4 | The Door of Forgiveness (Puerta del Perdón)

Door of Forgiveness Seville Cathedral |
Door of Forgiveness Sevile Cathedral Spain | Image: ©TTS photographer

The Door of Forgiveness or Puerta del Perdón in Spanish was the main entrance to the Almohad mosque during their reign. These days, the Door of Forgiveness acts as one of the visitors’ entrance to the Cathedral. The name originates from the believe of the faithfuls that only sinners entered through this door to seek forgiveness.

door of forgiveness Seville | timelesstravelsteps.comCathedral
a closer look at the fusion of architecture on the Door of Forgiveness at the majestic Seville Cathedral | Image: ©TTS photographer

The Door of Forgiveness at the majestic Seville Cathedral tells the story of fusion of Christian and Islamic art. The horseshoe shaped arch is the heritage of the Almohad era while the surrounding plasterwork is from the 16th century. Flanking the arch are four beautiful statues. On the left are Archangels Gabriel and St Peter and on the right are Virgin Mary and St Paul. Above the arch is a depiction of Jesus expelling merchants from the temple.

Recommended read: The Complete Guides to two popular neighbourhoods in Seville – Santa Cruz and Bohemian Seville.

III | Practical tips to support your visit to Seville Cathedral

Seville Cathedral is located in Barrio Santa Cruz, the heart of the historic city of Seville. The neighbourhood’s maze of winding streets and hidden corners offer a multitude of varied dining options, vibrant nightlife and widest range of accommodations ranging from 5-star to budget. You may also wish to stay a little out of the city and take the inexpensive tram, metro or taxis to and from your accommodation.

The heart of Seville is compact and easily walkable. Many of the city’s attractions are close together and only minutes away on foot. It is perfectly feasible to explore several attractions in a day and explore the tapas bars and the night scene, feeling perfectly refreshed!

1 | Where to Stay near Seville Cathedral for Sightseeing

Anywhere in the vicinity and/or within a short walk of Catedral de Sevilla is ideal for visitors to stay.

Luxury Hotels

1 | Hotel Alfonso XIII

One of the most prestigious hotels in Spain, Hotel Alfonso XIII is located within minutes of the Reales Alcazares of Seville and the Catedral de Sevilla. Elegantly designed and include Arabic style arches and beautiful colourful ceramic tiles. Guests also enjoy casual al fresco dining as well as breakfast, lunch or dinner.

2 | Eurostars Sevilla Boutique

Within a short walking distance of Seville Cathedral is the Eurostars Sevilla Boutique. This accommodation provides amazing overview from its rooftop terrace and features an outdoor swimming pool and cafe. Includes complimentary breakfast buffet.

3 | Hotel Palacio De Villapanés

Hotel Palacio De Villapanés is a converted 18th century palace and is located just outside of Bario Santa Cruz. Spacious rooms and modern furniture along with rooftop sun terrace and a small plunge pool makes this accommodation ideal for two travellers.

Other luxury hotels to checkout are:

Hotel Colón Gran Meliá – A Travel Sustainable Property

Radisson Collection Hotel, Magdalena Plaza Sevilla

Mid-range Hotels

1 | Hotel Casa 1800 Sevilla

Hotel Casa 1800 Sevilla is a charming boutique hotel located just steps away from the majestic Seville Cathedral and the Royal Alcazar. The property is a renovated 19th century mansion with a traditional Andalusian central courtyard. Features spacious rooms where some are ideal for 3 person family stay, rooftop terrace and breakfast buffet.

2 | Hotel Amadeus Sevilla

Located within yards of Seville Cathedral in the heart of Barrio Santa Cruz, Hotel Amadeus Sevilla features a roof terrace with views over the city and the Giralda Tower. The property is based on a classical music theme and instruments are available if guests wish to have a go. Guests are welcomed with a complimentary drink in the 18th century interior patio.

3 | Petit Palace Marques Santa Ana – Travel Sustainable Property

A restored 19th century building, Petit Palace Marques Santa Ana is a boutique hotel with wooden floors and stylish modern furnishings. The property features a rooftop terrace with views over the city. Located less than two minutes walk to Seville Cathedral! Continental breakfast is served every day.

**Georgina: We stayed here on our recent visit in November 2021 and couldn’t have been more pleased with its location, cleanliness and helpful staff.

Other mid-range properties to peruse:

Casa 95 Sevilla

Puerta del Principe

4 | Budget Accommodation

1 | La Bella Sevilla

La Bella Sevilla is a small hotel of only 11 rooms located in a quiet pedestrian street within close proximity of Seville Cathedral, Giralda Tower and the Royal Alcazar. Highly rated for its location as guests can visit all the monuments, landmarks and cultural centres without the need for public transport.

2 | Itaca Sevilla

Hotel Itaca Sevilla is a converted mansion house and is located just 800 metres from the Catedral de Sevilla. Features a seasonal swimming pool and free WiFi. Rooms are soundproofed, air-conditioned and has a minibar and flat screen TV.

Recommended: The rich Gothic Palace at Royal Alcazar

2 | Tips and Tours: How to make the best of your visit to Seville Cathedral

1 | Best time to Visit:

Early morning is best as soon as the Cathedral doors open to beat the crowds.

Monday through to Friday: 10:45 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.

Sunday: 2:30 p.m. to 6.00 p.m.

** The ticket office closes one hour before the Cathedral and sometimes earlier.

2 | Experience a Mass:

Mass is said daily throughout the day and is free to attend. Check schedule on the official website here.

3 | Tickets to Seville Cathedral and Giralda Tower

If its just the Seville Cathedral you wish to visit, and you do not wish to be in a guided tour, buy the fast-track ticket which gives you access to Catedral de Sevilla and the Giralda Tower. This ticket is valid for the whole day, you do not have to wait in queue and you can explore at your own pace. Peruse and buy your ticket to Seville Cathedral >>

4 | Timing

Allow ample time to explore, at least a couple of hours and a little more if climbing up to the top of the Giralda Tower. Last entry to the Giralda tour is one hour before closing time.

5 | Experience a Journey through Time – A Guided tour of the Roofs of the Cathedral

A tour of the Roofs of Seville Cathedral is offered by the Cathedral at specific times of day. The tour is a journey through time, between 15th and 16 centuries when the Cathedral was built. Tickets for this tour are available directly from the Cathedral’s ticket office. It is not included in the Seville Cathedral and Giralda Tower admission ticket.

6 | Guided Tours

Guided tours of the Cathedral and Giralda Tower are available throughout the week. There are several options to suit visitors’ preferred language also.

Giralda Tower

This tour gives you skip-the-line access with a guided tour of the Cathedral and Giralda. Check availability >>

Alcazar, Cathedral & Giralda

A perfect option if you wish to explore more in a day. Visit Seville Cathedral along with the iconic Real Alcazar with a tour guide who will ensure you know all there is about these two monuments. Check availability >>

3 | What’s Nearby / Nearby attractions

1 | Visit the Royal Alcazar

Visit one of the most important palace complexes in the world for an experience you will never forget.

The Royal Alcazar has captivated one and all with its Mudejar architecture spanning hundreds of years across civilisation, cultures and dynasties. Walk in the footsteps of the Spanish kings and be transported to a different era. Truly an unmissable experience.

Read >> The Real Alcázar of Seville | A Guide to the BEST 22 Unmissable Highlights in the Alcázar Complex

2 | Shopping at Calle de las Sierpes

Take a break from sightseeing and visit one of the best and fun places for shopping in Seville.

Calle de las Sierpes is lined with quaint shops, inviting little boutiques and atmospheric cafes.

3 | Stop for a snack or lunch

Stop-by at Confiteria La Campana for a little treat of candied oranges or figs. Try some Spanish pastries and fuel up to explore more of the city. La Campana has been serving sweet toothed’s since 1885.

On the other hand, if you are peckish and wish to try some delicious tapas, Restaurante Baco is a great place to relax and enjoy a delicious selection of tapas. Great service and friendly staff.

Baco Restaurante Seville
Georgina: “great experience – food was amazing so was the setting and service”

Address: C. Francos, 42, 41004 Sevilla, Spain

Finally … the lasting legacy of the majestic Seville Cathedral

An iconic landmark of Seville the majestic Seville Cathedral is exquisite, immense and a sight to behold. It stands robust after 600 years with a legacy that continues to draw millions of visitors each year. You can gaze from the outside, be blown away when viewing from the top and absolutely marvel at the grandiose and opulence inside from the moment you step in. This is one majestic cathedral not to miss.

Watch this youtube video, a sneak peek into the majestic Seville Cathedral > the awesomeness of the largest Gothic Cathedral in the world just as you step in …

Our trip to Seville was undertaken in late November, 2021. All travel and safety protocols were adhered to. It was fully self-funded and no part of our trip was sponsored in any way.