Presiding over the city of Seville for almost a millennium is the Giralda, a monument that stands as testament to the fusion of architecture, reflecting the cultures and civilisations that has enriched this historic city.
Many define it as special while some say it is just built of stone. The Giralda Tower in Seville is indeed unique. It gives a sense of permanence, and perspective on the passage of time across civilisations as well as the union of cultures that is emblematic of the passionate and mysterious Andalusian capital in Southern Spain. Perhaps also, because the iconic Giralda Tower in Seville was born of the Almohad dynasty, a minaret to the then famous mosque and now, is a Renaissance style bell tower for Cathedral Santa Maria de la Sede (simply known as Seville Cathedral) today. The Giralda Tower remain as one of the most iconic symbols of Seville since the Middle Ages.
The Tower offer charming views over the bijou city — Patio de los Naranjos, sounds of guitar music, close-up of the largest Gothic Cathedral in the world and the exotic flamenco rhythms that never fail to seduce and charm you.
‘Giralda’ means “one that turns” in Spanish and takes its name from the weather vane at the top of the tower (the bronze sculpture).
The Giralda Tower or La Giralda (in Spanish) of Seville Cathedral is recognised as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO since 1987, along with the Real Alcázar and the General Archive of the Indies. It is a popular attraction, accessed from within Seville Cathedral. We highly recommend that you go. La Giralda will not disappoint. Access to Giralda Tower is included in the Tour to the Seville Cathedral.
This guide shares a brief history of the Giralda Tower, features on what makes the tower unique and ways on how to explore the monument.
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I | History of the Giralda Tower in Seville
The Giralda Tower was born in 1184 as a minaret to the mosque that was built in 1176. The base of the minaret was in cut stone and the main body of the minaret was built in brick, with a later addition of a small secondary shaft at the top of the tower. Crowning the minaret were four golden balls and metal spheres to top the tower. In addition to bricks sourced locally, recycled marble were used from old Umayyad masterpieces. It was the biggest mosque in the Andalusian territory and the pride of the Almohads during their reign.
1 | The design of the minaret
The mosque had a rectangular floor measuring 113 by 135 metres decorated in Cordoban style with stucco and wood, embellished with sandalwood, ivory, ebony, gold and silver. Its base was a square at street level. The foundation was built with solid stones and the tower consisted of two sections, the main shaft and a smaller shaft with a series of ramps so a horse or donkey could carry the Islamic leader to the top of the tower five times a day so he could call for prayers.
2 | From a minaret to a bell tower
However, when Seville was reconquered in 1248 by the Castillian Christians, the mosque was converted to a cathedral. In doing so, some exits and archways were closed off and a number of small chapels were created. The minaret was used as a bell tower.
3 | Rebuilding of the mosque/cathedral
Following the earthquake, rebuilding of the Cathedral commenced. The construction project brought together the best artisans in the trade from all over the Castilian empire, as far as the Netherlands and Germany. Work was entrusted to the famous architect of the time, Hernan Ruiz II. The Cathedral was completed in 1506, after some 106 years.
Known simply as Seville Cathedral, it is the largest Catholic Cathedral of Gothic style in the world.
Recommended read: Seville Cathedral
II | What makes the Giralda Tower in Seville unique | 5 features to lookout for when you visit
There are no great ornaments that adorn La Giralda but its uniqueness lies in its marriage of architecture between a fine example of Arab design of the time and the 16th century Renaissance additions, along with its famous bells in the belfry.
Here are some features across civilisations to look out for when you visit:
1 | Design of the Giralda Tower in Seville
When Seville Cathedral was constructed in the 16th century, the architect, Hernan Ruiz II also constructed an extension to the solid stone tower of two shafts and winding ramps. The Christian Renaissance style belfry was added to the top of the tower to house the bells. The belfry was constructed between 1458 and 1568. With the addition of the belfry, the tower stood at 96 metres.
2 | The Bells at the Giralda Tower in Seville
3 | Giraldillo Seville — a symbol of victory
The Giraldillo was originally called the Triumph of the Victorious Faith, to symbolise the victory of Christianity over the Muslim world. It was regarded as the largest sculpture of European Renaissance, weighing at more than 1000 kilograms. It embodies a sculpture of a woman about 4 metres high and 4 metres wide carrying a flag pole and a cross, symbolising the victory of Faith. She is made of bronze and is held together with metal bars, while being supported on a vertical metal axis. The vertical axis allows the statue to rotate around like a weather vane.
The unique design of the Giralda Tower in Seville appears to have inspired some countries or states to replicate their very own towers. More on this, below.
4 | The 35 ramps at the Giralda in Seville
Visitors can visit the belfry and reach the top of the tower via a series of ramps and a short flight of stairs.
There are 35 ramps, wide enough and gently inclining, winding around the perimeter of its core to the top of the tower. You get to walk in the footsteps of history as these are the very same ramps that were placed instead of stairs to ease the journey of a horse that carried the Islamic leader to the top of the tower five times a day so he could call for prayers back in the 12th century.
There is a short flight of stairs to reach the top for spectacular vistas over the historic city of Seville.
5 | The Views over Seville from the Giralda Tower
For a 360 view of the historic city of Seville, you need to reach the belfry. As you climb to the belfry, up the 35 ramps, you can stop at each ramp and look out the windows to view the surroundings. At the belfry, you can walk around the four sides for spectacular views of Seville.
III | The Giralda Tower in Seville has inspired other buildings
There are some towers across the world that appear to have borrowed their design from the La Giralda. Here are just a few as examples.
IV | How to visit the Giralda Tower
There are so many ways with a good selection of ticket options to visit the Giralda Tower for best experience. You could select from either to visit on your own by pre purchasing your ticket online or select to join a guided tour. Both options are available by pre purchasing your ticket online and both include priority access. Your experience will be significantly enhanced if you opt for a guided tour as you will learn of the history from a knowledgeable guide.
TTS recommends the following three best ways to experience the La Giralda to suit your interests:
1 | Explore independently by pre purchasing a ticket online that gives you skip-the-line access.
2 | Join a small group guided tour with priority access to Seville Cathedral and La Giralda.
3 | Explore all three monuments in half a day with a guide and priority access. Learn all there is to know about these iconic landmarks from your expert guide.