Alcázar of Seville

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Alcázar of Seville
UNESCO World Heritage Site
Sevilla-2-2 (48040287512).jpg
Patio de la Montería courtyard
LocationSeville, Spain
Part ofCathedral, Alcázar and General Archive of the Indies in Seville
CriteriaCultural: i, ii, iii, vi
Inscription1987 (11th session)
Coordinates37°23′02″N 5°59′29″W / 37.38389°N 5.99139°W / 37.38389; -5.99139
Alcázar of Seville is located in Spain
Alcázar of Seville
Location of Alcázar of Seville in Spain

The Royal Alcázars of Seville (Spanish: Reales Alcázares de Sevilla), historically known as al-Qasr al-Muriq (Arabic: القصر المُورِق, The Verdant Palace)[1][2] and commonly known as the Alcázar of Seville (pronounced [alˈkaθaɾ]), is a royal palace in Seville, Spain, built for the Christian king Peter of Castile.[3] It was built by Castilian Christians on the site of an Abbadid Muslim alcazar, or residential fortress.[4][5] The fortress was destroyed after the Christian conquest of Seville.[6] The palace is a preeminent example of Mudéjar architecture in the Iberian Peninsula but features Gothic, Renaissance and Romanesque design elements from previous stages of construction. The upper storeys of the Alcázar are still occupied by the royal family when they are in Seville, and are administered by the Patrimonio Nacional. It was registered in 1987 by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site, along with the adjoining Seville Cathedral and the General Archive of the Indies.[7]


The term Alcázar comes from the Arabic al-qaṣr, ("the castle" or "the palace", اَلْقَصْر), itself derived from the Latin castrum ("castle").[8][9][10][11]


Photo of 1895 of the Cámara de Audiencias
Patio del Yeso is the most significant of the Almohad Moorish remains. The image is of its south portico.
Plan of the Alcázar of Seville
  • 1-Puerta del León
  • 2-Sala de la Justicia y patio del Yeso (cyan)
  • 3-Patio de la Montería (pink)
  • 4-Cuarto del Almirante y Casa de Contratación (cream)
  • 5-Palacio mudéjar o de Pedro I (red)
  • 6-Palacio gótico (blue)
  • 7-Estanque de Mercurio
  • 8-Jardines (green)
  • 9-Apeadero (yellow)
  • 10-Patio de Banderas
The Real Alcázar is situated near the Seville Cathedral and the General Archive of the Indies in one of Andalusia's most emblematic areas.[12] In the year 712, Seville was conquered by the Umayyad Caliphate. In the year 913, after a revolt against Cordoba’s government, the first caliph of Andalusia Abd al-Rahman III built a fortified construction in place of a Visigothic Christian basilica.[13] It was a quadrangular enclosure, fortified, and annexed to the walls.[12] In the 11th century, the second king, Al-Mu'tamid, expanded the structure to the west with a new palace ‘Al Mubarak’. Various additions to the construction such as stables and warehouses were also carried out. As Seville was established as the capital of Al-Andalus, the Almohade caliphs made the Alcazar their main residence.[13] With the exception of the walls, the previous buildings were demolished, and a total of approximately twelve palaces were built.[12] There are few remnants of construction from that period. Archaeological remains of the Al Mubarak palace are currently preserved under Patio de la Monteria. Several wall painting fragments were found that are now exhibited in the Palacio del Yeso.[13]

With the start of the Christian era in Seville, the Alcazar was converted into the residence of the Christian monarchs. Changes were made to the buildings to fit the needs of the monarchs and the court life. In the years 1364–1366, king Pedro I built the Mudéjar Palace, an example of the Andalusian Mudejar style. Under the Catholic rulers Isabella and Fernando, the upperfloor was extended and transformed into the main residence of the monarchs.[13]

The palace was the birthplace of Infanta Maria Antonietta of Spain (1729–1785), daughter of Philip V of Spain and Elisabeth Farnese, when the king was in the city to oversee the signing of the Treaty of Seville (1729) which ended the Anglo-Spanish War (1727).[12]

The palace

During the five hundred years of construction, various architectural styles succeeded one another. There are no remnants of the initial design, but the structure was probably refurbished with elements of Islamic ornamentation and patterns. Several major gardens were also built. With the start of the Spanish Reconquista in the 13th century, the palace was remodeled with Gothic and Romanesque elements. The 16th century saw major additions built in Renaissance style. Alongside these designs, Islamic decoration and ornamentation was widely used. After damage by the 1755 Lisbon earthquake, that façade of the Palacio Gótico overlooking the Patio del Crucero was completely renovated using Baroque elements. The palace now presents a unique blend of styles.[14]


The palace is known for its tile decoration. The two tile types used are majolica and arista tiles. In the arista technique, the green body is stamped and each tile segment has raised ridges. This technique produces tiles with transparent glazes that are not flat. The art of majolica ceramics was developed later in the 15th–16th centuries. The innovation made it possible to "paint" directly on ceramics covered with white opaque glazes. Being a trade center, Seville had access to large scale production of these tiles. They were mainly of geometric design inspired by arabesque ornamentation.

In the 16th century, the Catholic Monarchs commissioned Nicola Pisano to make two majolica tile altarpieces in the palace. One still exists in the oratory of the royal apartments, the other one is missing. Later, the artist Cristóbal de Augusta created a tile-work in the Palacio Gotico. It features animals, cherubs and floral designs and gives the palace a bright tapestry look.[15]
Puerta del León (Gate of the Lion)

Puerta del León

The main entrance to the Alcázar takes its name from the 19th century tile-work inlaid above it, a crowned lion holding a cross in its claws and bearing a Gothic script.

Patio de las Doncellas

Patio de las Doncellas courtyard
One of the access-gates (b. 14th century) to Salón de los Embajadores in Palace of Peter of Castile
The name, meaning "The Courtyard of the Maidens", is a reference to the apocryphal story that the Moors demanded an annual tribute of 100 virgins from the Christian kingdoms of Iberia.

The lower storey of the Patio was built for King Peter of Castile and contains inscriptions that refer to Peter as a "sultan". Several reception rooms are arranged around a long rectangular reflecting pool in the center with sunken gardens on either side. For many years, the courtyard was entirely paved in marble with a fountain in the center. However, historical evidence showed the gardens and the reflecting pool were the original design and this arrangement was restored. Soon after this restoration, the courtyard was temporarily paved with marble once again at the request of movie director Ridley Scott. Scott used the paved courtyard as the set for the court of the King of Jerusalem in his movie Kingdom of Heaven. The courtyard arrangement was converted once more after the movie's production.

The upper story of the Patio was an addition made by Charles V. The addition was designed by Luis de Vega in the style of the Italian Renaissance although he did include both Renaissance and mudéjar plaster work in the decorations. Construction of the addition began in 1540 and ended in 1572.

Los Baños de Doña María de Padilla

The "Baths of Lady María de Padilla" are rainwater tanks beneath the Patio del Crucero. The tanks are named after María de Padilla, the mistress of Peter the Cruel.

Salon de Embajadores

The Hall of Ambassadors (ceiling)
The Ambassadors Hall is the ancient throne room built during the reign of Al-Mu'tamid in the 11th century. In the 14th century, Pedro I of Castile remodeled the hall to make it a centerpiece of his royal palace. Plant motifs in plasterwork were added in the corners of the room and spandrels of the arches. Windows were traced with geometric elements. Walls were covered with tiled panels. The orientation of the hall was also changed from facing Mecca to northeast. The doorway now led to the Patio of the Maidens (Patio de las Doncellas).[16] In 1526, Emperor Charles V and Isabella of Portugal celebrated their marriage in this room.[17]

Other sections

Cuarto del Príncipe
Sala de las Bóvedas in Gothic Palace. the Gothic Palace was made between 1254–1578.
  • Patio de las Muñecas (Courtyard of the Dolls)
  • Patio de la Montería (Courtyard of the Montería)
  • Dormitorio de los Reyes Moros (Bedroom of the Moorish Kings)
  • Sala de Justicia (Justice room)
  • Patio del Yeso (Courtyard of the Plaster)
  • Cuarto del Almirante (Admiral's Room)
  • Casa de Contratación (Casa de Contratación)
  • Patio del Crucero (Courtyard of the Crossing)
  • Palacio Mudéjar or de Pedro I (Mudéjar Palace or that of Peter of Castile)
    • Patio de las Muñecas (Courtyard of the Dolls)
    • Cuarto del Príncipe (Prince's Room)
    • Patio de las Doncellas (Courtyard of the Maidens)
    • Salón del Techo de Carlos V (Charles V Ceiling Room)
    • Salón de Embajadores (Ambassadors' Room)
    • Salón del Techo de Felipe II (Philip II Ceiling Room)
    • Primera planta (First level of the Palace of Peter of Castile)
  • Palacio Gótico (Gothic Palace)
    • Capilla (Chapel)
    • Gran Salón (Big Room)
    • Salón de los Tapices (Tapestries' Room)
    • Sala de las Bóvedas (Vaults' Room)
  • Upper floors belong to the Patrimonio Nacional and are occupied by the royal family when visiting Seville. There are many security measures for visitors; admission is approximately 5 euros.
    • Vestíbulo or Saleta de la Reina Isabel la Católica (Lobby or Queen Isabella the Catholic Monarch's Room)
    • Anteortaorio de Isabel la Católica (Pre-oratory of Isabella the Catholic Monarch)
    • Oratorio de Isabel la Católica (Oratory of Isabella the Catholic Monarch)
    • Alcoba Real (Royal Bedroom)
    • Antecomedor (Pre-dining Room)
    • Comedor de Gala (Gala Dining)
    • Sala de fumar (Smoking Room)
    • Retrete del Rey (King's Toilet)
    • Antecomedor de familia, antiguo Cuarto del Rey (Family Pre-dining Room, former King's Room)
    • Comedor de Familia or Cuarto Nuevo (Family Dining Room or New Room)
    • Mirador de los Reyes Católicos (Viewpoint of the Catholic Monarchs)
    • Dormitorio del Rey Don Pedro, antiguo Cuarto de los Lagartos (King Don Peter of Castile's Bedroom, former Lizards' Room)
    • Despacho de Juan Carlos I (Juan Carlos I's Office)
    • Cámara de Audiencias (Hearings' Chamber)
    • Dormitorio de Isabel II (Isabella II's Bedroom)
    • Colección Carranza (a museum of old azulejos)
  • Gardens
    • Estanque de Mercurio (Mercury Pond)
    • Galería de Grutesco (Grotesque Gallery)
    • Jardín de la Danza (Dance's Garden)
    • Jardín de Troya (Troy's Garden)
    • Jardín de la Galera (The Galley's Garden)
    • Jardín de las Flores (Flowers' Garden)
    • Jardín del Príncipe (Prince's Garden)
    • Jardín de las Damas (Ladies' Garden)
    • Pabellón de Carlos V (Charles V's Pavilion)
    • Cenador del León (Lion's Gloriette)
    • Jardín Inglés (English Garden)
    • Jardín del Marqués de la Vega-Inclán (Marquis of la Vega-Inclán's Garden)
    • Jardín de los Poetas (The Poets' Garden)
  • Apeadero (Mounting-block)
    • Patio de Banderas (Flags' Courtyard)
  • Walls of the Alcázar

The gardens

All the palaces of Al Andalus had garden orchards with fruit trees, horticultural produce and a wide variety of fragrant flowers. The garden-orchards not only supplied food for the palace residents but had the aesthetic function of bringing pleasure. Water was ever present in the form of irrigation channels, runnels, jets, ponds and pools.

The gardens adjoining the Alcázar of Seville have undergone many changes. In the 17th century during the reign of Philip III the Italian designer Vermondo Resta introduced the Italian Mannerist style. Resta was responsible for the Galeria de Grutesco (Grotto Gallery) transforming the old Muslim wall into a loggia from which to admire the view of the palace gardens.

In popular culture

  • In 1962 the Alcázar was used as a set for Lawrence of Arabia.[18]
  • The Patio de las Doncellas was used as the set for the court of the King of Jerusalem in the 2005 movie Kingdom of Heaven.
  • Part of the fifth season of Game of Thrones was shot in several locations in the province of Seville, including the Alcázar.[19]


  1. Team, Almaany. "Translation and Meaning of مورق In English, English Arabic Dictionary of terms Page 1". Retrieved 2020-04-07.
  2. "مدينة إشبيلية الإسبانية". موضوع (in Arabic). Retrieved 2020-04-08.
  3. Joseph F. O'Callaghan (15 April 2013). A History of Medieval Spain. Cornell University Press. p. 692. ISBN 978-0-8014-6871-1.
  4. Frederick Alfred De Armas (1996). Heavenly Bodies: The Realms of La Estrella de Sevilla. Bucknell University Press. p. 107. ISBN 978-0-8387-5308-8.
  5. Titus Burckhardt (1997). Moorish Culture in Spain. Suhail Academy. p. 104.
  6. Antonio Urquízar-Herrera (11 May 2017). Admiration and Awe: Morisco Buildings and Identity Negotiations in Early Modern Spanish Historiography. Oxford University Press. p. 17. ISBN 978-0-19-879745-6.
  7. "Cathedral, Alcázar and Archivo de Indias in Seville". UNESCO. Retrieved 2009-06-01.
  8. The Islamic Review. Woking Muslim Mission and Literary Trust. 1960. p. 2.
  9. T.W. Haig (1993). Houtsma MT, Wensinck AJ, Arnold TW, Heffening W, Lévi-Provençal É (eds.). E. J. Brill's First Encyclopaedia of Islam, 1913–1936. Vol. IV (Reprint of 1913 ed.). BRILL. p. 802. ISBN 90-04-09790-2.
  10. Muḥammad ibn ʻUmar Ibn al-Qūṭīyah; David James (2009). Early Islamic Spain: The History of Ibn Al-Qūṭīya : a Study of the Unique Arabic Manuscript in the Bibliothèque Nationale de France, Paris, with a Translation, Notes, and Comments. Taylor & Francis. p. 55. ISBN 978-0-415-47552-5.
  11. Jonathan Bloom; Sheila Blair (14 May 2009). Grove Encyclopedia of Islamic Art & Architecture: Three-Volume Set. OUP USA. p. 198. ISBN 978-0-19-530991-1.
  12. 12.0 12.1 12.2 12.3 Miguel Ángel Tabales Rodríguez (2001), "La transformación palatina del Alcázar de Sevilla, 914–1366" (PDF), Anales de Arqueología Cordobesa, no. 12, pp. 195–213ISSN 1130-9741
  13. 13.0 13.1 13.2 13.3 Robador, M. D., De Viguerie, L., Pérez‐Rodríguez, J. L., Rousselière, H., Walter, P., and Castaing, J. (2016), "The Structure and Chemical Composition of Wall Paintings From Islamic and Christian Times in the Seville Alcazar.", Archaeometry, 58 (58): 255–270, doi:10.1111/arcm.12218{{citation}}: CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  14. Ruggles, D. Fairchild (2004), "The Alcazar of Seville and Mudejar Architecture", Gesta, vol. 43, University of Chicago Press, International Center of Medieval Art, vol. 43, no. 2, pp. 87–98, JSTOR 25067097
  15. de Viguerie, L, Robador, MD, Castaing, J, Perez‐Rodriguez, JL, Walter, P, Bouquillon, A (2019), "Technological evolution of ceramic glazes in the renaissance: In situ analysis of tiles in the Alcazar (Seville, Spain)" (PDF), J Am Ceram Soc., no. 102, pp. 1402–1413{{citation}}: CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  16. Blasco-Lopez, F. J., Alejandre, F. J., Flores-Ales, V., & Cortes, I. (2016), "Plasterwork in the Ambassadors Hall (Salon de Embajadores) of the Real / Alcazar of Seville (Spain): Graphic reconstruction of polychrome work by layer characterization" (PDF), Construction and Building Materials, no. 107{{citation}}: CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  17. Giordano, Carlos; Palmisano, Nicolás; Caruncho, Daniel R. (2016). Real Alcázar de Sevilla : más de mil años de arte y arquitectura. Barcelona: Dos de Arte Ediciones. ISBN 9788491030423. OCLC 946119342.
  18. Internet, Unidad Editorial. "El día que Lawrence de Arabia cambió el desierto por Sevilla". Retrieved 2018-02-22.
  19. Mencos, Ana (31 August 2017). "¿Qué se ha visto de Sevilla en "Juego de Tronos"?". ABC (in Spanish). Vocento. Retrieved 14 October 2019.

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