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Archdiocese of Seville

Located in Spain

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Seville, Archdiocese of (HISPALENSIS), in Spain, is bounded on the north by Badajoz; on the east by Cordova and Malaga, on the south by Cadiz, on the west by Portugal. It comprises portions of the civil provinces of Seville, Cadiz, Cordova, Huelva, and Malaga. Its episcopal city has a population of some 144,000. Its suffragans are Badajoz, Cadiz and Ceuta, the Canaries, Cordova, and Teneriffe.

In Roman times Seville was the capital of the Province of Baetica, and the origin of the diocese goes back to Apostolic times, or at least to the first century of our era. St. Gerontius, Bishop of Italica (about four miles from Hispalis or Seville), preached in Baetica in Apostolic times, and without doubt must have left a pastor of its own to Seville. It is certain that in 303, when Sts. Justa and Rufina, the potters, suffered martyrdom for refusing to adore the idol Salambo there was a Bishop of Seville, Sabinus, who assisted at the Council of Iliberis (287). Before that time Marcellus had been bishop, as appears from a catalogue of the ancient prelates of Seville preserved in the “Codex Emilianensis”, a manuscript of the year 1000, now in the Escorial. When Constantine brought peace to the Church Evodius was Bishop of Seville; he set himself to rebuild the ruined churches, among them he appears to have built the church of San Vicente, perhaps the first cathedral of Seville. In the time of Bishop Sempronius Seville was considered the metropolis of Baetica; and Glaucius was bishop when the barbarians invaded Spain. Marcianus was bishop in 428, when Gunderic wished to seize the treasures of the Church of San Vicente; Sabinus II was dispossessed of his see by Rechilathe Suevian (441) and recovered it in 461. Zeno (472-486) was appointed vicar Apostolic by Pope Simplicius, and Pope Hormisdasgave the same charge to Bishop Sallustius (510-22) in the provinces of Baetiea and Lusitania. But thesee was rendered illustrious above all by the holy brothers Sts. Leander and Isidore. The former of these contributed to the conversion of St. Hermengild and Recared, and presided at the Third Council of Toledo (589), while the latter presided at the Fourth Council of Toledo and was the teacher of medieval Spain. A very different kind of celebrity was attained by Archbishop Oppas, who usurped the See of Toledo and conspiredwith his nephews, the sons of Witiza, against Don Rodrigo, contributing by his treason to the disaster of Guadalete and the downfall of the Visigothic power. During that period two provincial councils of Baetica were held at Seville: the first, in the reign of Recared, in 590, assembled in the cathedral to urge the execution of the mandates of the Third Councilof Toledo; the second, in November, 690, in the reign of Sise but, was convoked and presided over by St. Isidore, to promote ecclesiastical discipline.

The succession of the bishops of Seville continued after the Mohammedan conquest, Nonnitus being elected on the death of Oppas. The last Mozarabic bishop was Clement, elected two years before the invasion of the Almohades (1144). The Catholic religion was confined to the parish Church of S. Ildefonso, until the restoration following the recon quest of the city by St. Ferdinand. After a siege of fifteen months, the holy king took the city on November 23, 1248; and the Bishop of Cordova, Gutierre de Olea, purified the great mosque and prepared it for Divine worship on December 22. The king deposited in the new cathedral two famous images of the Blessed Virgin:” Our Lady of the Kings”, an ivory statue to which a miraculous origin was attributed, and which St. Ferdinand always carried with him in battle on his saddle-bow; and the silver image, “Our Lady of the See”. The king’s son Philip was appointed Archbishop of Seville, while he was given as coadjutor the Dominican Raimundo de Losada, Bishop of Segovia, who became archbishop five years later, on the abdication of the infante. In addition to the cathedral chapter, another community of clerics was formed to sing the Divine Office in the Chapel Royal of Our Lady of the Kings (Nuestra Senora de los Reyes) about 1252. Most of the other mosques of the city were converted into churches, only Sta. Maria la Blanca, Sta. Cruz, and S.Bartolome being left to the Jews for synagogues. The cathedral originated in the great mosque which was the work of the emirs who built the Aljama mosque, rebuilt in 1171 by the Almohad emir, Yusuf-ben-Yacub. The famous tower called the Giralda is due to Almanzor. In order to secure the liturgical orientation, when the mosque was converted into a cathedral, its width was made the length of the new church; and it was divided into two parts, the lesser part, on the east, being separated from the rest by a balustrade and grating, to form the chapel royal.

This cathedral having become too small for Seville, the chapter resolved in 1401 to rebuild it on so vast a scale that posterity should deem it the work of madmen. Only the Giralda and the Court of Oranges were left as they were. The work was commenced in 1403 and finished in December, 1506. The dome was as high as the lower part of the Giralda; it fell in, however, in 1511, and was restored by Juan Gil de Montanon in 1517. The principal facade, which looks to the east, extends the whole width of the building, and is as high as the naves, to which its five divisions correspond. The decoration of the upper part, including the rose window, are eighteenth-century work. The plan of the building is a rectangle, 380 by 250 feet, the chapel royal projecting an additional 62 feet to the east. It is roofed with seventy ogival vaults, supported by thirty-two gigantic columns. In the windows above the door of the bell tower is preserved the original design of the Giralda, which, it is said, was constructed by Gever, to whom are attributed the invention of algebra, and the origin of the name (Al-Geber). Where the bell-chamber now is there stood another rectangular mass, surmounted with four enormous balls, or apples, of bronze. In the interior is an enormous spike which serves as an axis, from which thirty-five sloping planes radiate. In 1568 Fernan Ruiz, by order of the chapter, added ninety-two feet to the height of the tower, giving it its present form, and setting up the giraldillo, gyrating statue of Faith, which serves as a wind-vane. This statue, cast by Bartolome Morel, measures over 13 feet in height and weighs 2S quintals (about 2840 lb.). The magnificent reredos of the high altar was designed by Danchart in 1482 and is the largest in Spain. In the sacristy beyond it are preserved the “Alphonsine Tables” (Tablas Alfonsinas), a reliquary left by the Wise King. The splendid stalls of the choir are the work of Nufro Sanchez, who wrought them in 1475. The Plateresque screen which closes the front of the sanctuary was designed by Sancho Munoz in 1510. The chapel of S. Antonio holds Murillo’s famous picture of the saint’s ecstasy and the Infant Jesus descending into his arms. The chapel royal contains the tombs of St. Ferdinand, Alfonso the Wise, and Beatriz, consort of the latter, while in the pantheon, behind the sanctuary, lie the remains of Pedro I, his son Juan, the Infante Fadrique, Alfonso XI, and other princes.

After the cathedral, the Alcazar is the most noteworthy building in Seville. No other Mussulman building in Spain has been so well preserved. Inhabited for a time by the Abbatid, Almoravid, and Almohad kings, its embattled enclosure became the dwelling of St. Ferdinand, and was rebuilt by Pedro the Cruel (1353-64), who employed Granadans and Mohammedan subjects of his own (mudejares) as its architects. Its principal entrance, with Arab facade, is in the Plaza de la Monteria, once occupied by the dwellings of the hunters (monteros) of Espinosa. The principal features of the Alcazar are the Court of the Ladies, brilliantly restored by Carlos I, with its fifty-two uniform columns of white marble supporting interlaced arches, and its gallery of precious arabesques; and the Hall of Ambassadors, which, with its cupola, dominates the rest of the building, and the walls of which are covered with beautiful azulejos (glazed tiles) and Arab decorations. The University of Seville was founded by Archdeacon Rodrigo Fernandez de Santaella, in virtue of an ordinance of the Catholic Sovereigns dated February 22, 1502, and two Bulls of Julius II, of 1505 and 1506. It could not compete, however, with the powerful institutions of Salamanca and Alcala. The same Archdeacon Santaella founded the Colegio Mayor, or “Great College” called the Maese Rodrigo. Carlos III took away the general studies from this college, ordering them to be transferred, in 1771, to the professed house of the Jesuits expelled by him.

Among the churches of Seville those worthy of mention are: Santa Ana en Triana, thirteenth-century Gothic, built by order of Alfonso X; S. Andres, which preserves some considerable traces of the mosque it originally was; S. Esteban, with its mudejar door and paintings by Zuraran; S. Ildefonso, perhaps the oldest church in Seville, dating, like S. Isidoro and the formerly Mozarabic church of S. Julian, from the Visigothic period. S. Lorenzo possesses the “Christ carrying the Cross” of Jan Martinez Montanes which is called el Gran Poder (the Great Power). Other churches are the Magdalena, S. Marcos, Sta. Marina, S. Martin, S. Nicolas, etc. The picture gallery contains more Murillos than any other gallery in the world; indeed, to know this master it is necessary to visit Seville. The archiepiscopal palace (seventeenth-century) has a fine Plateresque doorway. The ecclesiastical seminary, first established at San Liicar de Barrameda, in 1830, in the archiepiscopate of Cardinal Francisco Javier de Cienfuegos y Jovellanos, was transferred to Seville in 1848, under Archbishop Judas Jose Romo, and established in the Plaza de Maese Rodrigo; it now occupies the palace of San Telmo, which belongs to the dukes of Montpensier. The Archives of the Indies, preserved in Casa Lonja, contain immense treasures in the way of documents for the history of early Spanish missions in America and Oceania. Among the benevolent institutions are the Hospital of Las Cinco Llagas (or La Sangre), that of S. Lazaro, that of El Cristo de los Dolores, etc.


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