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Thursday, May 08, 2014 (read 978 times)
Seville up close: The Macarena Districtby David
Iconic Images of Seville
In the 12th century, Seville was under the control of the Almohad Dynasty which was trying to keep Al-Andalus, the Arab and Berber caliphate that occupied much of Spain for 700 years, united against the onslaught of the Spanish kings from the north. You can still see this Arab influence today in so many aspects of Spanish life. Seville is an excellent example of this and one area in particular, the Macarena district which straddles the best conserved ramparts constructed by the Almohads during their occupation, even more so. To this day we still don’t know where the name Macarena comes from but most agree that is either of Latin or Arabic origin. The Macarena District today is the home to 24 distinct neighborhoods and, more importantly, to some of the most iconic images of Seville and Spain. This district in the northern Seville is worth some of your time and here’s why…
The Basilica of Our Lady of Hope Macarena
Located on the edge of the Old Town, this relatively modern church sits next to the best preserved remnants of the wall that once surrounded Seville. Located inside is a national treasure and patron saint of Seville: The Virgin of Hope Macarena. You can find her at the main alter in all her glory. This statue was sculpted by an unknown artist in the 17th century (although many consider Pedro Roldán the author). Constructed between 1941 and 1949 by Aurelio Gomez Millan, this Basilica is designed in the Neobaroque style. The term Neobaroque is used to describe contemporary architecture which displays important aspects of Baroque style including the exaggerated elements of form and opulence. Not only is Our Lady of Hope Macarena is the patron saint of the city of Seville but she is also the patron saint of bullfighters. Many bullfighters belong to the brotherhood, the Hermandad de la Esperanza Macarena, which was founded in 1595 and plays an important role during Holy Week in Seville. During Easter, on Good Friday, this brotherhood will place the virgin on a float and parade her through the city in one of the most important processions of the entire Holy Week. The building next to the Basilica is the Museum of La Macarena where visitors can learn about the history of the virgin, the church and the famous Holy Week procession that moves an entire city.
The Iglesia de San Luis de los Franceses
Often skipped by visitors, La Iglesia de San Luis de los Franceses (Saint Louis of the French Church) is an excellent example of Spanish Baroque architecture. Located in the southern part of the Macarena District and 10 minutes walking from the Macarena church, this building was designed by Leonardo de Figueroa and constructed between 1699 and 1730. Well worth the walk, not only will you have the chance to wander the streets of Old Seville but you will see some of the best examples of Religious art from some of the most renowned Spanish Masters dating to Spain’s Golden Age. Today the church is the property of the Andalusian government and it is often used for concerts or theatrical productions. This breathtaking building is open for tours throughout the week and it is definitely worth a visit.
Hospital de los Cinco LLagas
Literally translated the Hospital of the Five Wounds, this imposing building complex, known also as the Hospital of Blood, was constructed in the 16th century and was used as a hospital until 1972. This building was witness to plagues, wars and earthquakes but finally had to close its doors due to its obsolete state. The complex, abandoned and in disrepair, would remain empty for the next 20 years. Today the building is home to the Andalusian government and the hospital complex is completely renovated and open again. Visiting the interior of the building is not an easy thing to accomplish since this is a functioning government building but it is not impossible and it is well worth the effort. You may solicit a place, in writing, for one of the afternoon visits which happen twice a week from the end of September to the beginning of June. If you don’t have the opportunity go in, the exterior gardens and façade are well worth the visit. Click here to submit your request to visit on the Andalusian government’s website (in Spanish).
Seville is a city of narrow and twisty streets and no other part exemplifies this as much as the Macarena district. Here you will find a piece of Seville close to the typical tourist stops, yet far enough away that you can experience what day to day living is like for a typical Spaniard. If you want to take a step off the beaten path, lose yourself one morning or afternoon in this typical Sevillian part of town.
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Posted In: Tourism