Seville, a Universal City
For centuries, Seville was the city from which voyages departed from the West to the East, across the Atlantic, the Americas and the Pacific routes.
During the 16th and 17th centuries, Seville was a centre for European trade besides becoming a wealthy and cosmopolitan city ranking third among European trading centres and it was the place where western art and cultural influences could be both exchanged and disseminated.
At that time, Seville was referred to as "the port which was the gateway to the New World", as for centuries monopoly of communications across the oceans had been held by the Spaniards.
Seville was an "archive of world wealth", and for over two hundred years it channelled the exchange of precious metals, products and knowledge between the Old World and the New.
To begin with, as a centre of world economy interests, Seville changed its urban style in accordance with Renaissance ideas, and later adopted the Baroque style.
It was the city of Seville that set in motion a relationship between the overseas territories of the Spanish Crown through the medium of the "Casa de Contratación" Indies Trading Tribunal (1503), which coordinated the "Indies run" fleets, provided training for navigators and issuing navigation licences. This institution decided the routes to be followed, and regulated the traffic of individuals and merchandise, and was the most important cartographic centre of those times.
The Great Babylon of Spain:
a "home from home" for all nations.
Luis de Góngora
The course of the Guadalquivir River from Seville to its mouth. 18th century. Seville Town Council. The port of Seville, washed by the Guadalquivir River and 90 kilometers from the coast -and in later times the port of Cádiz as from 1717- were for centuries the principal trading channels for the precious metals, produce and knowledge exchanged between the Old World and the New.
Panoramic view of Seville from Triana. 1617. The British Museum
Practically the whole length of the river was a port, and in the city there were some wharfs which were mostly in the area of "Arenal" and on the opposite bank in the Triana area, where there were docks for ship repair and careening, and where loading and unloading operations could take place.
The "Casa del Cabildo" (Town Hall) in Seville and the Corpus Christi procession. Attributed to Pedro Tortolero. 1738. BN In the 16th century, a splendid Town Hall building had been constructed in accordance with plans drawn up by Diego Riaño. The rich plateresque-style decoration thath was applied above the two storeys which incorporated colonnades and large windows which were later extended in a simpler and less ornamental style- converted this type of stone architecture into a city symbol.
The "Hospital de la Sangre" (The Hospital of the Blood) in Seville. Attributed to Pedro Tortolero. 1738. BN.This was also known as the "Hospital de las Cinco Llagas" (Hospital of the Five Wounds). This Renaissance-style building was constructed during the 16th and 17th centuries and became one of the largest in Europe.
View of Cádiz. 1782. MN.In the 18th century a new wind of change was evident. This began in Cadiz with the founding of the "Casa de Contratación" after 1717. This change of city venue was a consequence of the increasing difficulties experienced in river navigation along the Guadalquivir. This city, now with fortification walls, was to find itself in the 1700's the favourite, and held practically exclusive rights over overseas trading until 1778.
The "Lonja de comercio" (trading market) with the Cathedral in the background. Pieter van den Berge in Theatrum hispaniae ... Amsterdam, 1700-1705. BN. The "Lonja de comercio", symbol of the trading relationship existing between Seville and the New World is today the home of the "Archivo General de Indias", where from 1785 onwards the most important documents concerning Hispano-American history are kept.
Main façade of Seville Cathedral. Attributed to Pedro Tortolero. 1738. BN
View of Seville. This oil painting is attributed to Alonso Sánchez Coello. 16th century. Museo de América. Seville was the product of the successive presence of ancient civilizations: known as Hispalis by the Tartessians, Iulia Romula by the Romans, Spali by the Visigoths, Isbiliya by the moors of Al-Andalus and in later times as Seville by the Christians; during the 16th and 17th centuries it was considered to be a "New Rome".
A 16th century view of Seville. Georg Braum and Frans Hogenber in Civitatis Orbis Terrarum. Cologne, 1572-1617. BN. Seville, a top-ranking city during the 16th and 17th centuries, with its 150,000 inhabitants, came to occupy third place among European cities after London and Paris.
SEVILLE, A UNIVERSAL CITY