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Interesting facts about Sevilla

Filed in Blog, Spain by on January 12, 2020
by Sarai V.

One of the fascinating things about studying in Sevilla is that you happen to find yourself learning about history day to day. In my first two weeks living here, I took a Spanish intensive course about the cultural history of Spain. I learned a lot about the different cultures that reigned the Iberian Peninsula throughout decades in history. But besides that, we learned a lot about Sevilla and some of the interesting facts about the city in general. Here are a few that stuck with me for some reason that are interesting to know!

1. Sevilla before Sevilla

Sevilla was an important city during the Islamic rein from the eighth century to the fifteenth century. They changed the name from the Roman name, Hispalis, to the Arabic name, Ishbilya. It became the second capital of the region in the 1300’s during the reunification of al-Andalus now known as Andalucía. During the Almohad dynasty, Muslims were credited for their architectural works which are now some of the most important city landmarks and also the largest tourist destination points. These include the Torre de La Giralda, Torre del Oro and El Alcázar.

La Torre de Oro

La Torre de Oro sits on the bank of El Guadalquivir river.

2. The port to the Americas

Sure, we’ve all heard of Christopher Columbus and his journey to the New World. But something I didn’t know was that Sevilla gained a lot of prominence as a result of that voyage. Sevilla quickly became designated as the Puerto de las Indias or Port of the Indies. After a few decades from the initial voyage to the Americas, Spanish King Phillip II ordered to build a market hall utilized to trade goods imported from America. It was known as the Casa Lonja de Mercaderes. People could arrive at the building and shop for imported goods including silver, gold, animals and spices among others. Now the same building is called el Archivo General de las Indias  where important documents are stored from Spain’s colonization of the New World.

El Archivo de las Indias

El Archivo de las Indias (left) stands right next to the Sevilla Cathedral (right).

3. Debated Burial

Speaking of Christopher Columbus … there has been an intriguing debate between two cities who claim they host the burial site of Christopher Columbus. One of them is Sevilla. The city claims Columbus is buried in the Sevilla Cathedral. But the city of Santo Domingo, Puerto Rico claims he’s buried at the Columbus Lighthouse. Columbus was originally buried in Valladolid, Spain after his death in 1506. Since then, his body was moved from place to place touching both cities throughout each relocation. After Cuba’s independence from Spain, his body which was buried there, was moved back to Sevilla at the Cathedral. But it doesn’t end there. Back in Santo Domingo, a worker at the cathedral, Santa Maria la Menor, found a box of bones labeled “Illustrious and excellent man, Don Colon, Admiral of the Ocean Sea.” The only issue is that one of his sons was also known as “Don Colon, Admiral of the Ocean Sea.” The Spanish church authorities allowed researchers to test the DNA of Columbus and compare it to the remains of his brother, Diego, and one of Columbus’ sons, Hernando. It was confirmed that the remains are from Columbus, however, the remains in Sevilla only make up 15 percent of a body. So it very well could be that the bones found in the Dominican Republic are also Columbus but unfortunately, they’ve refused DNA testing out of respect for the dead.

Columbus Tomb

Christopher Columbus’ tomb is located inside of Sevilla’s Cathedral.

4. NO8DO

At first glance, you probably wouldn’t understand what this acronym means. But if you visit Sevilla, you will find this plastered on everything around the city. This acronym is the city’s current emblem and even motto, though the way in which it started is still a mystery. The most popular theory is that the symbol came from King Alfonso X The Wise who reigned Spain during the 13th century. His son, Sancho led a rebellion against the state and along the way won over the support of different cities. But it was in Sevilla where King Alfonso X found refuge and safety. In his last days of his life, he wrote to the city, “Sevilla no me ha dejado” or “Sevilla has never left me.” So how does this relate to the symbol of city? Well, the King’s phrase turned into the symbol itself. In between the letters “NO” and “DO” is a skein that in Spanish is called a madeja. Written out, the symbol turns into the phrase “no-madeja-do” which becomes the phonetic expression of “no me ha dejado.” The skein itself can represent unity and alliance of the city and if you visit Spain you can sure tell Sevillians are proud of their city and often never want to leave.

5. Sevilla’s sister

Last but not least, I learned a very interesting and random fact that brought this study abroad experience full circle for me. Before going to Spain I had briefly heard that Kansas City (my hometown) was the sister city of Sevilla. I was surprised at the pure coincidence that I had chosen this city to study abroad in. I very quickly learned that in fact it was true. So how did this happen? It all started with a trip to Spain. J.C. Nichols was a real estate developer in Kansas City who began a project to create the first shopping center district designed for automobile access and use called the County Club Plaza. Edward Buehler Delk an architect hired to design the Plaza traveled around through South America, Mexico and Spain for design research ultimately falling in love with Sevilla’s architecture. If you walk through the streets in Plaza, you will see there is a lot of architectural influence from Sevilla including the colorful ceramic tiles, mosaic and clay tile roofs, and decorative ironwork. In 1967, a replica of La Giralda Tower was built at the Plaza along with the Farola Fountain from the Plaza Virgen de los Reyes in Sevilla. Then Sevilla mayor, Felix Morena de la Cova, christened the towered and officially declared Kansas City and Sevilla sister cities. The connection deepens with a street in Sevilla called Avenida Kansas City. There stands a smaller replica of Kansas City’s famous landmark “The Scout” given to Sevilla in 1992. As for me, it was very cool to be across the world yet somehow still find myself close to home…

About the blogger

Sarai V. is studying abroad on the Liberal Arts in Seville program in Seville, Spain.

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