The Tower of Giralda is the bell tower of the Cathedral of Seville. Initially the minaret of the former mosque of Seville, it has been turned into a bell tower in 1248 when the mosque of Seville was turned into a cathedral. As well as the Cathedral, this bell tower is inspired from the Moorish and the gothic style. It has inspired a lot of architects in the world, especially for the construction of the Ferry Building in San Francisco or the Freedom Tower in Miami.
The Giralda has been the tallest building in Seville for more than 800 years. It stands at 103 meters and was originally the minaret of the Aljama Mosque on what is now Seville Cathedral. The Giralda, built in 1195, became its Bell Tower and not surprisingly such as important structure has been recognized by UNESCO as a World Heritage site. Giralda translates into ‘’she who turns’’ and the name identifies the fact that there is a weather vane right at the top of the Tower. The Giralda is a fine example of Almohad architecture and subsequent towers were built in such important North African cities as Rabat and Marrakesh. Its prominence meant that not only was it used for the ‘’call to prayer’’ but also as an observatory. It is claimed that the Moors thought seriously about destroying it as they knew the City was about to be taken by the Christians; happily, they did not act on those thoughts.
When Seville was about to fall, and the Moors were going to be captured, the thing that stopped any thoughts of their destroying the Giralda was the threat from Alfonso X that he would kill every captive if they did. The Giralda is simplicity itself, although it took 12 years to build it. The Moors occupied much of what is now Spain, and were certainly the force in Andalucía. It is easy to think that Spain is thoroughly European with a language that is Latin-based. However, a few centuries ago, the Moors and their religion, Islam, lived where now generations of Christian Spanish, Roman Catholic, have occupied the land. Evidence of the Moors’ time in Iberia remains today and the Giralda is certainly one of the most impressive reminders. Shadows are created by the trellis work which is interspersed by arches and windows. In its time as part of the Aljama Mosque, there were copper balls and a crescent moon on the top as the symbols of Islam. Seville suffered an earthquake in the middle of the 14th Century after which a bell tower and small cross were added at the top of the Giralda. Suddenly Moorish and Renaissance architectures were blended together. When you go to Seville Cathedral and the Giralda, you should climb to the top of the Tower if you are capable. Your reward will be spectacular views over the surrounding area, and particularly the Alcazar, the Royal Palace of Peter of Castille. It was built on the site of the Moors’ fortress destroyed when the Moors were defeated and forced to leave Iberia and return back into Africa ultimately. The Barrio Santa Cruz, the heart of the Old City with its narrow streets also looks impressive when viewed from above. In addition, it gives you a chance to get closer to the detail of the higher parts of the Cathedral. The ‘’climb’’ is up a series of ramps, 35 in all, at a fairly gentle gradient with the ramps wide enough for two, one ascending and one descending. Indeed, it is possible for horses or donkeys to move up and down to help with any maintenance, and it was a climb that the Imam had to do regularly each day for the ‘’ call to prayer.’’ Those days have long gone but as you walk up you can imagine the years of activity that the Giralda has seen.