The Seville in the 18th century is a very interesting time in several respects. The period is also called the Age of Enlightment. It has French influences which is the European cultural and political focus at that time but also Seville maintains its personality, its traditions and a strong presence of the Catholic Church.


The baroque period was a brilliance without equal in art. The 17th century in which Seville was lavishly decorated as never before has left us unparalleled works. Seville in the 18th century will mean the continuation of this baroque style that has so well penetrated our city. This is how some of the most famous churches in Seville such as El Salvador or the Magdalene are finished.

The increasingly ornate decoration will end up being called Rococo art and in Sevillian architecture the greatest exponents are the Figueroa family. To Leonardo de Figueroa we owe the facades of the archiepiscopal palace, the palace of San Telmo and the mentioned Church of the Magdalene.

History of Seville 7. The age of Enlightment in Seville. 18th century
Church of Magdalena

And above all the magnificent church of San Luis de los Franceses, the greatest exponent of the last Sevillian Baroque and a hidden gem of the city.

In painting, the proper names are going to follow the path set by the genius Murillo in the previous century.

However, the mural painting is developed by the hand of Lucas Valdés and Domingo Martínez, responsible artists of the decoration of the many Sevillian temples.


In this Seville of the 18th century an event took place that was going to mark the economic future of the city and not for the better. In 1717, the Casa de la Contratación (House of Trade) was moved to Cádiz, until then had controlled all trade with the New World from Seville. This will be a blow to the Sevillian economy, although the American riches had little to do with those of the 16th century. And besides, the American commercial monopoly of Spain would soon end.

History of Seville 7. The age of Enlightment in Seville. 18th century
Philip the V, king of Spain

The Sevillians, hurt by this change of venue, thought that everything would improve with a historic visit that ended up lasting five years. It was about the stay in Seville of the monarch Felipe V, the first Bourbon, who decided to change the court from Madrid to Seville in 1729. He stayed until 1734 and this time was called the “royal lustrum”(five years).

The presence of the court in a city was not only an honor for its citizens, it also implied economic and political advantages, new constructions, more work to attend to the many people who came with the king and development of the arts, since the court came accompanied by her painters and on the other hand they bought works from local painters.


Among the new industries that appeared in this Seville in the 18th century, it is worth highlighting the Factory of Weapons or the Factory of Salt, the latter product related to the manufacture of ammunition. The Tobacco Factory already existed, but small and drowned in the central Plaza de San Pedro. Now a majestic building will be built on the outskirts of the city that will bear the name of the Royal Tobacco Factory.

It was designed by the military engineer Sebastian Van der Borcht who also worked as an architect for the Mint and the monumental grating of the Royal Chapel of Seville. Van der Borcht designed the Tobacco factory more like a citadel, with its moat around it to prevent theft and guard posts in the corners, which speaks to us of the importance of this product.

Up to 11% of the local population worked at the Tobacco Factory and many of its workers were women, the famous cigar makers. About one of them the Frenchman Prospero Merimée wrote a story that was immortalized by the musician Bizet. It would be the opera Carmen. The first scene takes place in the mentioned tobacco factory, the second in a tavern next to the wall, the third in a cave on the outskirts of Seville and the fourth in front of the recently inaugurated Bullring.

The Bullring

if we think of Seville in the 18th century, this bullring would undoubtedly be the place where Sevillians enjoyed the most. Bullfights had already been held since the 16th century in various squares of the city, especially in San Francisco, but in the face of popular support it was built expressly for bullfighting in the Arenal neighborhood. Its owners were the Maestrantes de Caballeria, a noble order closely linked to this celebration. The name of the square would therefore be the Real Maestranza.

History of Seville 7. The age of Enlightment in Seville. 18th century
Bullring of Seville

But not all Sevillians were favorable to bullfighting. Some enlightened voices rose against him. One of them was that of the assistant Pablo de Olavide, one of the most brilliant minds of the Seville of the Enlightenment. However, he did not achieve his purpose due to the great popular support of the bullfighting.

Pablo de Olavide stood out as a politician and writer and also made a famous map of the city of Seville.

Outstanding Sevillians in the Age of Enlightment

Other outstanding people who supported and developed culture and scientific advances in this Seville of the Enlightenment were:

Justino Matute. Spanish journalist, writer and historian. Author of the collection of biobibliographies Sons of Seville. He immediately declared himself Frenchified, which cost him a stay in prison at the beginning of the 19th century.

Antonio de Ulloa. Marine and famous for being the discoverer of platinum. He traveled through South America and continued the seafaring tradition that existed in Seville since the 16th century.

History of Seville 7. The age of Enlightment in Seville. 18th century
Antonio de Ulloa

The Abbe Marchena. Liberal and French politician who curiously was never abbe or belonged to the clergy. He translated Molière, Montesquieu, Voltaire, and Rosseau.

As we see, therefore, not everything was decadence in Seville in the 18th century. Despite the new centers of power: commercial, political, cultural and economic, left Seville, which was left as a decaying city of provinces that, although the capital and most important city in southern Spain, would take a long time to recover.

To get to know better the stay of the Court in Seville in the 18th century and more information about the stories and personality of King Philip the V you can have a look to my video in Youtube: The mad king in the sevillian court (spanish)

We propose you our walking guided tours to know the Royal Tobacco factory (today the University of Seville), the Bullring and many other sites from Seville in the 18th century.

To get to know the famous operas that take place in Seville like Carmen, the Barber of Seville, the Mariage of Figaro, Fidelio.. you can go to this link

Seville 16th century. The date is August 13, 1568, and a colossal 4-meter bronze sculpture was placed with great effort at the top of the main tower. It is a female figure that represents the Triumph of the Catholic Faith. She carries a palm in her right hand and a banner in her left. Cervantes will call her La Giganta (The Giant) of Seville. It is also a weather-vane, so at a height of 100 meters she can see the entire city and what happens in its most remote corners. Let’s imagine what she sees:

History of Seville 5. The 16th century, the "Golden Age"
The sculpture of the Faith, the weather-vane

Neighbourghoods in Seville in the 16th century

The Guadalquivir river receives annually the Fleet of Indies from New Spain, today Mexico and from Tierra Firme, Peru. In this Seville of the 16th century the caravels take three months to arrive from America and around three days with luck to go up the river with the help of the wind and the tides. They dock at the Torre del Oro (Tower of Gold) and flood the city of silver, which, crossing the Postigo del Carbón, a small door in the wall, becomes hard cash in the nearby Casa de la Moneda (the Mint), a factory and citadel between the river and the Royal Palace, which is the envy of all the cities of Spain.  

The Arenal neighborhood is developed at this time, with its shipyards to repair ships, its incessant activity of coopers, blacksmiths, rope makers, fish warehouses and the Malbaratillo mount, a kind of flea market where everything is bought and sold.  But also the suburb of Triana with its sinister castle of San Jorge at the entrance, seat of the Holy Inquisition. Triana is a boiling neighborhood, especially of sailors and potters who use the clay from the banks of the river to make pottery, ceramic bowls, pots..

An Italian named Niculoso Pisano arrived in Triana in 1555 and revolutionized the ceramic technique with a technique for painting on flat tile. Until then it was only made in the Arab way, tiled type or with that relief that had the function of separating the colors. Since Micer Nicolas arrived in Seville with his new idea, the motifs and drawings of our beautiful ceramics have been multiplied.

History of Seville 5. The 16th century, the "Golden Age"
Casa de Pilatos, palace of Dukes of Alcala, XVI century

Seville is not the capital of the kingdom, but because of its cultural splendor it is already called the New Rome. And in its beautiful palaces such as the Casa Pinelo, the Dueñas Palace and the Casa de Pilatos, the Sevillian aristocracy is dedicated to collecting antiques, works of Charity and literary and artistic gatherings.

Churches and Palace in the Renaissance time

Churches and palaces proliferate in Seville in the 16th century but the great Cathedral, recently inaugurated in 1507, stands out naturally and can boast of being one of the largest in the world. This Gothic temple built almost everything throughout the 15th century does not want to do without the new airs that come from Italy.

The Main Sacristy and the surprising Chapter House will be made under the trendy Renaissance style. This Chapter house is a meeting room and his architect has had the brilliant idea to make it elliptical, thus providing exceptional acoustics. He was Hernán Ruiz from Cordoba, also the author of the upper part of the belltower.

There 24 bells, each dedicated to a saint, jugs of lilies in the corners representing the purity of the Immaculate Conception and me myself, stand above as an exceptional witness, like a victorious triumph in these religious struggles that sadly flooded Europe for years.

The Muslim and Hebrew have left our lands for years, but Catholicism from Rome and with Spain as its main champion, has a new enemy, Protestantism.

And to combat it the Catholics dedicate all their efforts, from the almighty Holy Inquisition that watches over every movement, to the artists, who began to decorate more and more churches with religious figures, to convince a people that they are the true Faith. Among these artists that spread the faith with their beautiful images of saints and virgins we have to mention Alejo Fernandez, Luis de Vargas, Pedro de Campaña, Hernando de Esturmio and Pedro de Villegas Marmolejo.

Merchants, printers and book collectors in the 16th century

In the city of Seville in the 16th century there is a big number of foreigners, they came from Flanders and other places in northern Europe attracted by the wealth of Seville and the offer of artistic works in the city. Not only painters and sculptors, also in these years Seville is full of merchants.

The streets that surround the Cathedral are a reminder of its origins as Alemanes, Francos or Placentines street (from Plasencia). And the printing press could not be missing, the most famous in Seville owned by the German Cromberger.

Surely one of his clients was the contemporary Hernando Colon, son of the discoverer Christopher Columbus and one of the most educated men in Europe, who had a magnificent library of 40.000 volumes. It would later be called the Columbine library that is still preserved in the Cathedral of Seville.

The House of the Trade

The monopoly of the Indies from Seville in the 16th century is not nonsense. The Casa de Contratación (House of Trade) founded by Queen Isabela in 1503 is the one that makes all the decisions regarding the newly discovered continent. It will have to take care of collecting the real fifth (taxes) of all commercial transactions, it will have to give the permits to go to the New World, it will have to organize the nautical studies and she will also organize all the exploration expeditions beyond the ocean.

Its maximum position is the Piloto Mayor(Chief Pilot). By the way, an Italian named Americo Vespucci, navigator and cartographer, held this position from 1508 to 1512. With time and with some luck, he will have the honor of having the new continent be named after him: America.

The first trip around the World

But undoubtedly one of the greatest achievements of the Casa de Contratación of Seville in the 16th century is having organized the expedition of a Portuguese, Ferdinand Magellan. His adventure began in Seville as captain in command of 5 ships to search for the coveted spices in the antipodes of Spain, ended gloriously three years later after having made the first round the world. However, Magellan, its captain, perished in Mactan (Philippines) and the 18 survivors barely returned to Seville in 1522 aboard the Victoria and under the command of Juan Sebastian Elcano. It can be said without doubt that it was the greatest maritime feat of the 16th century.

History of Seville 5. The 16th century, the "Golden Age"
Ferdinand Magellan, captain of the Expedition around the World

That city of Seville in the 16th century had 150,000 inhabitants.

This Seville of lights, culture and wealth also had its dark side, where most of the Sevillians were crowded in unsanitary conditions within a wall built in Islamic times and that if it was still preserved it was to protect the city from the feared epidemics and from the frequent floods of the Guadalquivir.

The river entered the city through various areas, the main one being the Alameda, an authentic lagoon, so that at the end of the 16th century the Count of Barajas ordered it to be drained and the first public garden in Europe to be built there. That didn’t stop the floods from hitting the city every few years.

It was a city in which rogues and thugs abounded, such as Cervantes in his famous novel Rinconete and Cortadillo. Names that have become part of universal literature.

In fact, our most famous Spanish writer, Cervantes, knew Seville in the 16th century first-hand. He was in the city with the intention of going to the Indies but did not obtain the corresponding permission, who knows if Don Quixote would have been written if he had obtained authorization from the Casa de la Contratación. He stayed in Seville, and he had time to write about the rogues of the city, to praise the figure of the Giralda and the beautiful sculpture that crowned it and to temporarily go to jail because of a murky matter while he was a tax collector.

This so-called royal prison where Cervantes was hosted was located at the beginning of Sierpes street, already then the main commercial thoroughfare in Seville. A few meters away was the newly built convent of San Francisco, today the Town hall, where Diego de Riaño carved the beautiful facade in the Plateresque style, fine work more typical of goldsmiths and silversmiths than stone artists.

That was the most important square in the city and there were held from bullfights to public trials, both with great success from the public always eager for news and parties.

The other great celebration loved by the people was the theater, but this took place in specific places, called “corrales de comedias”.  There was throughout the city, the Corral de Doña Elvira, the Corral del Conde, the Coliseum, in the same area of ​​the Alcazar. There were puritanical voices against the theater as amoral and social agitator, but they could never eradicate it due to the enormous popular support. Cervantes, Lope de Rueda and other famous playwrights premiered their works in Seville.

Royal Weddings in Seville

But without a doubt the great spectacle of the century was the wedding of Emperor Charles, who chose Seville to marry in 1526.

His fiancée was Isabel de Portugal, a carnal cousin, so they had to have a special dispensation from the pope to celebrate the union. As usual it was an arranged marriage but the romantic legend of Seville wanted it to be love at first sight the moment they met. They did it the day before the wedding in the Royal Alcázares and according to what the emperor could not wait for the next day and called the archbishop who was already in bed to immediately marry them in private and thus sanctify their union.

History of Seville 5. The 16th century, the "Golden Age"
Empress Isabel of Portugal painted by Tiziano

The Alcazar gardens that we have today are largely the product of that great celebration. Years later, their son, King Felipe II, ordered the decoration of the Alcazar Banquet Hall, where the banquet had been held, with these beautiful tiles by Cristobal de Augusta in homage to the marriage of the emperor and the empress.

Seville was the de facto capital of an empire in which the sun did not set, the European and American possessions were completed with the Philippines on the other side of the world and from 1580 to 1640 also Portugal, which was incorporated by inheritance into the dominions of Philip II and which regained its independence in the mid-17th century.

But that splendid 16th century Seville was largely a mirage. The successive bankruptcies of the crown, the decline of the American metal and the famines and floods plunged Seville into an almost endemic crisis.

However, the artistic seed planted in the XVI century took root and despite the difficulties, the XVII century would be one of great splendor for art and culture, the so-called Siglo de Oro (Gold Century).

Meanwhile I invite you to have a look to our tours in Seville that will bring to this Seville in the 16th century.

You can learn more about Ferdinand Columbus in this article and video published in my blog

Don’t worry to know more about the outstanding women of Seville in the 16th like Catalina de Ribera. Here there is a video (spanish)

We are going to talk about Roman Seville, or rather we should say Roman Hispalis, since this was the name our city had two thousand years ago.

Seville however was not founded by the Romans but is earlier. It seems that it dates back to Phoenician times, that is, to the 7th century BC. The Phoenicians or Canaanites came from the Middle East, they were a merchant people that had founded colonies and cities throughout the Mediterranean.

They crossed the Strait of Gibraltar and after founding the three thousand-year-old Gades (or Gadir) they arrived at the place where Seville would settle and they would call it Ispal. This was a strategic area due to the access to the copper and silver mines of the southwest of the Peninsula, in addition to its agricultural wealth and finally it was located on the banks of a large river, in an estuary very close to the coast, even more than it is now.

Mythical foundation

According to tradition, it was the God Hercules who founded the city of Seville, he came chasing the Phoenician goddess Astarte along the Guadalquivir River. Astarte turned right and founded the quarter of Triana, Hercules turned right and founded Hispalis (Seville).

 But the city became more important from the second century BC as a Roman foundation as a result of the battle of Ilipa Magna, now Alcalá del Río. According to tradition, Julius Caesar was in the south of the Iberian Peninsula, then called Betica, and he was the one who made the first wall of Seville.

History of Seville. Chapter 1. Hispalis, the Roman Seville
Hercules in the façade of the City Hall

The Temple of Marmoles Street

There are not many vestiges of this Roman Seville but we will find in the historic center some remains that tell us about that era. On Marmoles street there are remains of a Roman temple built between the first and second centuries AD. It is from the time of the Emperor Hadrian, there are three columns that can be seen.

Originally there were six but in the XVI century the city major took three to decorate a new square that they were building in what would later become the Alameda de Hércules. On the way one broke, so in that square they only put two, the other three remain on the original site of Marmoles Street and are located five meters deep, which shows the depth of the city in Roman times.

The walls

Most of the remaining walls in Seville, including those of the Alcazar (the Royal Palace), are from the Muslim period, specifically the XII century. However, it seems that there were older Roman ones and stones or their basement were used to build the Islamic ones.

City structure

Like almost all Roman cities, the Roman Seville or Hispalis was divided into very orderly, rectilinear streets. There was a main axis that went from north to south and it was called Cardusmaximum, there was another axis that crossed from east to west called Decumanus. In the center there was a central square that corresponded to the Forum. This square was located in the current Alfalfa Square.


Antiquarium is the name given to the Roman archaeological remains found in the center of Seville just below the modern construction Metropol Parasol (“the Mushrooms”), they are about four meters deep and luckily almost all the archaeological remains were saved. There is a total of nine houses between the I and II centuries after Christ. This area corresponded to the rich houses and was very close to the Roman forum.

In the Antiquarium, which is an archaeological zone that can be visited, beautiful mosaics were found built from rich tesserae, some in black and white and others with colorful elements, also columns and more curious elements such as children’s games or lamps.

History of Seville. Chapter 1. Hispalis, the Roman Seville
The Roman Seville

The fossil river and salted fish

In the Roman Seville times the river Guadalquivir entered through this area of ​​the city. And next to the river there were some warehouses where salting was made, that is, where the fish was salted for its conservation in buckets. Those recipients have still been preserved.

That river is still drained time because it still exist in the subsoil and that is why it continues to flood periodically and the water has to be drained from time to time. This is what is called a fossil river.

Other Roman vestiges in Seville

Roman tombstones were used to build the Giralda Tower, which was the old minaret of the mosque in the XII century, they are made of marble and can still be seen perfectly and contrast with the rest of the tower that was built in brick.

The shafts of columns that are around the cathedral are also of Roman origin, some are in marble and others in granite and joined by chains make up the perimeter of the cathedral.

Other smaller columns but also of Roman origin can be seen in some corners of houses in the historic center, they were used to protect the corners of the houses so that they would not be damaged by horse carts when passing by.

We can see more Roman columns in the arcades of the little shops in the Square of the Bread, one of the oldest squares in Seville.

 Amphitheater, theater and necropolis

Archaeological excavations have revealed some Roman Seville remains under the Church of Saint Nicolas, specifically there was a theater. In all Roman cities it was necessary to have amusements so in addition to the theater there was the amphitheater, it would be located below the convent of Capuchinos and it was on the outskirts of the city due to its large size. According to tradition, in this amphitheater the saint patrons of Seville Santa Justa and Santa Rufina could be martyred in the IV century AD.

Also in that area, under some modern buildings, there have been found remains of a necropolis that originally had up to ninety tombs.

You see that under Seville a fascinating city of two thousand years ago extends. The roman Seville still sleeps under our feet about five meters deep. Have a look in our tours to get to know in place this fascinating period

To learn more about Roman Seville, you can visit the unknown Archaeological Museum
( ), currently closed for works).

The Casa de Lebrija ( in the historic center that houses the best mosaics of Roman Seville.
And finally, about seven kilometers from Seville, the very interesting ruins of Italica ( another neighboring Roman city of Seville that was also the homeland of the emperors Trajan and Hadrian, but we will talk about these them another day.