The Alameda is considered the oldest public promenade in Europe, although it is contemporary of the Paseo del Prado in Madrid and previous to the famous one of the Tullerias in Paris. We have had our Mall since 1574, thanks to the Count of Barajas, corregidor of the city at the service of King Felipe II.


Hércules, Julio César and the roman columns

The name of Alameda de Hércules is due on the one hand to the poplars that adorned the square and on the other to a sculpture of the classic hero Hercules that opens the square at one end. Hercules is considered the mythical founder of Seville. And next to Hercules we also see Julius Caesar, to whom the first wall of the city in Roman times is attributed.

Both characters are on top of two monumental columns of about 9 meters. They came from a Roman temple apparently from the time of the emperor Hadrian, of which there are still three other columns in the hidden marble street, named for the columns.Ambos personajes están en lo alto de dos monumentales columnas de unos 9 metros. Provenían de un templo romano al parecer de época del emperador Adriano del que aún quedan otras tres columnas en la escondida calle mármoles, llamada así precisamente por las columnas.

The sculptures are by Diego de Pesquera, author of the 16th century. Hercules, in addition to the mythical founder of the city, represents Emperor Charles V and Julius Caesar’s, also Philip II who reigned then.

There are two other columns at the other end of the plaza that are from the 18th century. At its top are two lions, one with the coat of arms of Spain and the other with that of Seville.

If we measure the distance between both pairs of columns, we see that the Alameda is the square in the largest historical center of Seville: measures: 480m. Almost half a kilometer of walking.

In this place before the Alameda there was a swampy area, the Laguna de la Feria. We are actually very close to the river. The Count of Barajas task was to dry it out and turn it into a walk with fountains and trees that protected it from the summer heat. It was a center for social gatherings where all kinds of social classes coincided.


Water in historic Seville

Lugares históricos de Sevilla: La Alameda de Hércules | Tours guiados en Sevilla

In the square three fountains were installed that gave drinking water from the Archbishop’s fountain, a spring in Miraflores, 3 km north of Seville.

The water carriers were a classic figure in Seville. They carried the water from these public sources to the houses. The Alameda’s water was especially appreciated for its quality and the water carriers used to carry a twig of poplar in the pitchers that ensured its origin in this square. Diego Velázquez left us in one of his immortal paintings a representation of this profession. The one known as the Aguador de Sevilla (The water carrier of Seville), today in the Wellington museum in London, belongs to his first paintings and it was painted in Seville. The three characters represent the three ages: youth, maturity and old age. The oldest character is the water carrier who pours water from his pitcher into a young man’s glass cup. The naturalism and textures of the objects represented (ceramics, glass …) is what stands out most in this Baroque painting from the early 17th century.

This formerly swampy area improved its appearance and functionality, but it continued to flood often as the river was very close. The floods reached it so much that it came to be called the plague lagoon, due to the epidemics of typhus, cholera… derived from the floods and unsanitary conditions.

This was a serious problem until well into the 20th century when the river deviated and the Guadalquivir on its way through Seville became a canal.


Games and social activities

Lugares históricos de Sevilla: La Alameda de Hércules | Tours guiados en Sevilla

During the 18th century, the city will have a large interior space in the Alameda where you can “play canes” or “run bulls, the origins of bullfighting. The canes game was very popular in Spain. It was of Arab origin and consisted of a simulation of a combat in which nobles on horseback threw reeds or darts and others stopped with the shields.


Evolution of The Hércules Mall

Lugares históricos de Sevilla: La Alameda de Hércules | Tours guiados en Sevilla

The appearance of the Dukes of Montpensier in Seville led the highest classes to new spaces south of the city. And this northern area remained a popular neighborhood. In the middle of the 19th century, the Alameda had an illustrious neighbor, the romantic poet Gustavo Adolfo Becquer, who was born in a nearby street and who later lived with relatives in the Alameda itself.

At the beginning of the 20th century, the area gained a notable economic and social boost with the installation of theaters, stalls, and beverage kiosks.

After the civil war it became a fairly degraded area. And it has recovered in recent years with the redevelopment in 2008 and today it is an area of much social and cultural activity in Seville. To highlight in the latter the beautiful palace of the Casa de las Sirenas (Siren’s House) from the 18th century and which is the most notable building in the square, today a civic center.

The Marques of Pickman an Englishman who came to live in Seville, saw a good deal on the recently abandoned Carthusian monastery of Santa Maria de las Cuevas. The English porcelain was so fashionable at that time and found its place in Seville in this monastery converted into a ceramics factory. This began in 1841 and lasted more than 100 years. Today we have in the Old Monastery various ceramic panels manufactured here and are especially remarquable the unmistakable baked earthenware ovens.

The Crafts in Seville ceramics date back to Roman empire, and Santa Justa and Santa Rufina, martyrs in Roman times and protective of the city, already manufactured ceramic in Triana, across the river Guadalquivir.

Ceramic was essential in Islamic times for the decoration of palaces and houses. Tiles, tile basin edge … later in Christian times also the tiles were influenced by moorish handicraft but with new Renaissance models and technic. The Italian Niculoso Pisano resident in Triana quarter revolutionized the ceramic art and introduced the painting on flat tile. Some masterpieces of this artist are the Oratory of Isabel the Catholic in the Cuarto Real Alto of Alcázar and the Gate of the Monastery of Santa Paula.

Many years the production center were small and medium workshops at Triana district. But Pickman gave new impetus to the craft and became real industry in the nineteenth century in Seville.

El Monasterio Santa María de las Cuevas


The old monastery

But the monastery already had within its walls a long history before Pickman. It had been founded at the start of the fourteenth century as one of the most important monastic centers of the new Christian Seville. Large extent on the outskirts of Sevilla and looking at the region of Aljarafe was chosen by noble families such as the Riberas for their burials. Christopher Columbus himself stayed here and promoting their friendship with the monks prepared a part of his expedition to the New World. Years after his death his ashes rested in this place for 30 years before leaving for the island of La Española (Dominican Republic) in the Americas. A statue erected by the widow of Pickman remembers the discoverer.

Later in the seventeenth century Francisco de Zurbaran the best painter of monks in the Catholic Spain, full of palaces and convents, left us portraits of the sober and silent Carthusian. This collection of three paintings is now in the Museum of Fine Arts of Seville.

Like so many other convents was the subject of the confiscation and closure in the nineteenth century. That was when Pickman entered the scene and ceramics arrived in the Monastery.

But the history of Santa Maria de las Cuevas continued when the recent and legendary EXPO 92 ‘hosted here the Royal Pavilion.

After 1992, The Cartuja factory dependencies were transfer to another place and the monastery became the Contemporary Art Center after a comprehensive restoration in 1997, retaining function today.

So today we have in this original place an old monastery, a former ceramics factory and the Centro Andaluz de Arte Contemporaneo that programmes temporary exhibitions and concerts.


The charm of the monastery

The monastery is surrounded by the garden of the monks, beautiful full of orange trees and other native plants, it’s perfect to get lost and find tranquility just steps from the center of Seville.

I like the mix of Moorish cloisters with ceramic panels from the nineteenth century made by Pickman. The Renaissance tombs of the Ribera next to contemporary art. I love strolling among ceramic furnaces scattered through the gardens competing in height that give the ancient monastery an unmistakable silhouette.

I like to approach the tree called “Beautiful Shade”, Ombu or Phitolaca Dioecius that, according to tradition, was planted by the son of Christopher Columbus more than 500 years ago.

Also I like cycling through orchards and centenaries orange trees and be amazed with the modern recreation of the giant Alice in Wonderland.

I like the quiet air outside the tumult of the city that should be the same for Carthusian monks centuries ago. And I like to remember the mythical EXPO ’92 that left us a substantial footprint in all Sevillians of more than 35 years.