La Giralda has been standing watch over Seville for nearly 1,000 years. This remarkable example of medieval architecture was completed in 1198, just over a decade after construction began. As the years passed, it transformed and changed, reflecting the many different elements of Seville’s history. Berber, Muslim, Christian and Spanish Renaissance elements have been incorporated over the years, but one thing has remained the same—La Giralda is an iconic symbol of Seville one that has been imitated throughout Spain and the New World.
The amazing structure now stands tall as a bell tower in the Cathedral of Seville. A Muslim minaret when it was first built, La Giralda is nearly 105 meters tall, 343 feet. The former top to a mosque and the subsequent cathedral are part of a UNSECO World Heritage Site, along with two other buildings—the Alcazar and Archivo de Indias. All of the structures represent Spain’s Golden Age, one where cultures were intersecting and Spain was exploring the New World.
This World Heritage Site shares a tangible connection to the New World, as it is the final resting place of Christopher Columbus. His tomb remains in the sprawling Gothic cathedral, one of the most visited places in Seville. A century before Columbus sailed the ocean blue, construction commenced for the cathedral, built on the site of the twelfth-century mosque. Called the Great Mosque, the ornate place of worship was built by Emir Yaqub al-Mansur.
La Giralda survived the conflict that saw the Christians take control of Seville, and eventually it became a Gothic bell tower and topped with a bronze weather vane. Today, one more element of the Great Mosque remains: Patio de los Naranjos, a lovely garden worth exploring as well.
Visits to the cathedral and La Giralda have become one of the most popular things to do in Seville. Mass is observed daily and several times on Sunday. Visitors are welcome to stroll through the grounds—and climb to the top of the tower once they’ve paid the admission fee. Audio guides and brochures are available in English, Spanish and other languages.