Seville's cathedral can be described only in superlatives: it's the largest and highest cathedral in Spain, the largest Gothic building in the world, and the world's third-largest church, after St. Peter's in Rome and St. Paul's in London. After Ferdinand III captured Seville from the Moors in 1248, the great mosque begun by Yusuf II in 1171 was reconsecrated to the Virgin Mary and used as a Christian cathedral. In 1401 the people of Seville decided to erect a new cathedral, one that would equal the glory of their great city. They pulled down the old mosque, leaving only its minaret and outer courtyard, and built the existing building in just over a century—a remarkable feat for that time.
Highlights inside include the Capilla Mayor (Main Chapel) with a magnificent altarpiece,(restored in 2014), the largest in Christendom (65 feet by 43 feet) and depicting some 36 scenes from the life of Christ.
his coffin is borne aloft by the four kings representing the medieval kingdoms of Spain: Castile, León, Aragón, and Navarra. At the opposite (north) end, don't miss the Altar de Plata (Silver Altar), an 18th-century masterpiece of intricate silversmithery.
In the Sacristía de los Cálices (Sacristy of the Chalices) look for Juan Martínez Montañés's wood carving Crucifixion, Merciful Christ; Juan de Valdés Leal's St. Peter Freed by an Angel; Francisco de Zurbarán's Virgin and Child; and Francisco José de Goya y Lucientes's St. Justa and St. Rufina. The Sacristía Mayor (Main Sacristy) holds the keys to the city, which Seville's Moors and Jews presented to their conqueror, Ferdinand III. Finally, in the dome of the Sala Capitular (Chapter House), in the cathedral's southeastern corner, is Bartolomé Estéban Murillo's Immaculate Conception, painted in 1668.
One of the cathedral's highlights, the Capilla Real (Royal Chapel), is concealed behind a ponderous curtain, but you can duck in if you're quick, quiet, and properly dressed (no shorts or sleeveless tops): enter from the Puerta de los Palos, on Plaza Virgen de los Reyes (signposted "Entrada para Culto," or "Entrance for Worship"). Along the sides of the chapel are the tombs of the Beatrix of Swabia, wife of the 13th century's Ferdinand III, and their son Alfonso X (the Wise); in a silver urn before the high altar rest the relics of Ferdinand III himself, Seville's liberator. Canonized in 1671, he was said to have died from excessive fasting.
Don't forget the Patio de los Naranjos (Courtyard of Orange Trees), on the church's northern side, where the fountain in the center was used for ablutions before people entered the original mosque.
The Christians could not bring themselves to destroy the tower when they tore down the mosque, so they incorporated it into their new cathedral. In 1565–68 they added a lantern and belfry to the old minaret and installed 24 bells, one for each of Seville's 24 parishes and the 24 Christian knights who fought with Ferdinand III in the Reconquest. They also added the bronze statue of Faith, which turned as a weather vane—el giraldillo, or "something that turns," thus the whole tower became known as La Giralda. With its Baroque additions, the slender Giralda rises 322 feet. Inside, instead of steps, 35 sloping ramps—wide enough for two horsemen to pass abreast—climb to a viewing platform 230 feet up. Don't miss the magnificent north facade of the cathedral, housing the Puerta del Perdón (Gate of Pardon) entrance to the courtyard. Restored between 2012 and 2015, the brickwork and white plaster on the huge wall strongly reflects the original 12th-century mosque. Admission also includes a visit to the Iglesia del Salvador.