Sevilla History & People


Over the course of its history, Sevilla has been passed back and forth between a veritable potpourri of vastly distinct cultures, each leaving behind traces of their days in the sun like permanent footprints in the sand. Comprising the earliest part of Sevilla’s history, the Phoenicians were the first to recognize the potential of its excellent riverside location, the lucrative port first flourished under the Romans, and the Visigoths oversaw the city’s flourishing as a major cultural center.

mudejar architecture

The exotic architecture dominating much of Sevilla is just one of the traces left behind by the Muslim culture that conquered the Visigoths and ruled the city for over five centuries. They bestowed upon Sevilla a new name, Ishbiliya, and unrivaled splendor as they converted it into the most important city of al-Andalus, the Islamic kingdom that sprawled across southern Spain. To get an idea of Ishbiliya at the peak of its grandeur, simple gaze up at the soaring Giralda, which was actually the minaret of the city’s enormous mosque.

sevilla cathedral

Muslim rule, while it lasted for centuries on end, did eventually fall to the 13th century’s reconquista. The conquering King Fernando III recognized the vast possibilities of the reacquired city and within one century it rose to become the cosmopolitan hub of Christian Spain. The monopoly held by Sevilla over cross-seas commerce after the 15th century discovery of America further propelled the city into both cultural and economic prosperity, which you can see in the wealth of works by great artists and authors as well as in the the construction of elegant churches, convents, and palaces.

Sevilla’s intrinsic charm became a magnet for people of all walks of life and it remains as such today. Unfortunately, like many good things Sevilla’s prosperity did not last forever. During the 17th and 18th centuries, a streak of bad luck, devastating plagues, and the emergence of nearby Cádiz as the new “Port of the Indies” spiraled Sevilla into a decline that would last until the 20th century.

plaza de españa

The unwavering optimism natural to every sevillano survived the centuries of struggle and hope rose with the 1929 Latin-American Exposition in Sevilla. Beautiful buildings once again sprang up, lush parks sprawled across the land, and droves of tourists reveled in the tranquil beauty of their beloved Sevilla. Progress was put on a long-term hiatus with the onset of the Spanish Civil War, after which Spain fell under the 35-year repressive dictatorship of Francisco Franco. In Sevilla, historic buildings were torn down while others fell helplessly into ruin. Following Franco’s 1975 death, the proud and ever-passionate sevillanos have brought their city back up to its deserving glory. Old buildings have been and are being restored to their former splendor, tourism is hopping, and Sevilla is once again the cultural leader that it was always destined to be.