La Giralda - History and Facts | History Hit

La Giralda

Seville, Andalusia, Spain

La Giralda is the famed bell tower of Seville Cathedral and which began as a 12th century minaret.

Peta Stamper

22 May 2021
Image Credit: Shutterstock

About La Giralda

La Giralda of Seville in Spain has the honour of being both one of the world’s most famous bell towers and minarets, earning it UNESCO World Heritage status. Originally built between 1172 and 1198 as part of a magnificent mosque under Emir Yaqub al-Mansur, La Giralda is considered to be a brilliant example of the Almohad style.

Following the re-conquest of Seville in 1248, La Giralda was transformed into the bell tower of Seville Cathedral, thereby avoiding destruction and inspiring towers around the world. Visitors are now invited to climb La Giralda to enjoy stunning views of Seville.

La Giralda history

A mosque was commissioned in 1171 by caliph Abu Ya’qub Yusuf as the congregation had outgrown the modest prayer hall in Seville. The city sewer needed to be removed to accomodate the building, slowing construction by 4 years. However, the caliph was highly invested in the building project, visiting the site daily and commissioning the work of great craftsmen from all over Al-Andalus and the Maghrib to design, built and decorate the mosque.

By 1176, the mosque was completed with all but the minaret. It was not until 1184 that a minaret began construction which was further delayed because of the caliph’s death during the Siege of Santarém. His son, Abu Yusuf Yaqab al-Mansur took up the project and the minaret of local bricks and recycled marble gradually rose to completion on 10 March 1198.

On the tower’s peak were 4 precious metal spheres to commemorate the caliph’s victory over Alfonso VIII of Castile. La Giralda was decorated with Berber craftwork and featured a stunning main gateway boasted metal-plated geometric doors with floral knockers.

When Seville was recovered by the Christians in 1248 during the Reconquista, the mosque was converted into a cathedral which was finally completed in 1506. The new 16th century cathedral converted the minaret into a bell tower, crowning it with a bronze weather vane and inscribing Seville’s motto, the words of Alfonso V during an uprising, ‘Seville has not abandoned me’.

La Giralda today

Today, this 800 year old tower still stands and is open for the public to climb – it is hard work but the views from the top show most of Seville, including the Alcazar and its stunning gardens. From the ground, La Giralda provides a landmark from which to orientate yourself around the city.

Looking up from below, make note of the Arabic-style arched balconies and grid patterns, testifying to the Muslim presence in Spain as it overlooks the cathedral next door. Be aware that this popular tourist spot can be very crowded during peak hours. Therefore, why not visit earlier in the morning for a cooler climb, or at night from below to see it splendidly lit up.

Getting to La Giralda

In the city’s heart, La Giralda is surrounded by Seville’s public transport. Tramline 1 stops several times around the tower, including at Archivo de Indias, and Puerta de Jerez 5 minutes away where subway L1 also stops. Buses 3, 21, 40, 41 and C4 all stop nearby at Paseo Cristóbal Colón.