Seville’s Cathedral of Saint Mary of the See was erected over the site where the former Aljama Mosque used to stand in Almohad times. When Ferdinand III conquered the city in the 13th century, the former mosque was used as a Christian temple and the haram or prayer room was used for this purpose, with no alterations being made to the architectonic structure. The only addition was a Royal Chapel, where various monarchs have been buried, such as Alphonsus X the Wise or Ferdinand III himself and his mother, Beatrix of Swabia.
According to the oral tradition, following several meetings in 1401, the canons of the Cathedral reached the following conclusion: "Let us make a Church so that those who see it built will think us to be madmen". And that is what happened: the total surface area of the ensemble is 23,500 square metres, 126 metres long and 83 metres wide.
It was then decided to demolish the former mosque, conserving only part of the courtyard - the famous Orange Tree Courtyard (Patio de los Naranjos), and the minaret, nowadays the “Giralda”. The work commenced in 1403 and went on down through the centuries, with additions being made in the Renaissance, Baroque and Neoclassical times.
The "Giralda", which was included on the World Heritage List in 1987, was built in the image and likeness of the Koutoubia in Marrakech (Morocco), but the upper section formed by the bell-tower and the “giraldilla” upper tower was added during the Renaissance.
Given its huge dimensions, the Seville Cathedral ensemble has a significant number of doors, such as the Puerta del Perdón (Door of Pardon) and the apse doors - an atypical position for accesses - which are known as Puerta de los Palos (Adoration of the Magi) and Puerta de las Campanillas (Door of the Little Bells), or the larger doors that open onto the transept, the Puerta de San Cristóbal (Door of St. Christopher) and the Puerta de la Concepción (Door of the Immaculate Conception), which opens onto the Patio de los Naranjos (Orange Tree Courtyard). However, the access to the great gothic Cathedral is through the other façade. It is there that the two main doorways are located, the Puerta del Nacimiento (Door of the Nativity) and the Puerta del Baptismo (Door of Baptism), with its unique polychrome baked clay sculpture, of an impressive realism.
It also houses a great number of chapels, including the Capilla Real (Royal Chapel), the Concepción Grande (Great Immaculate Conception), the Capilla del Mariscal (Marshall’s Chapel) and the Capillas de la Purificación (Purification), de los Dolores (Pains) or the Capilla de la Virgen de la Antigua (Chapel of the Virgin de la Antigua).
The Cathedral also houses a significant collection of works of art, such as Murillo’s portraits of St. Isidore and St. Leandro and the paintings for the altarpiece of the Capilla de San Pedro (Chapel of St. Peter), by Zurbarán.