Qantara Qantara

Torre del Oro (tower of gold)

  • Name : Torre del Oro (tower of gold)
  • Place : Sevilla, Spain
  • Construction date/period : AD 1220–1221
  • Construction materials : Ashlar, mortar
  • Recipient/Mandatory : Abū al-‘Ula’, Almohad governor of Sevilla (reigned 1248–1269)
  • Dimensions : Height 20.70m

The tower has been restored as part of a programme to renovate the city walls, of which there are some remnants in the Macarena district. They were preceded by a barbican, a ditch, and this defensive tower. Situated on the banks of the Guadalquivir River, right in the centre of Sevilla, it was linked to the alcazar by a wall and served as an advanced bastion for the city and as a system of defence for the port. The tower could be used to seal the entrance of the port by means of a thick chain that was slung across the river and attached to a barbican or a similar tower on the opposite side.

The upper sections of the dodecagonal tower were added in 1760. During the Almohad period, the tower was covered with limewash. This tower is one of the oldest Muslim edifices with ceramic decorations in the Peninsula. In 1900, when it was last renovated, the glazed ceramic strips and panels that decorated the facings on the second floor, which may not have been the original coverings, were replaced. It appears, however, that the green ribbons around the arches existed in the thirteenth century.

The interior of the tower is comprised of three floors composed of triangular and square sections covered by groined vault ceilings, arranged around a hexagonal stairway, which becomes dodecagonal as it expands outwards. The upper part of this structure formed the second floor, which was partly blocked by the construction of a third level in 1760.

The tower testifies to Sevilla's defensive needs at the start of the thirteenth century. It was built to facilitate the control and protection of the palaces situated in the southern part of the city and to survey the city's port. Luxury materials arrived here from the East together with spices from India, and Aljarafe oil and cereals from the Sevillian countryside were exported to various ports in the Mediterranean.

A now isolated perimeter walk that began in another polygonal tower, the tower of silver (still visible today), linked the enclosure to the palace and crossed the bank, between the river and the city. This vast perimeter wall is depicted in illustrations from the period. The tower has now become a maritime museum.

Polygonal towers were used in Byzantine and Romanesque architecture. It is possible that this polygonal plan was transmitted to the Muslims and was then diffused throughout Al-Andalus at the end of the twelfth century and during the thirteenth century. In Mexico, in the State of Puebla, there is an octagonal tower (the Rollo de Tepeaca) from the eighteenth century that is modelled on the Torre del Oro.

REFERENCE BIBLIOGRAPHY

Olmedo, F., Lareta, M., et al., Itinerario Cultural de Almoravides y Almohades, Magreb y Peninsula Ibérica, Grenada, 1999, Fondation El Legado Andalusi.

Torres Balbás, L., « Crónica arqueológica de la España Musulmana », in al-Andalus, I, 1981.

Valor, M., Sevilla almohade, Sevilla, 1999, Editeur.

El mudéjar síntesis de culturas. El Itinerario Cultural del Mudéjar en México, 2002.

La arquitectura de al-Andalus. Documentos para el siglo XXI, Grenada, 1995, Fundación El Legado Andalusí.



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