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Discovering a 12th century Islamic bath in Seville’s tapas bar | Spain

An exquisitely decorated 12th-century Islamic bathhouse, filled with dazzling geometric motifs and eight-pointed star-shaped skylights, emerged slightly improbably from the walls and vaulted ceilings of the iconic tapas bar in the heart of Seville’s southern Spanish city.

Last summer, owners The Giralda brewery – who was flowing White hair And the glasses Near Seville Cathedral since 1923 – I decided to take advantage of local roadworks and the coronavirus epidemic to start a long overdue regeneration process.

Although local legend and a curious historical document indicated that the site may once have been an ancient bathhouse, most people assumed that the ancient Giralda’s appearance dates back to neomudéjar, Or Islamic revival style, where architect Vicente Traver built the bar and hotel on top of it in the early 1920s.

One of the Giralda’s four owners, Antonio Castro, said: “There was talk of baths here, but not all historians were convinced, and some thought it happened much later.” “We were doing some work and hired an archaeologist, and this is how the baths were discovered.”

Discover pigeons in Seville
Discover pigeons in Seville. Photo: Alvaro Jimenez

Archaeologist Alvaro Jimenez learned these rumors. But he, like many others, always imagined them as fictional. One day in July, the team was gently making their way through the plaster covering the ceiling when they discovered an eight-pointed star-shaped skylight.

“As soon as we saw one of the skylights, we knew what it was; it could not be anything but bathrooms,” Jimenez said. “We just had to follow the pattern of the skylights.”

Their explorations soon revealed a remarkable piece of design dating back to the 12th century when it was The Almohad Caliphate He ruled much of what is now Spain and Portugal, as well as much of North Africa.

The archaeologist said: “From the decorative point of view, these baths contain the most preserved decoration of any known bathhouse on the Iberian Peninsula.”

“Certainly everything here is decorated, and fortunately, we have survived. The background is a white lime mortar embossed with geometric lines, circles and squares. Moreover, you have ocher panels of eight-pointed stars and multi-leafed eight-petal roses. These two designs alternate and intertwine and adapt to the shapes. Different geometry for skylights “holes.

Bare detail and ornament.
Bare detail and ornament. Photo: Alvaro Jimenez

While much of the bleach still needs to be cleaned to reveal the red paint underneath, the traditional hammam has now been maintained and repaired and the Giralda is scheduled to open again in two or three weeks.

Jimenez, who described “a kind of sinister queuing of different things,” said that the baths and bar “are reborn and become a wonderful thing; it was the right people, the right time and a little bit of luck.”

Castro and his partners are looking forward to a new chapter in Giralda’s long history. But they’re also a toast of the visionary Vicente Travire.

“This used to be a very popular bar before, but now people will be able to come and have a beer or a glass of wine in a bar that is also a traditional hammam from the 12th century,” Castro said. “It’s a good thing that the 1920s architect respected the baths – maybe other people throw it all away, so we’re grateful to him.”

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