Well-preserved 12th century hammam uncovered in Seville

Seville was taken over by the Almohad dynasty in 1147 and became one of the two capitals of their empire, alongside Marrakesh, in modern day Morocco.
Thursday 25/02/2021
The Giralda bell tower and the Giralda Bar in Seville, where an Islamic 12th-century bathhouse was uncovered during renovations works. (AFP)
The Giralda bell tower and the Giralda Bar in Seville, where an Islamic 12th-century bathhouse was uncovered during renovations works. (AFP)

SEVILLE - A bar in southern Spain has been restyled to showcase a newly unearthed 12th century hammam that was secretly preserved.

Workers uncovered the thermal baths, decorated with well preserved artwork, sculptures and wall fittings, as renovation began in Giralda, a Moorish-styled bar in Seville, Spain near a historic cathedral.

Alvaro Jimenez, an archaeologist who monitors renovation projects in the protected area near Seville’s Cathedral, said the uncovering was “completely unexpected.”

After thoroughly examining the building, workers uncovered 88 skylights, star-shaped and octagonal, in the roof of the bar with tiled walls whose name derives from La Giralda — once the minaret of the Great Mosque that now serves as the cathedral’s bell tower. In addition, they found stunning 2,100 square feet artwork on the walls, former hammams and hot and cold rooms.

The historic design was expertly tucked away by 20th-century architect Vicente Traver as he built two additional floors.

“We thought the architect had destroyed it but we realise now he saved it,” Jimenez said. “He saved what he found and preserved it for the future.”

Seville was taken over by the Almohad dynasty in 1147 and became one of the two capitals of their empire, alongside Marrakesh, in modern day Morocco.

“Seville Cathedral is built on the remains of the Almohad Aljama mosque, the construction of which began in 1172, and which was inaugurated in 1198 with the completion of the minaret, La Giralda,” he said.

“The baths are located in the southern part of the city that the Almohads transformed into their political, religious and economic centre.”

After the discovery, the bar was reshaped to pay homage to this unique history and display the carefully protected Islamic heritage to visitors.