Moorish bathhouse discovered during bar work in Seville

by Deborah Cater
Tiles from moorish bathhouse discovered in Bar Giralda, Seville ©http://bartapassevilla.com

Renovation work on a bar in central Seville reveals a well-preserved oriental hammam. The Moorish bathhouse dates back to the 12th century, when the Almohad Caliphate ruled Spain. Decoration preserved for nine centuries.

At the beginning of the 20th century, a hotel was built on this site, which is presumably why the bathhouse is so well preserved. It was only when the started the renovation of the current bar last summer the Moorish bathhouse decorations came to light. These are well-preserved, high-quality geometric murals that are unique in Spain and Portugal. Initially, the archaeologists thought is was counterfeit neo-Mudejar decoration.

Exceptional surprise

It is the first completely decorated original hammam found in Spain to date. In earlier finds, only the lower parts of the walls were painted. “It is an absolute surprise. This important find gives us an idea of ​​what Almohad-era bathhouses looked like in Seville. Seville and Marrakesh were the two capitals of the Almohad Caliphate. The hammam is located near the Giralda, which also dates back to the 12th century,” says archaeologist Fernando Amores.

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Various types of roof windows were discovered during work on the roof of the well-attended Giralda bar. The suspicion soon arose that it could be a Moorish bathhouse. They suspended renovation works to make way for the archaeological find. In order to preserve as many original features as possible, a metal cornice has been placed in front of the tiles placed on the lower edge of the walls during the original construction of the hotel. The wooden bar from the period after that has also been preserved.

Unique series of roof windows

During the work, 88 original roof windows of different sizes and shapes were preserved. The range of the windows are exceptional for the time from which they date. “The skylights are integrated into the decoration, as paintings have been applied around the windows with regular, geometric lace-like patterns. The paintings on the arches are also exceptional, with a zigzag pattern that symbolises the water. Almost all representations of the Islamic world refer to Paradise,” says Amores.

All walls and windows have been carefully cleaned by professional restorers. The current bar function is now enhanced with a museological component. Bar Giralda is currently closed, but can be visited once all work is completed on Calle Mateos Gago 1, in the centre of Seville.

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