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La Giralda: Former Mosque Minaret Turned Bell Tower

Standing magnificently for over 800 years, La Giralda is one of the most iconic and tallest buildings in Seville, makings it a must-visit site for every traveler exploring Spain. It derived its name from the Spanish word ‘girar’ that means "she who turns"! With a series of eventful history dating back to the 12th century, UNESCO recognized La Giralda as a World Heritage. Initially built as a minaret for a mosque in 1195, it was later repurposed as a bell tower (of the Cathedral) following the Catholic conquest. The Giralda, in its day, was considered the tallest tower in the world, standing at 97.5 m in height.   

La Giralda Interesting Facts

Location: Dominating the skyline of Seville, this one is easy to spot even from far. La Giralda is located in Seville, Spain. 

Architectural Statistics: The bell tower is 104.1 m (342 ft) tall.  

UNESCO Status: The Giralda was inscribed in 1987 as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.

Architectural Purpose: Bell tower of Seville Cathedral.

Former Architectural Purpose: Minaret of former Almohad mosque

What Is La Giralda?

  • La Giralda is an iconic 104-meter bell tower of the Roman Catholic Cathedral in Seville in Spain. 
  • It was originally built in 1195 as a Minaret for the Almohad mosque, commissioned by caliph Abu Ya'qub Yusuf.
  • In 1248, Seville was again conquested by Ferdinand III of Castilla, who repurposed the minaret into a bell tower for the Cathedral to propagate Catholicism. 
  • The main purpose of this iconic monument was to sing and to call people for prayer.

Why Is La Giralda So Famous?

La Giralda is a legendary symbol of Seville’s religious and cultural history and events it has witnessed since the 12th century. Originally constructed as a minaret, La Giralda was a reflection of Almohad’s architecture. It was considered the finest of the three great Almohad minarets in the world: the other two are in the Moroccan cities of Rabat and Marrakesh. 

Once conquered by the Christians, the stone/brick themed minaret was converted into a bell tower using Gothic and richly Renaissance-inspired architectural style. Four stories were added on the top of the original minaret and a 1500 kg weather vane - aka Giraldillo, representing the triumph of the Christian faith. The monument witnessed multiple changes in terms of orientation, arches, exits, etc. It was also during this time, the first public striking clock in Spain was added.

Where is La Giralda Located?

Dominating the skyline, La Giralda is located in the largest city in southern Spain - Seville. Once in the Cathedral, the bell tower is located at the north-eastern corner. The fastest and the most economical way to reach the landmark is by using the tramway. The nearest station - Archivo de Indias - is just a 5 minutes walk away. La Giralda is surrounded by an array of historical landmarks and museums that are just a few minutes walk away from each other. These include Archivo de Indias, Hospital los Venerables, Patio de Banderas, Plaza del Cabildo, Casa de Murillo etc.  

Who Built La Giralda?

The construction of the Giralda started in 1184 under the guidance and order of Abu Yaqub Yusuf. That marked the beginning of the making for the iconic minaret of the Almohad mosque. The very first section of the minaret was styled by the architects - Ibn Basso and Ali de Gomara. Later, when the Christians conquered Seville, the minaret was seamlessly turned into a bell tower under the guidance of Ferdinand III of Castilla and was designed by a Spanish architect Hernan Ruiz. 

What to See at La Giralda?

About La Giralda

Giraldillo

At the top of the bell tower, you’ll spot a figurine/statue that symbolizes faith. It’s called El Giraldillo. Approximately 1500 kgs, this weather vane is attached to a rotating axis that’s anchored to the dome of the Giralda Tower. 

About La Giralda

Giralda Bells

Seville Cathedral is known to be a cathedral with the greatest number of bells as the bell tower houses 24 bells. One of the bells is called Santa Maria Mayor, which is in fact one of the largest in the world. 

About La Giralda

Renaissance Architecture

The La Giralda is a beautiful blend of Moorish and Renaissance architectural styles. Richly decorated windows, well-carved domes, and arches, and their iconic bells - this iconic landmark got a Renaissance touch in the 16th century.

About La Giralda

Panoramic View

Walk up 35 ramps to get a stunning and picturesque 360 view of this historic city, that includes iconic landmarks, including Alcazar and Barrio Santa Cruz. The ramps were built so that the guards could climb up comfortably with their horses or donkeys. 

History Of La Giralda

An iconic landmark dominating Seville’s skyline, La Giralda seamlessly brings together a beautiful blend of two completely different cultures. It was initially constructed as a minaret in 1195 and was later repurposed into a bell tower for the Seville’s Cathedral following the conquest by Christians. The original Moorish-styled minaret seamlessly transformed into a Renaissance-style bell tower during the 16th century. Four stories - 2 square-shaped and 2 circular-shaped - were added on top of the minaret. And the bell tower was topped with a weather vane that’s referred to as El Giraldillo, from where the bell tower also derived its name.          

La Giralda Design & Architecture

  • Moorish Minaret: The Moorish-styled minaret was built in 1184 under the guidance of Abu Yaqub Yusuf. The main materials used to make this masterpiece were stone and bricks that were super sturdy. To ensure the interiors are airy, the minaret was surrounded by windows and balconies on all sides. The top of the minaret was adorned with a hemispherical dome that was eventually destroyed during an earthquake in 1365.  
  • Church Bell Tower: The bell tower is a Renaissance styled extension to the existing minaret that was built in 1184. The Church bell tower was designed by a Spanish architect - Hernan Ruiz. Four stories were added on the top of the minaret that were built with bricks, stones, and ceramics. The bell tower today houses 24 bells, and one of them being the largest in the world. 
  • Giraldillo: The peak of the bell tower carries a beautiful bronze weathervane called El Giraldillo. It’s a 1500 female figurine that represents faith. The statue suffered damages over time and again owing to the earthquake and other reasons. In 1999, the Giraldillo was removed for restoration and was reinstalled in 2005.    
  • Renaissance Alterations: Under the guidance and orders of Fernando III of Castilla, the original minaret was transformed into a Renaissance-style bell tower. While the main structure saw a few alterations, the major upgrade was the construction of the four stories on the top of the minaret and the addition of the iconic Giraldillo.  

La Giralda Myths & Facts

  • Giralda is home to the world’s largest bell called Santa Maria Mayor, which happens to be one of the 24 bells that are present at the bell tower.  
  • With a height of 104 meters, Giralda is one of the tallest buildings in entire Europe. These statistics make it even higher than Big Ben in London, i.e., 96 meters. 
  • Centuries-old paintings prove that Giralda was originally red in color during the Almohad era and the Renaissance.

Frequently Asked Questions About La Giralda

Q. Where is the La Giralda located?

A. La Giralda is located in the north-eastern corner of The Seville Cathedral in Seville of the southern Spain. 

Q. What is the La Giralda famous for?

A. La Giralda is a historical landmark famous for its seamless transition from a world-famous mosque minaret to a bell tower of one of the biggest Cathedral churches. 

Q. What exactly is La Giralda in Seville?

A. La Giralda is a 104 meters long bell tower of the iconic Cathedral church in Seville.   

Q. What is La Giralda used for?

A. Housing approximately 24 bells, the bell tower is used to call people to mass. 

Q. What are the highlights of the La Giralda?

A. Giraldillo, Giralda bells, Renaissance architecture, and the panoramic view from the top of the Giralda are some of the highlights of La Giralda.

Q. Can you climb La Giralda?

A. Yes, you can get to the topmost of the La Giralda by walking up the 35 ramps that were originally built to ease the transport of rulers along with their horses and donkeys.

Q. When was La Giralda built?

A. The La Giralda was originally built in 1195 as the minaret of the Almohad mosque. 

Q. When was La Giralda converted into a bell tower?

A. Following the Christian conquest in 1248, the minaret was transformed into a bell tower. The final landmark and finishing commenced by the 16th century.  

Q. What is there at the top of La Giralda?

A. At the peak of La Giralda is a 1500 kg weather vane called Giraldillo, a figurine of a woman, that symbolizes faith. 

Q. When was the La Giralda constructed?

A. The La Giralda was constructed in 1195 as the minaret of the Aljama mosque.

Q. What view does La Giralda provide?

A. You can capture a stunning panoramic view of the city from the top of the La Giralda. You can catch a glimpse of aerial views of landmarks like Alcazar, Barrio Santa Cruz etc. You also get a bird’s eye view of the Gothic architecture of the cathedral’s statuary and buttresses.    

Q. How far is the La Giralda from the airport?

A. La Giralda is located approximately 10 km from the Seville Airport, which is a quick 30 minutes drive. 

Q. Can I buy La Giralda tickets online?

A. Yes, you can buy tickets to visit La Giralda online

Q. Is the La Giralda worth a visit?

A. This iconic landmark is surely worth a visit. It is an important part of Seville’s history, one of the most popular bell towers in the world and a melting pot of two diverse cultures.