Saturday, March 6

Islamic bathhouse from the 12th century discovered in a tapas bar in Seville | Spain

A lavishly decorated 12th-century Islamic bathhouse, replete with dazzling geometric patterns and eight-pointed star skylights, has emerged, somewhat improbably, from the vaulted walls and ceilings of a popular tapas bar in the heart of the South. from Spain. city ​​of Seville.

Last summer, the owners of the Giralda Brewery – what has been pouring white hair Y glasses near Seville Cathedral since 1923, he decided to take advantage of local road works and the coronavirus pandemic to undertake a long-delayed renovation.

Although local legend and the occasional historical document had suggested that the site may have once been an ancient hammam, most people had assumed that the Giralda’s retro look was due to the neo-mudejar, or Islamic Revival style, in which architect Vicente Traver built the bar and hotel on top in the early 1920s.

“There was talk that there were bathrooms here, but not all historians were convinced and some thought it was all much later,” said Antonio Castro, one of the four co-owners of the Giralda. “We were doing some work and we hired an archaeologist, and that’s how the baths were discovered.”

Hammam discovered in Seville
The hammam discovered in Seville. Photograph: Álvaro Jiménez

The archaeologist Álvaro Jiménez knew the rumors. But, like many others, he had always imagined them fantastic. However, one day in July last, the team was gently working their way through the plaster that covered the ceiling when they discovered a skylight in the shape of an eight-pointed star.

“As soon as we saw one of the skylights, we knew what it was; it just couldn’t have been more than a bathroom, ”Jiménez said. “We just had to follow the pattern of the skylights.”

His explorations soon uncovered an exquisite piece of design dating back to the 12th century when the Almohad caliphate ruled much of what are now Spain and Portugal, as well as a large swath of North Africa.

“Decoratively speaking, these baths have the largest amount of preserved decoration of all known baths in the Iberian Peninsula,” said the archaeologist.

“Absolutely everything here is decorated and fortunately has survived. The background is made of white lime mortar engraved with geometric lines, circles and squares. On top of that it has red ocher paintings of eight pointed stars and eight petal multifoil rosettes. These two designs alternate, intertwine and adapt to the different geometric shapes of the openings in the skylight ”.

Uncovered detail and decoration.
Uncovered detail and decoration. Photograph: Álvaro Jiménez

While a large amount of whitewash still needs to be cleaned to reveal the red paint underneath, the hammam-cum-bar has now been preserved and repaired and the Giralda should open again in two to three weeks.

Jiménez, who described the “kind of fateful alignment of different things,” said the bathrooms and the bar “have been reborn and have become something wonderful; it was the right people, the right time and a bit of luck. “

Castro and his partners look forward to a new chapter in the Giralda’s long history. But they are also toasting Vicente Traver’s foresight.

“This was a fairly well-known bar before, but now people will be able to come in and have a beer or a glass of wine in a bar that is also a 12th-century hammam,” Castro said. “It’s good that the architect of the 1920s respected the bathrooms; others could have thrown it all away, so we are grateful.”

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