The Cathedral of Seville is immense, a Gothic pile of the best period in Spain, so large and beautiful that the prophecy of the Chapter, which, in July, 1401, resolved to build it, has been fulfilled. They predicted that “future ages would call them mad” for undertaking such a vast edifice, but they paid the bill themselves, aided by the sale of indulgences throughout the kingdom. Nothing was left of the Moorish buildings upon whose site the Cathedral was erected, save the Giralda, the Court of the Oranges, and two porticos. The Cathedral stands alone in the centre of a great square, and is surrounded by a raised platform approached by steps, and is separated from the street by huge chains hung from double columns, which look as if they had been taken from the ruins of the Italica. There are nine entrances of different styles, and the principal facade is towards the west. Its massive walls of brown and pinkcolored stone, the pinnacles, and buttresses, and towers, which rise all over the extensive buildings, and the beautiful Giralda as its crown fill the beholder with wonder and admiration.
We entered through the I’uerta del Lagarto, which forms part of the cloisters, and takes its name from a stuffed crocodile which hangs above it, the gift of a sultan of Egypt. The building was being repaired at the time of our visit, and the workmen will occupy it for years to come, for a large portion of the vaulted ceiling fell down a few years since, destroying the choir and ruining a large part of the interior. A force of mechanics are now rebuilding the edifice, strengthening the pillars, renewing the vaulted roof, and repairing the havoc which the fall of tons of stone produced. Huge scaffoldings occupy the centre of the edifice, but it is so vast that we hardly missed the portions which were shut off by high board fences. The cathedral has a nave and four great aisles, besides two lateral ones railed off for chapels, of which there are thirty-seven, all containing masterpieces of painting and sculpture. Ninety-three windows of stained glass give light to the interior. Each aisle is large enough for a church. Everything is gigantic, from the enormous pillars -which support the sixty-five arches of the vaulted roof down to the bronze candlestick, twenty-five feet high, which carries a candle made of a ton of wax. Every chapel is a museum. In the royal chapel rests St. Ferdinand, who was made a saint because he heaped wood, with his own hands, upon the fire that burned heretics. His body sleeps in a coffin of solid silver and crystal, but not undisturbed, since three times a year it is displayed for the encouragement of the faithful. It is said to be in fine preservation, dressed in royal robes, and with a kingly crown. I would rather lie forgotten beneath the waves, or on a lonely mountain, than as a “saint” for crowds to peer at and ignorant devotees to kiss. The very thought of such a lying in state after death is worse than purgatory.
In the chapels there are marble altars and tombs, statues in wood and stone and precious metal, and pictures of rare value and beauty. The most beautiful of these are the “Guardian Angel” of Murillo, in which a celestial being with outspread wings leads a little child by the hand, directing his trusting glance towards heavenly light, the “San Antonio,” in which the child Jesus is descending through choirs of attending angels to answer the prayers of a poor saint, who is kneeling in a cell of the cloister, and the painting in the sacristy, by Pedro de Campagna, of the ” Taking down from the Cross ” of the body of our Lord. Murillo was buried in front of this picture, by his own request. He would stand before the picture for hours, during his lifetime, and once, when the sacristan asked him why he stood there gazing, he answered, “I am waiting for those holy men to finish their work.”This is the true temperament of genius.
I attended several special services in the Cathedral, one for the army, which was celebrated with great pomp, and another in. preparation for Corpus Christi festival, when hundreds of gorgeously apparelled priests, with candles and swinging censers and musical instruments, went in long procession, and said and sung masses in the different parts of the building. A few days later, the festival was to be celebrated, one part of which consists in the dancing of a band of choristers before the altar. Travellers describe this scene as fantastic, scandalous, or solemnizing, according to their training and temper of mind. I had no desire to see it, and left Seville a few days before it occurred. Among the sights of the Cathedral, not the least interesting to an American is the tomb of Ferdinand Columbus, the son of the discoverer of the New World, who died at Seville, July 12, 1536, at the age of fifty years. This tomb is surrounded with sculptures of the caravels in which the intrepid navigator sailed, and on the slab is the familiar motto, in Spanish, ” To Castile and Leon, Columbus gave a new world.” The grandeur of the building, the sombre masses of which it is composed, the richness of the chapels, the choice works of art, the memorials of great achievement and of vanished greatness which are gathered here, unite in making this Cathedral one of the most important in the world and one that well repays the visitor and the student.
A most interesting place in Seville is La Caridad. Under this name there is a church, and also a hospital, which are connected. The Church is chiefly noteworthy for the excellent pictures by Murillo which it contains. The well-organized hospital is interesting, both on account of its history and its present work. Don Miguel de Manana was a wealthy young nobleman of Seville in the seventeenth cen tury. He was a leader among the gay profligates of
that age, in this, the gayest of Spanish cities. If we may trust his biographies, he was as celebrated for his recklessness in duels and adventures as he was for his generosity and patronage of art. He was the friend and patron of Murillo, and six beautiful pictures in the Church bear witness to his wise benefi cence in this direction. But he was wild and lawless -a Don Juan of the seventeenth century. The story of his conversion is told with variations by Juan de Cardenas and M. de Latour, and is something like this: One night, after a debauch, as he came forth into the street, he faced a funeral procession with its torch-bearers and attendants. He asked whose funeral it was; the answer came that it was that of Don Miguel de Manana, and, as he looked upon the corpse, he seemed to see his own image. The priests were about to celebrate a mass for the soul of the departed, and bade Don Miguel attend the service and pray with them for his soul. He obeyed, and the following morning was found on the floor of the church in a comatose state. He recovered, and became from that hour a changed man. He abandoned his profligate companions, renounced his evil habits, and devoted himself to works of mercy and benevolence. He rebuilt the church, which had belonged to a brotherhood, one of whose duties was to give religious consolation to criminals about to be executed, and he added to it a hospital for the sick poor and a refuge for the aged. There, after a life of piety and humility, he died, leaving directions that his body should be buried at the chapel door so that all who entered might tread upon his grave, which was to be marked with the inscription, “Here lies the worst man in the world.” Though La Caridad is not in an attractive part of the city, it is beautiful within. Two fine courtyards, with plants and fountains, afford quiet and shade to the sick and aged, and the neat wards of the hospital accommodate, in two long galleries, about one hundred old men, many of whom are confined to the bed. The whole establishment is managed by the Sisters of Charity, and has a clean and attractive appearance. After showing the hospital, the sisters took us through a side door into the Church, where we saw a fine carved retablo, representing the burial of Christ. This did not occupy our attention long, for there are six pictures by Murillo here, two of which we had specially come to see, the “Miracle of the Loaves and Fishes” and the “Thirst,” the subject of which is Moses striking the rock in the wilderness. In the “Miracle of the Loaves,” Christ is seated in the foreground, and Andrew is handing him the loaves, which he blesses. A little in front, upon the right, is Peter speaking to a boy, who has a basket containing the two fishes. In the distance, the people are grouped amid a Spanish landscape, with bare rocky hills and wild flying clouds. The groups are very effective, and the coloring is fine; the face of Christ is expressive, but the sitting posture detracts from his dignity. Many would think that the figures of Peter and the fisher-boy were the gems of the picture.
The other picture is one of the best that Murillo ever painted. It contains three groups. In the centre is a large mass of dark rock, from which flows forth the crystal stream. Beside this, Moses stands, his hands folded, and his eyes raised to heaven in thanksgiving for the miracle. His attitude and bearing are majestic. Aaron is just behind his brother, and is also praying. The thirsty Israelites are rushing forward, each countenance bearing a different expression of mingled anxiety and joy, and animals, from the stately camel to the eager dog, join most naturally in the excited but grateful throng. The grouping of the different scenes is admirable, and the picture is most satisfactory as a whole. There were five other Murillos in La Caridad, but the French took them away, and only one came back to Spain; and under the title of “Isabella Curing the Leper” it is now in Madrid.
The picture gallery of Seville is on the south side of the Plaza del Museo. A statue of Murillo stands in the centre of the square, and the finest of his pictures are upon the walls of the gallery, which contains in all less than two hundred paintings. There are here twenty-four pictures by Murillo, all but three of which are undoubted originals, and at least one-third of these are among his finest works. The famous Conception, St. Francis embracing the Christ Crucified, St. Felix with the infant Saviour in his arms, and St. Anthony of Padua kneeling before the infant Saviour, who is seated on an open book, are beautiful in their composition, charming in their colors, and the grace of the figures is unsurpassed. The Virgins of Murillo are more original than those of Raphael; and his Christs are real and childlike, while those of Raphael have a supernatural aspect, like the child in the picture of the Dresden Madonna.
Murillo is a painter who charms by his sweetness, simplicity, and naturalness, and these qualities are pre-eminent when a group of his pictures are seen, as in this gallery. W e came to love his pictures, and cared not to criticise or dissect them. His beggars were so jolly that they did not disgust us, his monks compelled us to accept them as dignified and benevolent ecclesiastics, who were doing good and not evil to mankind, and his scripture scenes and sacred characters won alike our admiration and esteem. It was well worth going to Spain, to become acquainted with Murillo from the best specimens extant of his work.