Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Amazing sights abound inside Sevilla's Iglesia del Salvador

One of fourteen richly decorated altarpieces to be found
The chapel containing the Christ of the Passion statue has its own 
separate entrance through a courtyard of orange trees
The statue of Our Lady of the Waters
predates the church by about 400 years
Considering how (in)famously Catholic Spain is, it may seem somewhat strange the first outright Christian site that I visited was in the third -- rather than first or second -- city in the country that I set foot in.  To be sure, I did walk past a few churches and one massive cathedral in Madrid as well as spent time in the cathedral section of Cordoba's Mezquita.  Still, it's true enough that the first Christian, never mind Catholic, establishment that I made a point to check out was Seville's Iglesia del Salvador (Church of the Savior).   

Built on the site of a ninth century mosque (whose traces have been largely eradicated, though it's worth noting that what's now the church's bell tower used to be a minaret), Sevilla's second largest Christian place of worship is close to uniformly Andalusian Baroque in architectural style and decor, and is aesthetically all the more pleasing and beautiful because of it.  Containing far more -- and far more elaborate -- altarpieces than I had hitherto been used to seeing inside a single church, the Iglesia del Salvador is far more filled with art than its fairly plain looking exterior would have you think, and what a diversity of Christian art and artefacts there are on display in there too!
As heavy-looking as the high-ceilinged main space of the church feels bright and airy, the church's 14 (yes, really!) large altarpieces are all pretty spectacular and distinctive.  For example, there is one which memorably features images of God the father and God the spirit as opposed to the usual God the son.  Also, while the main altarpiece includes a statue of Christ on the cross, Jesus also appears in more unusual incarnations, including one riding an ass, and another which has him looking incredibly humble and bowed as well as bloodied.   

Amidst the elaborate architectural flourishes and religious depictions, the church's three-dimensional sculptures and statues really stand out.  And I'm not just referring here to the statue of Jesus Christ carrying the cross that's so revered that the faithful have been known to kiss one of its heels or that of the Virgin Mary which, in centuries gone by, was paraded through the city in times of drought!  For even church's more modest sculptural works, like the pair of lamp angels attached to columns located close to the main altarpiece, have such individual facial features that they seem so much more defined and life-like than the pride and joy of many an art museum as well as equivalent establishment.  

To think that I would have missed out on these sights if not for the existence of a combo-ticket for Sevilla Cathedral and the Iglesia del Salvador, and it being so that buying it at the latter allows one to avoid the far longer queue for tickets at the former!  As it is, while my German friend and I were in the very short line for tickets at the Iglesia del Salvador, we saw a group of American tourists peek into the church and mistakenly decide that, since they already had been to the cathedral, this smaller Christian establishment would not be worth visiting!
Post having spent a good deal more time gaping at amazing sights galore in the Iglesia del Salvador than I actually thought I would, I genuinely feel that those folks actually missed out on quite the visual and cultural experience.  At the same time, they probably helped those of us who opted to give this church a chance have a better experience than we might otherwise have had since, unlike at such as Cordoba's Mezquita, the small number of tourists within made for a more uncrowded and, consequently, pleasant and peaceful time in the place! :)

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