Chances are you have already put the Royal Alcázar on your bucket list, but what’s next? Seville is a city steeped in history and breathtaking architecture competing for your attention at every corner. However, do not be fooled by the modest exterior of Casa de Pilatos, as inside hides a beautiful space full of intricate tilework and craftsmanship. The 16th century palace is a unique gem that you simply must see for yourself.
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Casa de Pilatos (or as you would call it in English – Pilate’s House) is a unique blend of seemingly contradicting styles of the Italian Renaissance and Spanish Mudéjar with Gothic touches. The walls of the palace are decorated with about 150 different azulejo styles (Spanish decorative titles) making it one of the largest collections in the world. Along with the Alcázar it is one of the most beautiful buildings in the city and offers a bit of respite from the busy streets of central Seville.
The Spanish Inquisition set up in 1478, severely punished Jews and Hebrews, who despite proclaiming they have converted to Christianity continued to practice their religions in secrecy. As a result the property of these wealthy people was taken and sold on and Casa de Pilatos was built on such confiscated land.
Works on the palace started in the 15th century by the chief governor of Andalucía Pedro Enríquez and his wife Catalina de Ribera. The expansion and modifications to the building were continued throughout the 16th century by his son – Fadrique Enríquez de Ribera, who, inspired by extensive travels in Italy, added elements of Renaissance architecture.
In 1931 the palace was declared a National Monument and became one of Seville’s most important sights.
Just as you enter you find yourself at the focal point of the ground floor summer palace – the courtyard. Closer to the ground and protected from sunshine by the upper floor, it provides a cool place to retreat in the hot summer months. The surrounding Mudejar arched galleries are decorated in intricate stuccowork and the walls are covered with jewel-toned azulejo tiles. The balustrades of the upper floor are a Gothic style addition and finally at the very centre the Renaissance style Genoan fountain.
There are many rooms you can wander through, but perhaps the most striking is the grand staircase leading up to the winter palace. The rays of daylight peering through the windows and reflecting in the dark azulejo tiles on the walls create a dramatic atmosphere. Directly above is a majestic golden cupola featuring a traditional Mudéjar honeycomb pattern, similar to the cupola at the Hall of Ambassadors at Real Alcázar.
As the name implies the upper floor was used by the dukes as a retreat during the colder months of the year. This floor is only accessible with a tour. The rooms here have a significantly more stripped back and less exotic appearance, much more reminiscent of a traditional European palace.
Walls are decorated with paintings and tapestries from the Medinaceli art collection, including the prized paintings of Goya. As you walk though you can see many antique rugs and pieces of furniture dotted around and most notably the beautiful painted ceiling of the Pacheco Room.
The highlight of visiting the upper level are excellent views over the courtyard.
There are two gardens at the palace. The large Italian style garden was renovated by Neapolitan architect Benvenuto Tortello in 1568. The purpose of this renovation was to create an exhibition space for the Duke of Alcalá’s Roman sculpture collection, which you can see scattered around. The loggias facing the garden were built to serve as galleries for the artworks.
In the west corner of the garden there is a small grotto, which holds a marble sculpture of the sleeping Venus.
A Film Set Dream
The opulence of the palace makes it a natural, ready-made location for filming. In fact, scenes from the iconic film Lawrence of Arabia (1962) have taken place here. It also seems to be a favourite of director and producer Ridley Scott, as Casa de Pilatos appears in two of his films 1492: Conquest of Paradise (1992) and Kingdom of Heaven (2005). In the action comedy Knight and Day (2010) featuring Tom Cruise and Cameron Diaz many scenes take place in Seville and Casa de Pilatos has been used as the headquarters of a gang leader.
To access the summer palace on the ground floor there is an entrance fee of €10. To see the whole house, including the winter palace on the top floor, which is by guided tour only the ticket is €12. Bear in mind that there is no photography permitted on the top floor, as it is still actively being used as the residence of the Dukes of Medinaceli. There is a free audio guide option available.
Opening Times: Daily from 9:00 – 18:00
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