La Giralda, Catedral de Sevilla

La Giralda Hispania Nostra Award for Heritage Conservation

The intervention in La Giralda in Seville has followed an innovative methodology that has led it to be awarded the Hispania Nostra Prize for the Conservation of Heritage as a factor in Economic and Social Development.

The bell tower of the Cathedral of Seville is part of the 1987 declaration as World Heritage of the complex formed by the Cathedral, the Real Alcazar and the Archive of the Indies.

Universally known by the name of Giralda, it is an important example of cultural syncretism. The first two thirds of the tower were built between 1184 and 1198, as a minaret of the mosque, and are a masterpiece of Almohad architecture. Later, between 1557 and 1568, the Renaissance bell tower designed by Hernán Ruiz was added, highlighting the respect and integration between both architectures.

The Giralda is a tangible manifestation of architecture and art as a melting pot of the cultures that have been hosted by the European territory throughout its history, as well as a work of influence in the construction of numerous towers in Spain and America.

The tower is a cultural, historical and artistic reference not only of Seville, but also of Andalusia and Spain. It is one of its unique, distinctive and iconic images.

With strong roots, identification and cultural significance for the citizens, the intervention has been approached with great sensitivity by its promoter, the Chapter of the Cathedral of Seville. From the outset, a methodology based on four pillars was proposed: research, documentation, restoration and communication to carry out a unique intervention, with a clear desire to care for the property, research and generate documentation, valuable fruit to further expand knowledge about the Giralda in the future, and to disseminate findings and process, through exhibitions, visits, conferences and active communication widely disseminated.

The social content and care for the neighbors, as well as the sensitivity to the millions of visitors that the city receives each year, relevant economic engine, has motivated the intervention “by faces”, instead of global in the tower, assuming the difficulties and added costs. In this way, the Giralda has been able to be contemplated in its greater part during the whole intervention and, in addition, during the Holy Week, without scaffolding, to be able to show all its greatness.

Each of the phases of intervention carried out has maintained and followed the same four main pillars: research, documentation, intervention and communication. Promoted entirely by the Cabildo, it has had the support and continuous supervision of the Committee of Experts of La Giralda, created specifically with leading experts in the property and in each of the aspects of the methodology, the direction of the architect Eduardo Martínez Moya and the execution of the specialized team of KALAM.

In 2017, work began on the West Face, advancing in the two consecutive years with the South and East Face respectively, and after a hiatus derived from the Covid-19 pandemic, last April 2023 the last phase began, which was completed in March 2024, on the North Face.

The important research and documentation work has been exhaustive, resulting in the identification and location of remains of plaster and chromatics, of the construction mechinales, geometric studies of the shapes of the sebka cloths or graphics in their backgrounds, among many other relevant ones.

The intervention has included cleaning adapted to the materiality and state of conservation of each surface, including laser cleaning of the marble capitals, dry cleaning in the factories or with natural bristle brushes and occasional application of absorbent cotton with demineralized water in coatings.

Among the restoration works carried out were the consolidation of the brick surfaces, where necessary, as well as in the stone areas that showed sandblasting. Reintegration of volumes and shapes, with the recovery of ceramic pieces in the masonry and of the sebka panels, using handmade ceramics, with stone masonry in stone surfaces or with lime mortar in smaller volumes.

All the work has been carried out by KALAM professionals, with a specialized and stable team at all stages, with extensive experience in restoration, to ensure the quality and rigor required in this unique asset.

The intervention and its methodology were recently awarded the Hispania Nostra Prize for Heritage Conservation as a factor in Economic and Social Development. The jury highlighted “the quality of the technical work and the successful coordination of an important multidisciplinary team made up of specialists from different fields and trades. It also values the improvement of accessibility to the tower and the information and communication effort made during the execution of the works, thus promoting the understanding of the process”.

Among others, he also pointed out “the importance of the restoration of this heritage icon of Spain and has valued as very positive the decision of the Chapter of the Cathedral of Seville to carry out the works with the minimum visual affection to the monument, taking into account the social importance, the care towards the neighbors, as well as the sensitivity towards the millions of visitors that the city receives every year”.

A relevant recognition, for this sensitive intervention that has involved the coordinated work of the promoter, director of the works and all the technicians and experts involved, who have joined efforts and knowledge with a common goal: to expand knowledge, disseminating process and results, while carrying out the necessary work for the conservation of this iconic asset of our world heritage.

Photographs: Eduardo Martínez Moya