Seville A Walk Around the Barrio Santa Cruz

Plaza Alianza, Seville

Plaza de la Alianza


The Barrio Santa Cruz, or neighbourhood or parish of the Holy Cross, is in the oldest part of the city of Seville, being within the city walls built by the Romans in the 1st century BC, and forming the larger part of the late medieval Jewish quarter that existed here from the Christian reconquest of 1248, until the Edict of the Expulsion of the Jews, the Alhambra Decree, in 1492.

Because of this history, its location alongside the Alcázar, Cathedral and old city wall, and of course because of the intrinsic charm, beauty and atmosphere of the area, the Santa Cruz is a mecca for tourists, who come here in large numbers in search of "the real Seville", or even "the real Spain." Despite the influx, which can be a little overwhelming on busy Spring weekends, even this part of Seville is still a living, working city, and it is to be hoped that it will remain so.

A Neighbourhood of Character


Grotesque, Palacio Pickman

Warding off the evil eye


While the notion of a real Seville is hard to put your finger on, there can be no doubt that the Santa Cruz is richly endowed with qualities that give it a more than superficial Spanishness and Medievalness (although it looks like I made it up, this is actually a real word). The essence of its character lies in its narrow, often twisting, streets, which serve the dual purpose of providing shade from the summer sun and confusing enemies and strangers, a layout that goes back, with few changes, to the Roman era, and is in places also reminiscent of old Arab souks.

They also link the patchwork of little squares with which the area abounds, though some of these are relatively modern creations. Many are laid out with small formal gardens and orange trees, some with palms or fountains, and in spring and summer especially are filled with the colours and smells of flowers and blossoms. It's not only the squares, but also the patios of the houses that are lush with greenery, and you should never pass up the opportunity to take a peek inside any open doorway - you never know what you may see.


Plaza Doña Elvira, Seville

Plaza Doña Elvira

The Jewish Quarter

Although there is much here that is genuinely old, much of the area's picturesque character is the product of later urban renewal, particularly in the late 18th century and Napoleonic period, and in the preparations for the 1929 Spanish American exhibition. With the establishment of the Jewish quarter the area was separated from the Christian part of the city by a high wall with gates. A small section of this wall can still be seen at the top of Calle Fabiola, but most of it seems to have been destroyed at the end of the 14th century, following the great pogrom of 1391, when a Christian rabble broke into the Jewish quarter. Some 4,000 Jews were murdered, and much property destroyed. Many others fled, or “converted” to Christianity, and the area went into a period of decline and decay until the later programs of urban renewal.

Going Exploring


It's very easy to get lost or turned around when exploring the Santa Cruz, and that can, of course, be part of the fun, but it's not a bad idea to have a rough plan of where to go, and the best things to see. The best way in is from the Plaza del Triunfo (the square between the Cathedral and the Alcazar) through the Patio de Banderas (Courtyard of the Flags, and nothing to do with young Antonio). In the far corner of this square is a little alley, the Calle Juderia, which is possibly the most picturesque street in Seville and leads down past the old gate house by a narrow zig-zag with low arches to prevent people entering on horseback, to the Jewish quarter.


Fountain, Calle Juderia, Seville

Fountain in Calle Juderia


From here turn to your right into Calle Agua (Water Street), the street that runs alongside the old city wall, and is so named for the water pipes that ran through the wall to supply the Alcázar. The pipes themselves can be seen at the far end of the street. Also in this street is the former home of Washington Irving, which has a lovely flowered courtyard shaded by bougainvillea. If you're lucky you may also see one of the palace peacocks sunning itself on the wall.

Dark Times and Operatic Romances 


Taking the first turning to the left off Calle Agua, however, brings us to Calle Susona, and the scene of a tragic tale from the last days of the Jews in Seville, marked by a ceramic plaque bearing a human skull. Susona ben Suson was the daughter of a wealthy converso, or converted former Jew, who, feeling threatened by the rising tide of anti-Semitism in the late 15th century, plotted against the authorities, but was betrayed by his daughter who was in love with a Christian. The conspirators were arrested by the newly created Spanish inquisition and eventually executed. Susona never left the house again, and in her will stipulated that her head was to be hung outside the house as a testament. It's said to have remained there for over 200 years before being replaced with the plaque.


Susona Plaque

The Legend of Susona


At the other end of Calle Susona is a charming little square, the Plaza Doña Elvira, said to be the birthplace of Doña Inés de Ulloa, the impossible love of Don Juan de Tenorio (himself said to have been born in the next square along, the Plaza de los Venerables). With its cobblestones, fountain, orange trees and tiled benches, Doña Elvira is one of the prettiest squares in Seville. Venerables is named for the Hospital de Los Venerables Sacerdotes (the old priests), now an art museum. Also worth a visit are Casa Román and Hostelería de Laurel, two traditional taverns with a terrace in the square.

Continue down Calle Reinoso, one of the narrowest in Seville, also known as kissing street, because you can stand on the balconies on either side and... Turn right to come back to Plaza Alfaro at the end of Water Street – look for the water pipes in the wall, and the giant fig tree just inside the Murillo Gardens. On to the Plaza Santa Cruz, another neat little square that was the site of the Santa Cruz parish church, and before that a synagogue. The wrought iron sculpture in the centre is La Cerrajería, which was originally in Calle Sierpes, but was moved here before the 1929 expo. Finally follow Calle Mezquita to the Plaza de Los Refinadores, where you can find the statue of Don Juan.


Plaza Santa Cruz, Seville

Plaza Santa Cruz


Other places worth seeing are the Plaza de La Escuela de Cristo, Plaza Santa Marta and the Plaza de La Alianza.