Seville is a popular destination for tourists from all around the globe. The Spanish city already has lots of wonders to behold and the recent intriguing discovery has taken the city to the headlines. A 12th-century bathhouse has been uncovered when Cerveceria Giralda, a popular bar was renovated. Known as the hammam in Arabic, the bathhouse is located on Mateos Gago street, at a stone’s throw distance from Seville’s Roman Catholic cathedral. For almost 100 years this hammam used to be thronged by most people amongst all the Arab baths present in the city. However, the customers went there in large numbers not to bathe but to quench their thirst. Some interesting discussions on this are as follows.
Background and Beauty
The bathhouse was converted into a hotel by Vicente Traver in the early half of the 19th century which concealed the hammam under it. It dates back to the 12th century when Al-Andalus was ruled by Almohad Caliphate. When the bar was renovated last summer, the ancient structure came to light. The excellent paintings on the wall were a sight to behold.
The discovery indeed surprised all and it was previously thought to be just a Neo-Mudejar pastiche. The most significant finding was the geometric decorations in the bath. Furthermore, from top to bottom, the bathhouse was completely painted. An Arab bath with such elaborate decoration can’t be seen anywhere in recent times.
A Reflection of the Past
This important discovery has completely surprised the archaeologists. It is indeed a reflection of the past as it gives a clearer idea of the other hammams, especially throughout the Almohad period. It was normal for the bathhouse to be unconcealed in Seville, as the city happened to be one of the two capitals under Muslim rule, the other one being Marrakech.
The hammam lies close to the main mosque which also belongs to the 12th century as it also hosts the rich decorative elements characteristic of that time. The discovery led architecture to take a backseat while it made way for archaeological inquiry. According to the archaeologists, the bath was preserved due to metal cornice crowning the wall tiles as the bar continued to function. The original bar counter made of wood has also been kept under preservation.
The Interiors Are Deeply Fascinating
The main space or the actual location of the bar counter used to be the warm room of the bathhouse. Its space covers a total area of 6.70-square-meters. The vaulted ceiling rests on four columns leads to eight different pathways. One side leads to a rectangular room that has a barrel vault which used to function as the cold room of the hammam.
The kitchen room probably served as the hot room while the dry area of the hammam used to be near Don Remondo street. The dry area was the place from which people used to enter the hammam. Due to all the restoration work, 88 skylights in various shapes and sizes were also uncovered. The designs and decorations here are much more elaborate than the other hammams that belonged to a similar period.
The five rows of skylights present in the cold room of this hammam are all the more special in comparison to the other baths that don’t have more than three. When Mateos Gago street was expanded in 1928, it took away two meters from the cold room which also functioned as the eating area of the bar in the last century.
It was the 17th century when owing to significant reform, the vault in the warm room was taken down and a lower one was built in that place to adjust an extra floor above it. The building was renovated and parts of it were also rebuilt. The original Roman columns were removed and replaced with those made from Genoese marble. Shutting down the skylights, the premises were used by a merchant who gradually came up with his home right over the shop.
Vicente Traver, the architect from the 20th century could have demolished the remains of the hammam. Luckily, he decided to protect as well as preserve it. Thanks to him, people who visit Cerveceria Giralda in the present know that the bar they are sitting in is actually an Almohad hammam.