Seville is definitely not short of sumptuous palaces and breathtaking corners. In every street you can breathe the sweet Andalusian life, together with the vivre et laisser vivre typical of Mediterranean people. A strong Arabian footprint gives to Seville that exotic touch that makes it an architectonical masterpiece. The most stunning private palace of the city is Casa de Pilatos, house of the Dukes of Medinaceli.
The third most visited monument in Seville, after the Cathedral and the Alcazar, is Casa de Pilatos. The palace is an exceptional example of mudejar art, the architectural style characterized by the fusion of Islamic and Christian elements, and it’s even more peculiar because of Italian Reinassance-style elements.
The Italian Eye discovers the secrets of this palace with the help of two special guides: Sol and Luna Medina, the last generation of the Medinaceli. Both manage the family hotel, Las Casas de la Judería; both are young, entrepreneurial and happy to show to the world the exceptional house where all their family has been living.
The details inside Casa de Pilatos are unique: a progression of courtyards, columns, statues, fountains, gardens, and also patios, arches and exotic trees.
The amazing main courtyard is the palace’s core: a rectangular patio surrounded by statues, columns and effigies of antique personalities.
“If you position yourself in the center of the courtyard, you’ll notice that the columns are not symmetrical.” – Luna Medina explains – “On the contrary, all the arches have different dimensions. This happens because, in the Islamic culture, humans must not try to represent perfection; so all the rooms had to be built with some kind of flaw, an imperfection to remember how small a man is in respect to God. Also from the Arab culture is the writing <Allah is great>, right on top of the wall, as in Seville’s Alcazar.”
The courtyard is spectacular, and it brings together different yet incredibly harmonious styles. Gothic, mudejar, Reinassance, romantic: they all come together to represent the numerous eras and owners of the building.
The statue collection is also remarkable: the Duke of Alcalà, as an antiquities enthusiast, was an art funder and buyer. Pope Pio V even gave him permission to bring to Seville some ornaments from the Vatican to be exhibited in this house.
Moving into the Praetor’s Chamber, on the east side of the main courtyard, we enter in a paradise of azulejos. The Chamber maintains the largest and best preserved collection of cuenca azulejos. These peculiar tiles were pressed in clay with a mould, which created the borders of the area to be glazed. This permitted to the various colours not to melt together when the tiles where heated up.
“Casa de Pilatos and Seville’s Alcazar are the most relevant examples of Cuenca tiles, but not only. Also in this room it’s possible to see what happens when the colours mix up. Personally, I adore these azulejos, imperfect but definitely unique.” Says Luna, touching the cold tiles on the room’s walls. “Always having azulejos was not only an aesthetical matter; it’s the only material that keeps cool and keeps away humidity when there’re 50°C outside.”
In fact, the Andalusian prohibitive temperatures during summer made this architectural work essential to survive. The internal patios, fountains and gardens: all have to contribute in keeping the house cool. “Speaking of eclectic style: have you ever thought about matching the azulejos with the ceiling coffers?” Turning our heads up we get the sight of a dark and inlaid wooden ceiling.
A place that looks like a movie set
The ground floor extends like a labyrinth, through richly decorated rooms, gardens designed by top class architects (an example: the marvellous garden by Benvenuto Tortello, with the two internal patios fronting each other) and a gothic chapel.
A monumental staircase leads upstairs, again decorated by a multitude of azulejos. Here the rooms still feel like still inhabited by the family: tea rooms, living rooms and bedrooms. Some were even shoot in colossal such as Lawrence of Arabia, 1962, and The Kingdom of Heaven, 2005.
Moreover, all around the walls there’re pictorial masterpieces: from Francisco Pacheco, scholar of Velázquez, to Luca Giordano; from Vanvitelli and his depictions of Venice, Rome and Naples, to Juan de Valdés Leal and Jusepe de Ribera.
Plaza de Pilatos, 1 – 41003 Sevilla. Telf: (+34) 954 22 52 98. Fax: (+34) 954 21 90 12. firstname.lastname@example.org