Along the Natchez Trace

Sunday, March 24, 2013

The Monastery

The other day it wasn't raining...  of course we had to take advantage of that, so we walked to the Monasterio de la Cartuja.  Actually, it hasn't been a monastery since the 1830's,  but since it was established in 1399  it still has the same name.
Again, as different cultures were in power, the buildings changed and developed into what they are today.

This large, walled complex of honey-coloured stone buildings, situated on the Isla la Cartuja (named after the monastery itself; the word means “charterhouse”), has seen many ups and downs during its long, dramatic history. From monks who welcomed Christopher Columbus, to barracks for Napoleon’s troops, ceramic factory run by an Englishman producing world-renowned porcelain, to modern-day contemporary art gallery and open-air live music venue.
The 16th-century monastery consists of a magnificent entrance gate with surrounding grounds and lake; domed church with various chapels and Mudejar cloisters; numerous patios; refectory with wood coffered ceiling; crypt; chapterhouse with tombs; and a beautiful walled garden with fruit trees and a small Mudejar torreon (tower) with mirador offering views over the river Guadalquivir to the city. There is a café with an attractive outdoor seating area, which is never too crowded with tourists as few venture over here. It’s a well-kept secret.
(Sevilla Tourist Bureau)

The Entrance...
And that magnificent gate...
Knock, Knock....

One of my favorite views...
The dome-like top of the central building.


Legend has it that in Moorish times, caves were dug in the area to extract clay to make pots. In 1248, an image of the Virgin was found, named Virgen de la Cuevas (Virgin of the Caves), and a shrine was built.
In 1399 Franciscans built a monastery here, and later it was home to cloistered Carthusian monks. Fashionable with the rich and powerful of Spain, La Cartuja was where Christopher Columbus stayed while planning his second voyage, one of the reasons why this site – the island of La Cartuja, including the then-ruined monastery - was chosen for Seville’s Expo 92, on the 500th anniversary of his first voyage. Columbus’ remains were buried in the church for 30 years.
During the Napoleonic invasion of Spain, the monks were expelled and La Cartuja was used as a barracks by the French Emperor’s troops, who damaged the buildings. They finally left in 1812, and the monks came back until the closing and confiscation of many religious properties was ordered in the 1830s.

Statue of Christopher Columbus
Seems Christopher Columbus traveled as much after his death as he did while alive.


In the next stage of its colourful existence, the monastery became a ceramics factory. For some time, the nearby area of Triana had been famous for its azulejos, ceramic tiles which can be seen throughout the city, decorating everything from banks to bars.
A Liverpool merchant called Charles Pickman bought the abandoned monastery in 1840, and installed a factory making ceramic tiles and porcelain. He built the emblematic tall, cone-shaped brick kilns and chimneys, whose shape are so much part of Seville’s skyline today. La Cartuja won many international prizes in the late 19th century for its chinaware, and produced commissions for various Spanish monarchs, including Alfonso XIII of the famous Seville hotel. Look out for the original tiles around the monastery buildings. The factory ceased production in the 1980s.
The company La Cartuja still exists today, though the factory itself is now located in Salteras, in the Aljarafe area to the east of Seville. The Pickman Collection, which consists of 15,000 19th and 20th-century pieces, is in the Museo de la Fabrica (the Factory Museum), which can be visited by arrangement. In Seville city centre, you can see La Cartuja pieces in theMuseo de Artes y Costumbres Populares, in the Parque Maria Luisa.

A couple of photos of the old chimneys..
The kilns must be quite impressive...  they are bricked up now, so all we could see was the base, and the huge stacks.


In its latest incarnation, the monastery serves as home to the CAAC, the Centro Andaluz de Arte Contemporaneo which has exhibitions and events. 
It has also hosted three editions of BIACS, the Seville international art biennale (in 2004, 2006 and 2008).
In summer you can watch open-air concerts in the grounds of La Cartuja, such as the annual pop festival Territorios in May.
For the Seville Expo 92, the monastery was restored and used as the Royal Pavilion - the headquarters of the exhibition.

This is one of the buildings that has been restored...
The entryway to this tower has those arched doorways on 3 sides.
Each doorway is draped with a "Black Pearl Curtain", and there are also panels of these bead curtains in the large entryway.

This was part of the art exhibit from the 1992 World Exposition

Kind of feels like you're going into an exotic room...  well, maybe you are....

Another structure on the beautifully landscaped grounds..
I'm not sure what era this structure was built.

Looks like some kind of cistern to us...
There were all kinds of ventilation systems underneath the walkways.  Again, not sure whether they were old and restored...  or built for the 1992 Worlds Fair.

A Bell Tower atop one of the main buildings...
You can see that tile was even incorporated in this.

Bill took a photo of me...  taking a photo of the main building.
At this time it looks like not only the Contemporary Arts Center is located here, but several other art agencies.  Concerts and other outdoor activities are held on the grounds during the summer.

A fine exhibit of the tiles once produced on these grounds...
Quite a display, huh?

Looking through the archway of one building..
to see the architecture of the next building over...
Check out the tile around the round window!

We had a great day walking through the old monastery grounds.  We didn't see very many birds, but the parrots entertained us with their calls.
The End
of another great adventure here in Sevilla, Spain!

That's All For Today!


  1. Absolutely stunning photos. Love all that old architecture.

  2. What beautiful pictures and the history behind it all. Quite a difference than in the U.S. since we have only been a country for a little over two hundred years. When Columbus sailed in 1492, Europe was quite the thriving place.

  3. Sharon, looks like you and Bill had perfect weather to go exploring. These old buildings are so impressive and still beautiful after all these years and all have quite an impressive history.

  4. I am just amazed by the exquisite tile work! And the architecture is just mind-blowing. Thank you for sharing these!

  5. Beautiful buildings, its great that the buildings are being used for the arts.

  6. Are there any active producers of those decorative tile in the area anymore? They would make beautiful wall decorations or trivets.

  7. You certainly are having great adventures. Thanks for sharing them with us.