Curiosities about the Church of Santa Catalina

Holy Week is just around the corner and therefore we have one of the churches with more history of the city, also home to one of our brotherhoods in the Holy Week (procesiones). It is the Church of Santa Catalina, located in calle Alhóndiga, in the heart of the city.

This church is a Gothic-Mudejar style temple built in the 14th century. It was declared National Monument in 1912. Although it looks like one more of the thousands of churches found throughout Seville, this temple hides many curiosities behind. In this post, we bring you some of them:

1. A prolonged closure. First of all, perhaps the most shocking thing about this church is that it has been closed for 14 years! From 2004 to 2018 it underwent several restoration and remodeling works, so it was closed until they were finished. It was reopened on November 25, 2018, the feast day that gives its name to the temple. It is currently open to the public and offers masses during its regular schedule.

 

2. Mosque before church. When Ferdinand III arrived in the city of Seville, he converted all the mosques into churches. Due to the archaeological remains found recently it is possible to think that the church is built over a previous mosque.

 Although the bell tower of the church has been identified as the old minaret of the mosque by many historians, recent studies completely reject this theory. This tower belongs to the Mudejar period, that is, it was built by the Muslims who remained in the peninsula after the Christian reconquest.

                                                                                                   

3.  Numerous architectural styles. But not only does it contain remains from the Muslim period, but it also presents diverse styles. The archaeological excavation carried out during its restoration revealed great surprises. Remains from Roman times, a Visigoth cemetery or a kind of oratory from the Islamic period were found. There are also remains of the first Mudejar church of 1248 and of the reconstruction after the earthquake. All these findings can be seen in the crypt of the temple.

As we mentioned before, this church belongs mainly to the Sevillian Gothic-Mudejar style. Although it is believed to have been built in the 12th or 14th century, after the earthquake of 1356 a new temple had to be rebuilt. Over the years it has undergone several architectural reforms and remodeling. Hence, all this mixture of styles. From the outside, the different construction stages can be clearly observed.

 

4.  A large collection of art inside. The temple also houses in its interior a selection of Sevillian Baroque art with paintings and sculptures by great artists such as Pedro Duque Cornejo, Luisa Roldán or Domingo Martínez. The design of the Sacramental Chapel by Leonardo Figueroa is one of the most impressives. It is said that it is the pinnacle of Baroque in Seville, the very representation of 'horror vacui'.

5.   Advocation. The temple is dedicated to Saint Catherine of Alexandria. She was a Roman saint of the IV century, virgin queen and martyr. She is invoked to avoid sudden death. Her cult spread rapidly throughout Europe in the 12th century and she became the patron saint of barbers and Dominicans.

 

6.    Death at her feet. The first cemetery outside the city walls was builth in the 19th century so until then, the less wealthy were buried in parish cemeteries scattered around this city. There was a cemetery too around this church. Currently there is an iron cross in the place that commemorates it. 

 

7.    The burials of the rich enrich the patrimony. It was precisely the rich who paid for their tombs to be built inside a church. Thanks to this, we enjoy the spectacular Mudejar chapel in the church. The Torquemada family acquired this space to bury their relatives, commissioning some artistic works that enriched it until it became an authentic architectural beauty.

 

8.    A borrowed door. The current main façade of the church of Santa Catalina is not the original. In fact, it has not even been there for 100 years. The Gothic façade was restored and moved during restoration work in the 1920s from the nearby church of Santa Lucía, which had been closed for worship since 1868. The original Mudejar façade remained in the interior vestibule.

 

9.  Key in the Holy Week. The Brotherhood of the Exaltation has its canonical venue in the temple. One of the most spectacular images of Holy Week is to see the brotherhood exit through the narrow back door. However, it is difficult to remember since the Brotherhood of the Exaltation has not left the temple yet in this century because in 2019 it was prevented by rain and in the last two years by the pandemic.

 

10.  Near disappearance. Finally, it should be noted that the church of Santa Catalina was on the verge of disappearing because at the end of the 19th century it was planned to build a great road linking Puerta Osario with La Campana. The church was left out of the urban plans of the city.

Fortunately, this idea was not carried out and today we can still enjoy this Baroque wonder. Although it was likely to be forgotten because it has been closed for so many years, today we want to encourage you to visit it. You will not be disappointed!

 

Information obtained from Visitar Sevilla, Conoce mi cuidad, Diario de Sevilla, Adrián Yánez y Siempre Adelante.

Photographies obtained from Siempre Adelante, Guiarte Sevilla, Europa Press y ABC de Sevilla.