Sevillian streets: Sierpes

Today we want to talk about one of the most emblematic streets of the historic center of Seville: Sierpes street. Surely you have walked along it thousands of times, but have you ever stopped to discover its history?

With about 400 meters long that stretch from the Plaza de San Francisco to La Campana, it is one of the most lively streets of the city. In the past, a branch of the Guadalquivir passed through this area and joined the main river at the Arenal, which is why it began as a river bank. But, from the 15th century onwards, convents and stores began to be built, making it the ideal place for all those who came from the Americas to sell their products. A street full of life, but beware! also dangerous to some extent as there were thieves and thieves lurking in the area.

Since then it has maintained the commercial spirit that characterizes it and is currently one of the busiest streets in Seville. It is the commercial street of Seville par excellence. You could say that it is a reduced version of the Parisian Champs Elysees in the purest Spanish style. It is full of centenary stores, cafes, boutiques and countless other peculiar stores. Here we can find from a wide selection of articles and curiosities of the highest quality to the typical souvenir stores. Be careful if you pass through this street that you will surely end up biting something! 

But didn't you know that this mythical crossing has not always been called that? It was first known, or at least registered, as Espaderos. It began to be called this way after the Christian conquest of the city by King Ferdinand III of Castile. Probably because of the hospital and the brotherhood located here that manufactured swords, or because of the numerous establishments on this street that sold them and therefore caused the guild to settle there. From the fifteenth century, the name was changed and renamed as Calle de la Sierpe at first, which would evolve to become the current Sierpes Street.

From this moment begins one of the great crossroads that hides this popular crossing. Where does Sierpes come from? What is the reason for its name? There are numerous theories of the most varied. But five are the most widespread. There are those who attribute its name to the sinuous structure that presents, suitable to adapt to the riverbed at the time.

Another of the most widespread theories is that of the old Cerrajería Cross, currently in the Plaza de Santa Cruz, which was formerly located at the junction of Sierpes and Rioja Street. According to Alejandro Guichot in his novel "El Cicerone de Sevilla", this cross may have been known before as Cruz de las Sierpes due to the sinuous structures in the form of snakes that it emulated.

The oldest preserved theory is that of L. Peraza, who wrote in the 16th century: "they called it this way because of a jawbone, which they say is that of a serpent, which is hanging in an inn that is in the middle of the street, which, because of the jawbone, they call de la Sierpe". Many historians point to this theory. Also the writer Luis Montoto attributes the name to an alleged gentleman known as Don Alvaro Gil de las Sierpes, who is said to have lived on this street.

The last theory is the most curious and the one that most resembles a grotesque legend. In the 15th century, a large number of children were disappearing, so it was necessary to find a justifiable reason for this. After accusing the Jews, a legend began to take hold. And it was consecrated when a fugitive from the Marchena prison appeared who claimed that the reason for so many disappearances was a huge snake that was in the sewer under Sierpes Street. The prisoner asked for his freedom to reveal the reason. As the Corregidor offered him his freedom, he led them through the sewer to a snake of an enormous size, which he had killed with a dagger, surrounded by corpses and bones of children.

This street has so much history that many authors have mentioned it in their works, such as Tirso de Molina in El burlador de Sevilla, Camilo José Cela, Pío Baroja, Alejandro Dumas or Cervantes in El rufián dichoso, among others.

In fact, the latter was imprisoned for a time in the Royal Prison located on this street and, within its walls, began to gestate Don Quixote. Currently, the site is home to the headquarters of CaixaBank Cajasol.

Another mythical place in this busy street is the Confitería La Campana, an emblematic 18th century building that houses one of the oldest cafeterias in the city, active since 1885. If you pass by its door you can't leave without trying one of its specialties! We recommend you typical Sevillian sweets like cortadillos de cidratortas de aceite or yemas sevillanas, once you try them, you won't be able to stop! 

Also located here is the former Convent of San Acacio, which after the French occupation was exclaustrated and enabled for public offices. A curiosity is that its church became the headquarters of the Gran Poder from 1696 to 1703. Today it is the current headquarters of the Círculo de Labradores.

For lovers of literature there is also a very peculiar business, and that we particularly love, and it is the one located in the old Imperial Theater. As a theater it attracted spectators from all over the city, positioning itself on a par with other important Sevillian theaters such as the Lope de Vega. It currently houses a bookstore called Verbo whose peculiarity is that it has maintained the original structure of the theater. Don't miss it!

On the other hand, we find other peculiar facades that house emblematic businesses, "those of all life", such as Sombreros Diaz, Maquedano Sombreros, Papelería Ferrer (the oldest stationery store in Spain) or the Cronómetro. The latter stands out for the six analog clocks that are displayed on its facade since they were installed as an attraction for the Ibero-American Exposition of 1929.

                    

In addition, as a curiosity since Easter is recent, it is said that even before the official race was established by the Sierpes Street, the neighbors already took their chairs to the streets and did not let anyone pass who was not from there.

There are so many stories to tell, that we could not fit them all. So, if you have been left wanting to enjoy a nice walk and soak up the purest history of Seville after reading this post, take a stroll down this distinctive street and do not hesitate to do some shopping in its most emblematic stores.

If you want to learn more about Seville and its history, join one of our tours. Write us at info@sevilla4real.com and we will help you find the tour that best suits you!

 

 

Information obtained from Curiosa Sevilla, Sevillapedia, Sevilla Secreta, Metis Restaura, Sevilla Ciudad, Hello Sevilla Tours y Periódico Expansión.

Fotographies from Pinterest, La Sevilla Oculta, ABC de Sevilla y Sevilla Secreta