Two images of narrow city streets
Culture & tradition,  History,  Monday walks,  Seville

A walk in Seville’s picturesque Triana district

Just to the west of Seville’s city centre, across the Guadalquivir river, lies Triana. This former working class neighbourhood was once home to the Escuela de Mareantes (School of Navigation) which instructed many of the famous sailors of the 15th and 16th centuries. Both Columbus and Magellan studied there before their expeditions in search of new worlds. It is famous too for its tradition of ceramic tile work and its unique style of flamenco.

Today Triana retains its distinct identity. Neighbourhood bars nestle up against beautiful old churches; arches reveal intriguing glimpses of the houses beyond; ornate signs created with ceramic tiles celebrate those who lived here before.

One morning of our stay in Seville (a rather grey, drizzly morning) we enjoyed a walk through some of its many picturesque streets with lots of photo opportunities. One of the first places we passed was an interesting old building which reminded me a little of London mews streets. It had obviously been carefully restored, as a majolica panel near the entrance showed. I learned later that this is a traditional corral or communal home, once very typical of this district. Wikipedia describes it as, ‘a building organised around a patio with a central fountain, the occupants living in individual rooms that open to the communal patio’. These corrales were traditionally the homes of the large Romany population of Triana but only a few now remain. They are strictly protected and, I got the impression, rather gentrified.

Iglesia de Santa Ana

I had wanted to visit the church of Santa Ana; however it was hosting a succession of baptisms so we could only look around a small area near the back of the church. But we enjoyed seeing everyone dressed up in their finery. The church is arguably the oldest in Seville, the first Christian church built from scratch in Seville after it was reconquered from the Moors in 1248. It was built on the orders of King Alfonso X the Wise in 1266. He dedicated it to the mother of the Virgin Mary in gratitude for her miraculous intercession in curing his eye disease.

Of course the church has undergone several major rebuilds and restorations since then, most significantly after the Lisbon earthquake of 1st November 1755, when it was given a Baroque makeover. On a small altar tucked away near the entrance I found statues of Santa Rufina and Santa Justa, Christian martyrs who were potters from Triana. These saints are often depicted with the Giralda tower, which they are said to have saved during the earthquake.

Dodging a shower we had coffee in a bar in the small square opposite the church, busy with locals and families awaiting their turn for a baptism ceremony.

Man sitting at cafe table with his dog
One man and his dog, outside the bar

Then we carried on walking along Calle Pureza. This street runs parallel to the river one block away from its western bank, and is full of interest. We spotted a number of commemorative tile panels, paying tribute to famous former residents, such as those I shared in my recent post about Seville’s majolica tiles tradition.

Capilla de los Marineros

A little way along we came to the Capilla de los Marineros. As with the church of Santa Ana, a baptism prevented us from going inside. But I did grab one shot from the street. This Chapel of the Sailors houses a statue of the Virgen de la Esperanza (Our Lady of Hope), the patron saint of Triana’s sailors. With my camera on full zoom I managed to get a photo of her too, through the open door. The statue is traditionally attributed to the 19th century Juan de Astorga.

This was also a good area for street photography, especially people waiting around for other baptism ceremonies. I haven’t been able to find out why so many ceremonies were happening on this one day. Was it a coincidence? Are there always this many on a Saturday? Or is there something especially propitious or significant about this date (20th November)?

Lady in red dress with fur wrap and two smartly dressed men
Baptism guests

Around the Mercato Triana

Brick church dome and tower with tiled roofs

At the end of the road we came across a small chapel, the Capilla Virgen del Carmen. I was struck by its interesting architecture. It stands by the Puente de Triana and was built in the 1920s after an earlier chapel had to be knocked down during improvements to the bridge and road widening outside the nearby market. It is constructed with brick and Triana ceramics and consists of a small domed chapel and taller octagonal bell tower.

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We didn’t attempt to go into the chapel but instead visited the indoor Mercato Triana next-door. I love a market wherever we travel; they always provide good photo opps and an insight into local food culture. Here we found stalls arranged according to the produce they sold; there was fish and seafood in one section, meat in another, vegetables in yet another. Everything looked of the best quality. Each stall was numbered and named on a blue majolica sign at the top.

Emerging at the far end of the market we found ourselves in a small square. In it stands a monument that pays tribute to the various traditions of Triana: pottery, ceramic work and flamenco. Examples of local pottery in the form of colourful plates hung on the wall above, under another traditional tile panel known as the Christ of the Three Falls, very popular all over Seville.

This monument to the traditions of Triana seems a fitting point at which to end our walk, shared (belatedly) for Jo’s Monday Walks.

I visited Seville in November 2021

29 Comments

  • wetanddustyroads

    Wonderful! I LOVE Spain and your photo’s of the market brings back so many wonderful memories! And how stylish are the Baptism guests dressed – great that you got some photo’s of them!

    • Sarah Wilkie

      Haha 😆 I think the Spanish must be quite like the Italians in liking an excuse to dress up. I could tell from their mannerisms that the women were enjoying showing off their finery 😀

  • Rose

    What a beautiful walk. It would have been so intriguing to interview the gorgeously dressed Baptism goers: to hear their personal stories about this important event they dressed so elegantly for. And to know more about their particular lives – do they always dress like this, what kind of jobs do they have, what kind of homes do they live in…

    • Sarah Wilkie

      Nice idea Rose, although I suspect they were all too caught up in the pleasure of seeing their families and enjoying the celebrations to want to talk to anyone else! I’m pretty sure they don’t always dress like this however, as this was the only time and place we saw such fancy outfits 😀

  • Anonymous

    This brought me the most wonderful flashbacks of our life in Spain. I was just setting up Christmas decorations this morning and was reminded of walking through the tiny streets during the holidays. My husband actually purchased Jamon for the holidays. One of those tastes/flavors to take us back. Thank you for sharing your time there Sarah. I don’t know the significance of November 20th. Sure brought a great photo opportunity! Donna

  • Annie Berger

    Sevilla was one of our favorite cities in Spain. I love how you captured, in both prose and photos, the baptismal celebrations in the Triana district. Thank you, too, for the reminder of the stunning majolica tiles throughout the city.

  • restlessjo

    I guess Saturday must be baptism day, Sarah. I don’t think there’s a significance to 20th November. I do love to see a wedding but I don’t think I’ve been around at a baptism. They do love to dress up though. Triana is a very colourful area and I might think of heading that way pre-Christmas. The Christmas lights have just gone on here and I’d like to see the nativity scenes in Spain compared with ours. I don’t really need to go as far as Seville for that but it is a beautiful city. Many thanks for sharing. You’re never late for a Monday walk. They’re like buses- there’s always another one on the way. Have a great weekend!.

    • Sarah Wilkie

      Thanks Jo. I thought maybe it was simply that Saturday was baptism day but if so there must have been a lot of babies born in Triana recently as it really was just like a production line at both churches, with one group of people hovering outside waiting for their turn and others drinking in the nearby bars, presumably having either just finished or arrived too early! It was lovely to see and the women’s dresses, in particular, brightened a dull day 🙂

    • maristravels

      A wonderful walk through Triana, Sarah. You certainly saw a lot on your weekend. I was told by a Spanish friend that the reason for the flurry of baptisms every Saturday is because every Triana-born resident,by tradition, has their child baptized at Santa Ana. The area has a lot of large famllies, so lots of babies as you imagined, hence lots of baptisms. Triana is still the gitano area and gitanos are passionate about tradition and although they may not fulfill all the duties required by the church, their children will all be baptized and enormous sums of money spent on feasting and dressing-up. I have never managed to see inside the church either, because of baptisms and wedddings. And you got some lovely pictures of the guests!

      • Sarah Wilkie

        Mari, thank you for the additional info. It was certainly clear that these ceremonies were important to them, at least for the family get-together and showing off their new clothes 🙂 It may well be that it’s important for them to have the baptism in Santa Ana, but at the Sailor’s Church too we saw one in progress through the open door and at least one other group waiting to go in for their turn, so that must also be a popular venue!

      • maristravels

        On a short trip when every hour counts, I wouldn’t consider eating in market places – anywhere! Most times it’s OK but the hygiene isn’t always of the best and it’s never worth the risk of picking up something odd when you’re only there for a couple of days.

        • Sarah Wilkie

          Good point Mari. I’d certainly avoid it in less developed countries but probably in Spain (or anywhere in Western Europe) I’d take the risk, but not with seafood which has a habit of occasionally affecting me badly even when eaten in the best restaurants!

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