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The Plaza de Toros de la Real Maestranza de Caballería de Sevilla is the oldest bullring in all of Spain, in addition to being home to the bullfights that take place during Seville’s Feria de Abril, one of the best-known bullfighting events in the world.
The bullring is one of the city’s most popular tourist attractions and among its most frequently visited monuments. As a ring, it is highly regarded worldwide for its layout and distinctive features. Moreover, its aficionados are considered some of the toughest and most critical among bullfighting fans. This “bullfighting cathedral,” as it is known by many, can hold up to 12 500 spectators.
At the beginning of the 18th century, noble master horsemen, who practised the art of horseback riding while attempting to spear bulls, first built a wooden bullring on this spot. Years later, in 1761, work began on what would become the Plaza de la Maestranza. This construction, based on plans drawn up by architect Vicente San Martín, would take 119 years to complete.
It was Ferdinand VII who championed this bullring, and in 1930 created the “Escuela de Tauromaquia” (Bullfighting School) in the San Bernardo neighbourhood. As such, bullfighting began to shift away from the nobility to the matadors of this Sevillian neighborhood, who went from killing bulls on horseback to fighting them on foot. Among the greatest bullfighters of this period were Pepe-Hillo, Costillares and Pedro Romero.
Despite this fact, the bullring remains the property of the Real Maestranza de Caballería. Furthermore, Felipe V decreed that the leading elder of this noble organisation must always be of royal blood. This is why the ring’s main stage remains closed if King Juan Carlos or another member of the Royal Family is not in attendance.
The Paseo de Colón is the main entrance to the grounds, where the guided tour begins. On one side of the ring you will see the so-called Prince’s Gate (“Puerta del Príncipe”) flanked by Corinthian columns. It is through this gate that triumphant bullfighters are carried out on the shoulders of others, the highest honour that can be bestowed upon them.
During your visit, make sure to stop by the tiny Museo taurino behind the infirmary. There you’ll find some interesting historical artifacts, including a collection of costumes and posters, as well as a purple cape painted by Pablo Picasso.
Further along, you will come to the House and Chapel of Real Maestranza. The house contains an excellent library with paintings by Hohenleiter, while the chapel has a lovely altarpiece created by Sevillian sculptor Pedro Roldán, before which fighters kneel to pray just before entering the ring. You should also have a look at the areas where the picadors keep their horses.
Outside of the ring, on the other side of the street, is a statue, Carmen la Cigarrera, created by sculptor Sebastián Santos Rojas.
Carmen, the gypsy who worked in the Royal Tobacco Factory, made all the men fall madly in love with her high spirits and beauty; the woman flits from the love of a soldier to that of a bullfighter, but dies at the hands of her spiteful lover. French novelist Merimée first wrote this drama in 1845 and later, in 1875, Bizet would use it as the foundation for his famous opera, making Carmen into a symbol of the ideal Spanish lover.
The bronze statue of this character is located between her presumed home on Calle Betis and the scene of her murder by the blade of José’s dagger.
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