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Torre del Oro

Torre del Oro (8)

Seville’s Torre del Oro [Golden Tower] is a military watchtower, a defensive tower that stands away from the wall, built during the first third of the 8th century by the Almohades. From the outset it has always been known as the Torre del Oro, though no one knows exactly why it was given this name. One theory suggests that it was so named because it was originally covered by tiles, whose golden reflections shone in the sunlight. However, another theory claims that the name comes from the fact that it was the site where enormous quantities of gold from the Americas were unloaded. 

You’ll find that the tower is divided into three sections. The twelve-sided base is topped with edged vaults, while the main hexagonal body is made of exposed brick. The circular turret that crowns the tower was added in 1760, the work of Sebastián Van der Borcht.

The tower used to have another floor beneath the present ground floor. But when the tower was seriously damaged during the Lisbon earthquake of 1755, authorities considered demolishing it. Ultimately, the decision was made to reinforce it by filling the floor with rubble and mortar. That is why some engravings from the 16th and 17th century show the tower as being taller and thinner. The ground level has risen by several metres over of the centuries.

The Torre del Oro originally served two purposes: as a watchtower and for defence. From its base, a strong chain was laid across the bottom of the river and attached to another tower on the opposite bank of the river, the Torre de la Fortaleza, which is no longer standing. This was how entry to the port was protected and boats were kept from being able to leave unchecked. The tower also served as a prison in the Middle Ages, although that was never its sole function over the years, given that it was also used as a chapel, gunpowder warehouse, lighthouse and post office. It is currently home to the city’s Museo Naval, where you can find letters written at sea, models, old instruments and historic documents. 

In fact, even though the Torre del Oro has at times fallen practically to ruins – and at one point it was even condemned to demolition – today you will find that it is very solid. This is thanks to the many Sevillians who have fought hard to save it throughout its history and its many remodelling projects, the most recent of which took place in 2005. 

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