There is nothing better than having “tapas” and a good wine or beer in the remains of an Arab bath. Yes, you read that correctly, we are talking about the best preserved 12th century Almohad bath in the whole Iberian Peninsula and it is located within the Giralda Brewery in Seville.
The discovery revealed a type of bath for a higher social class, with a geometric decoration, which is out of the norm in the Islamic baths discovered so far, and with a number of skylights in the barrel vault, also more numerous and in an excellent state of preservation, there are 89 of them. The skylights have five different shapes, a much higher number than usual in a public bath.
The paintings on the walls, which go up to the dome and vault of the different rooms of the public bath, were magnificently preserved. Few public baths of that time and none in the peninsula, had paintings beyond the plinth.
These were not ordinary public baths. Although they shared the hygienic use and social utility compared to other baths of the time, this was a rather exclusive hammam. Experts and scholars come to this conclusion because of its proximity to the Aljama Mosque and the Alcazar, and for its rich composition and ornamentation. The Giralda is about 50 meters from the tower that gives it its name, already present as a minaret (under construction) in the then mosque.
After the conquest of Andalusia, this exclusive hammam ceased to have that function. The building was then donated to Jofre Garcia, the king’s escanciador. By the 14th century, it was taken over by the Sevillian clergy, who rented it at least until the 17th century.
At the beginning of the 20th century, the Valencian architect Vicente Traver, who also designed the Lope de Vega Theater and the Seville Athenaeum, renovated the building to convert it into a hotel. Traver, protected the ornamentation and added the Triana tile plinth that still remains. Since 1923, the Giralda has been a bar, although it originally opened under the name of “Bar Español”.
It was in 2007 that a lover of art and history, the Sevillian hotelier Federico G. Patanchón, entrusted himself to discover this great hidden gem. Ten years passed, when in 2017, Patanchón counts on the collaboration of the architect Fran Díaz and the archaeologists Álvaro Jiménez, José Manuel Rodríguez, Fernando Amores and the company Gares (National Restoration Award), who assume the task to study and recover this Heritage. Three years later, the skylights were uncovered.
In the Giralda Brewery, the three typical rooms of the Arab bath can be distinguished and identified. Thus we have what was the hot room that was located in the area that is now the kitchen and only part of the arch of the entrance remains. As its name suggests, the hot air turned this room into a kind of sauna with basins of water for cooling.
The warm room, which is the main room of the brewery, is where the bar is located. Up to 52 skylights have been discovered in this room, distributed in the four sections of smaller domes that surround the main one. Similarly, the ambient temperature present in this room, in contrast to the other two, is the reason for its name. The octagonal dome that crowns the main hall is a reconstruction from the 17th century, when the original dome was lowered and the skylights were covered. Although it maintains its original appearance, it is lower and supported by marble columns from that period.
Finally, there is the cold room, which, in those ancient times, was the first to be accessed from the lobby, the entrance door to the hammam. In what used to be the cold room, there is now a dining room, dedicated to photographic art and a double-height reserved area. It is here that there are 32 skylights, with 5 different shapes and distributed in five rows, covering the entire barrel vault ceiling.
On your next visit to Seville, if you want to have “tapas” or a drink in a place that is more than 800 years old, the Giralda Brewery is the unique and perfect place.