Memories from my continuous route in search of oriental treasures in the Mediterranean, take me a couple of years back to the historical town of Seville, in southern Spain’s mystical region of Andalucía. Back then, I would have never imagined that this beloved town, which I enjoyed visiting every summer, would have been selected as the shooting ground of the most celebrated TV series.
I had visited the Royal Alcazar, just a couple of months before HBO started shooting their scenes for Game of Thrones Season 5. Although since then this has sparked more interest with hundreds of more visitors, this distinctive Palace has always been highly acclaimed as one of the most beautiful monuments ever created. In fact, it has also been proclaimed a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The construction was initiated by the Moors back in the 8th Century, following their conquest of southern Spain. These sovereigns were from the Ummayad Caliphate, which in those days was one of the most significant reigns of the ancient Muslim World, ruling from the modern day Morocco to Pakistan, and stretching to the Iberian Peninsula, to which they referred to as Al-Andalus. These were turbulent times for Spain, but an important period for its cultural widening, influencing art, architecture, music, language, and literature. Nevertheless, it was likewise tempestuous for the Moors, as the Spanish Army fought them back for over seven centuries, until in 1492, when they managed to reclaim back their occupied lands, expelling for good the Muslim rulers.
The co-existence of these two cultures throughout those years is popularly known as Mudéjar, and this style is perfectly reflected in this palace’s architecture, featuring both Muslim and Christian influences. When the Catholic Kings reclaimed the area, and hence the Palace, elements of Gothic, Renaissance, and Romanesque architecture were combined to the existing Islamic style. It was a wonderful age to witness, and the legends, literature and paintings continue to inspire artists and writers alike.
As one sets eyes on this fabled palace of the Alcazar, one understands how Romantic Orientalism started in Europe. Undoubtedly, this is one of the most prestigious palaces in Europe – its high stony walls, myrtle, and cypress surround the Persian style patios with the dripping sounds of water flowing through the marble fountains. Here, the King’s concubines used to rest and bathe.
It well merited to represent the Games of Thrones Southernmost Kingdom, the Capital of Dorne. Its richness, reflected mostly in its intricate architectural details; handmade geometric ceramic tiles, gold ceilings, Mudéjar style pointed arches, Arabic writing, and balconies supported by dragons, stood impeccable in the eyes of GOT’s co-creator Dan Weiss.
Game of Thrones was filmed in four of the Alcazar’s main areas, namely; The Ambassador’s Hall, Mercury’s Pool, The Baths of Maria Padilla, and the gardens. Fans, who persistently followed each and every episode of this celebrated series, can understand what I am denoting. One may recall, Cersei Lannister’s beloved daughter, Myrcella Baratheon wandering in the wonderful Water Gardens of Dorne – the Private Residence of the House of Martell, where she was promised to Trystane. Another particular scene whose background does not go unnoticed, was when Ellaria secretly meets her daughters where she plans her revenge for her illegitimate lover’s death.
This scene was shot in the baths of Lady Maria de Padilla. A very interesting coincidence is that these baths were designed for this Lady, who just like Ellaria’s character, was also involved in an illegitimate royal love story, with King Pedro. These pools consisting of rainwater tanks with low gothic vaults, lie beneath the Patio de Crucero and they served as a retreat from the warm summer heat.
In the series, The Salon de los Embajadores turned out to be an excellent area to recreate the important encounter between Prince Doran and Jamie Lannister, who arrived to claim his niece (in reality, his illegitimate daughter) to take her back home safely to her mother Cersei. Back in the day, this room, opened from all four sides with horseshoe-shaped arches, and stood as a very important hall, where significant visitors used to be received. The salon’s most celebrated feature is its lofty, gold-domed ceiling with hundreds of tiny mirrors, added in 1427.
This magnificent palace and the city of Seville, should be on anyone’s must see list. Not only have they been featured in other numerous popular movies, such as “Star Wars: Attack of the Clones”, “Lawrence of Arabia”, and “Kingdom of Heaven”, but this place continues to offer endless charm to any traveller who wishes to set foot in these ancient realms.
© 2018 – VIDA Magazine – Mandy Farrugia