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The Isla de la Cartuja had rich clay deposits that the potters from the Triana district used for their pots and tiles. Tradition has it that in one of the caves resulting from clay extraction a figure of the Virgin was found that must have been hidden there centuries before to prevent profanation by non-Christians. A shrine was soon raised at the spot and devotion for the image grew together with the belief in its miraculous powers. A community of Franciscan tertiaries became established in the vicinity for the spiritual succour of the devout and other pilgrims, but when Archbishop Gonzalo de Mena founded the Monasterio de la Cartuja (the Carthusian Monastery) in the year 1400, they were forced to move. When some monasteries were sold in mid-19th century, Charles Pickman, an English businessman, purchased the Cartuja and converted it into an internationally renowned pottery factory. When Seville was chosen to hold the Universal Exhibition of 1992, the Monastery was restored for use as a cultural centre.


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The architect Ambrosio de Figueroa (18th century) was involved in the reconstruction of several parts of the building, including the entrance, designed as a triumphal arch, and the single volume chapel with its simple lines and its outstanding dome. This chapel and the adjoining spaces were intended as a place where people from outside could meet the monks, who were not neglectful of the needy coming to them.

The Atrium connects with the Prior's cell to the left, the Procuration area to the right and, opposite, the façade of the church, with its 16th century tiled rose window. The 15th century church is in the Gothic style, as denoted by its ribbed vaults, of which the apse is particularly interesting. During the 19th and 20th centuries, the church was used as a pottery warehouse. Today it has a double function as an exhibition hall for contemporary art and also houses many types of cultural events. A magnificent clock made by Brother Manuel Navarro and installed in 1817 can still be seen in the presbytery (altar zone).

Built in the 16th century, this chapel was originally located on the outside, but the façade of the church was later moved forward to enclose it. The body of Christopher Columbus lay in the crypt from 1509 to 1536, and so it is also known as Capilla de Colón (Columbus Chapel). A hundred years later, the masterpiece of Martínez Montañés, the Christ of Clemency, now in Seville Cathedral, presided over it. Fortunately, two pieces of tiling of worldwide historic importance are still conserved. These are the panels of Saint John the Evangelist and Saint Matthias made by Juan Bautista Pisano in 1523. Some other pieces of this interesting series of the Twelve Apostles, can be seen in other museums and private collections.

This is one of the best examples in Seville of Mudéjar architecture, which is a combination of Christian and Muslim styles. When it was built in the second half of the 15th century, its purpose was to connect the already existing spaces, Despite its small size, the elegant proportions create a composition of unique beauty. The materials used in its construction, including roof tiles, glazed tiling in the galleries, red brick and the white marble columns with bell-shaped capitals are equally interesting, and show the influence of the Nasrids, the dynasty that built the Alhambra in Granada.

This room, designed for the monks' more important meetings, was built at the same time as the Claustrillo. The figurative decoration of the vault predominates in the first part of this space. This is a significant testimony of the first Gothic sculpture in Seville. The room was ceded as a burial place for the Ribera family, patrons of the Monasterio de la Cartuja. The vertical wall tombs of Pedro Enríquez and Catalina de Ribera, made in the 16th century in Genoa by Aprile de Carona and Pace Gazini respectively, are remarkable for the profusion of their iconography and ornament. During the factory period the tombs were relocated in the Iglesia de la Anunciación (the Annunciation Church) and the Sala Capitular was used for carpentry. The tombs were replaced here after the rehabilitation work prior to the Universal Exhibition of 1992.

This is the original nucleus of the Monastery. The flat cloister vaults covering it and their irregular sizes make it special in the context of Mudéjar buildings in Seville. The construction of the Refectory (nº 7) made it smaller and a square chapel was added to it, where the mortal remains of the Monastery's founder, Archbishop Gonzalo de Mena, were finally laid. The walls conserve a representation of the triple Saint Anne (Saint Anne, Mother of the Virgin, holds Mary in her lap and she, in turn, holds her Son, Jesus).

This is where the Carthusian monks had their main meals. It was enlarged and redecorated in 1588, although both the entrance to the Claustrillo (nº 4) and the surroundings of the pulpit were maintained. The latter was designed for a monk to read the Holy Scriptures while his companions ate their meal. The quality of the geometrical carved wooden ceiling is outstanding, as too are the tiled panels from the late 16th and 17th centuries. The room once housed The Last Supper by Alonso Vázquez, now in the Museo de Bellas Artes (Fine Arts Museum) of Seville.

The baroque plasterwork can still be seen that once framed one of Francisco de Zurbarán's best series of paintings (17th century), now in the Museo de Bellas Artes. In the early 19th century during the French occupation, this unique space served as the garrison's butchery. Entrance is via the De profundis chapel, where the monks stood vigil over the dead.

The history of the Monasterio de la Cartuja is conditioned by its proximity to the river and the almost annual floods. In tribute to this, the architect José Ramón Sierra created this intervention in 1992, by submerging architectural fragments from the building itself such as shafts, bases or capitals, thus conferring poetic expression to the link between the place and the river.

The arrangement of the large cloisters is due to the monks' individual cells. Remains of the original building are only conserved in the eastern sector. Important modifications were carried out during the French invasion and the time of the factory (19th and 20th centuries), when the cloister practically disappeared. It was rebuilt for use as exhibition halls during the recovery of the Cartuja for cultural purposes prior to the Universal Exhibition of 1992. The British-style cone-shaped kilns were installed in the first decade of the 20th century. With time, they have become an emblematic icon of the monastery.

In the first garden there is a chapel again dedicated to Saint Anne, which held a Holy Family by Zurbarán (17th century). In the second garden we find the 16th century Chapel of Saints Justa and Rufina, which was modified in Pickman's time in the orientalist taste of 19th century British garden pavilions.

12.- THE OMBU.
The ombu (Phytolacca dioica) is not really a tree, but a sort of grass. It grows to great age, but since its trunk does not have annual growth rings, its age cannot be exactly determined. Legend has it that the ombu in the Cartuja was planted by Hernando Colón son of the great Admiral Columbus. One of the features of the ombu is its immunity to insects, as its sap is toxic. It grows very quickly to a height of 10 to 15 metres. Its wood is very soft, as it contains a large amount of water, which is necessary to survive the long droughts common in Argentina and Uruguay, where it comes from.

The arch was given this name as it leads to the area where the lay brothers of the Order lived. Apart from the duties of the Order, they also had to attend the monks or priests, who were entirely dedicated to a life of prayer and whose cells were arranged around the Claustrón (nº 10). Today it marks the boundary between the offices and halls of the Centro Andaluz de Arte Contemporáneo, on the left, and the seat of the Instituto Andaluz de Patrimonio Histórico (Andalusian Institute of the Historic Heritage) on the right.

In the mid-18th century, the Cartuja was severely damaged by diverse natural disasters, which required the building of new structures, such as the Capilla de Afuera (nº 1). The architect Ambrosio de Figueroa directed this process using a style similar to the entrances to country homes of the period. The ceramic finials and the panels of reused diamond-shaped tiles give the doorway a very popular and delicate, decorative appearance.




Click to enlarge image

Image from the exhibition "BIOS4. Biotechnological and environmental art". Mark Cypher (2007)

Image from the exhibition "FLUXUS. A long story with many knots. Germany 1962-1994" (2007)

Image from the exhibition "BIOS4. Biotechnological and environmental art". France Cadet and Andy Gracie (2007)

Image from the exhibition  "SEE DANCE. A dialogue between dance and the fine arts". Details of the work "Pitos y flautas" (2007), Blanca Li

Image from the exhibition  "BIOS4. Biotechnological and environmental art." Eduardo Kac (2007)

Image from the exhibition  "Geopolitics of the Animation"

Image from the exhibition  "Jesús Zurita. La llanura baja"

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