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The importance of the Collegiate Church of the Divino Salvador in the Archdiocese of Seville lies not only in its rich historical and cultural heritage but also in its unique history.

Focusing solely on the building’s architecture or its movable assets—such as altarpieces, sculptures, paintings, fabrics, and choral books—offers an incomplete view of the monumental ensemble.

This temple’s originality and peculiarity stem from its reuse by Roman, Visigoth, Arab, and Christian cultures.


S. XX and XXI S.


The Aljama Mosque of Ibn Adabbas was erected between 829 and 830, sitting on the remains that once belonged to Roman and Visigothic public buildings.


The mosque was Christianized after the conquest of Seville by King Ferdinand in 1248. The mosque is transformed by turning the axis of worship and dedicating the ablutions courtyard to a cemetery.


In 1661 the old mosque was demolished and a new church was built on the new plan, which was demolished in 1679, leaving only the walls. During this century and onwards, a rich and extensive collection of altarpieces and sacred images was added, giving the church an unequalled artistic value.


In 1712, the new church with three naves and transept was consecrated, with a maximum interior height of 24.25 m (80 ft). and a width of 34 m. The artistic contributions of this century turn the temple into a treasure of the Sevillian baroque.


El Salvador lost its status as a collegiate church in 1852 and incorporated the stained glass collection, a gift from the Dukes of Montpensier.

S. XX and XXI S.

The most important restoration tasks are carried out: Periods 1987-1990; 1997-1998 and 2000-2008 with the comprehensive restoration of the temple that has led to the Collegiate, to look with its greatest splendor.

The Roman basilica

It is still unknown how the space where the Collegiate Church of the Divine Savior is located today was originally occupied. There are no written testimonies, neither Roman nor Arab, that refer to the building that existed here. However, it is known that this occupation took place because of the archaeological remains that have been found.

The main argument used to support this thesis is based on the idea of the persistence of places of worship. In the first moments of Christianization, the ancient Roman basilicas, which consisted of civil buildings where the administration of justice and commercial and social exchanges were carried out, were used as churches. These same Christian temples were transformed into mosques. Once again, and after the process of reconquest, these places were converted back into Christian temples. This process of continuity of the sacred places in the same plots was due to two main causes:

1.- It was not necessary to construct a new building since a previous building already existed.
2.- By occupying an ancient temple, this entailed the idea of supremacy of the new religion, in short, the new culture, over the previous one.

Therefore, in Roman times, the urban space now occupied by the Collegiate Church must have been a Roman basilica that was part of the city’s forum.

For this, we have several important archaeological testimonies such as the fact that the minaret of the old mosque, today a bell tower, included in its construction a Roman tombstone from the time of Augustus. Although the tombstone is a carriage stone, it is an indication of the importance of the area in Roman times, which shows the very ancient occupation of the Salvador site.

Another important archaeological testimony are the capitals of the semi-buried columns of the Patio de los Naranjos, which are also from the Roman period and probably belonged to a Roman building near the site.

Finally, when the construction of the foundations of the baroque temple began, coins from the time of Tiberius and Theodosius were found.


The Mosque of Ibn Adabbas, Seville’s aljama mosque until the construction of the Almohad Great Mosque (now the Cathedral), was built by Qadi Ibn Adabbas at the request of Emir Abd al-Rahman al Awsat from 829 to 830.

In the Provincial Archaeological Museum of Seville, a column shaft from this building is preserved with the foundational epigraph that reads:

“God have mercy on Abd al-Rahman b. Al-Hakam, the righteous emir, the one well guided by God, the one who ordered the construction of this mosque, under the direction of Umar b. Adabbas, cadi of Seville, in 214 (h.) and has written [esto] Abd al-Barr b. Harum”

The emiral mosque was built on the remains of a public building of Roman and Visigothic origin – according to tradition – and is considered one of the oldest Spanish constructions of the Muslim period.

The mosque of Ibn Adabbas, according to traditional reconstructions, consisted of two distinct parts, but which were in continuous contact:

1.- an open-air area, the ablutions courtyard
2.- a large prayer area.

Approximately 11 m remain of the old minaret. of elevation of the lower body with ashlars and square plan of 5,88 m. sideways. This tower forms with two other constructions (primitive Great Mosque of Cordoba 785/86 and Alcazaba of Merida 835) the only surviving source of studies for the Andalusian Emirate.
Externally, as can be seen today, the area had a strong commercial character, so the mosque was always surrounded by marketplaces and souks.

The Christianized Collegiate Mosque

When the Christians arrived in Seville in 1248, they transformed the mosques into Christian temples through a very simple action: they changed the orientation of the temple (the mosques had a North-South orientation while the Christian churches are oriented East-West).

On the other hand, in the space occupied by the Mihrab, the sacred place of the mosque, they built a chapel dedicated to the Virgin. It is certain that it was the Virgin of the Waters, a Fernandine image, which served to Christianize the mosque. They also adapted the old minaret as a bell tower.

Finally, they use the ablutions courtyard, equipped with a fountain, running water and peripheral arcades, as rooms and facilities for the servants of the church. It was also used as a cemetery, both in the center and in several funeral chapels, as is the case of the Chapel of the Pineda family, a chapel that has survived to the present day in a very good state of preservation.

The mosque was reused using the central nave as a choir of canons, and adjusting to the modulation of the columns, the chapels and family burials.

King San Fernando dedicated this temple to the Divine Savior of the World, hence its name, and endowed it with an Abbot and 10 canons, in imitation of the Cathedral. The church of El Salvador had, from its origin, a double institutional nature: its eminent and specific rank of Collegiate, a step immediately below the Cathedral, as a permanent seat of solemn manifestation of the liturgy and public prayer of the Church; and, at the same time, its parochial character, corresponding to the pastoral tasks of this nature in relation to its parishioners. On August 24, 1356, a great earthquake toppled the upper part of the minaret transformed into a bell tower. It is due to this restoration that pointed arches appear in the second body of the tower.

In 1610, the last section of the tower was built, which would later be adorned by Leonardo de Figueroa at the end of the 17th century. The whole is covered with a circular vault topped with a capulin with corbels and empty niches in each of its four fronts.

At the beginning of the second third of the 17th century, the successive constructions made the ablutions courtyard lose size; thus the construction of the Sacramental Chapel, first, and the Chapel of the Capilla del Cristo de los Desamparados later, made the courtyard shrink to two thirds of its original size.

The first baroque temple

Given the old and dilapidated state of the old mosque, the Cabildo de la Colegial, in 1671 saw the need to demolish it and build a new temple.

The first baroque temple, which had the collaboration of Bernardo Simón de Pineda Pedro Roldán and the direction of Esteban García, was built from scratch in 5 years, from 1674 to 1679.

Given the old and dilapidated state of the old mosque, the Cabildo de la Colegial, in 1671 saw the need to demolish it and build a new temple.

The first baroque temple, which had the collaboration of Bernardo Simón de Pineda Pedro Roldán and the direction of Esteban García, was built from scratch in 5 years, from 1674 to 1679, a very short period of time at that time to build a baroque temple of these characteristics.

The factory was financed by means of alms collected from the parishioners and with significant support from the revenues of the Collegiate Church and the Church of Seville.

On October 24, 1679, with the building almost finished, at four o’clock in the morning, the temple collapsed completely, leaving only the exterior walls.

It seems that the cause of this collapse was the weakness of the pillars. The mixture of stones and bricks, to reduce the costs of the new factory, and flaws in the proportions would explain this collapse. This is compounded by the weakness of the soil, which offers a soft-medium resistance. Since the church was built in only nine years, there was not enough time for the ground to consolidate, which is why the ground was not able to support the load.

Unfortunately, there is no information available about this first baroque temple. It seems to have had Solomonic columns on the great pillars. It can be said that it would be much more baroque than the current temple, which is characterized by more classicist and severe lines.

The second baroque temple

The collapse of the first temple produced an enormous impact and discouragement in Seville, but the canons of the Collegiate soon recovered and resumed the works. The ground was full of rubble, as happened in 1674 after the collapse of the original mosque.

The collapse of the first temple produced an enormous impact and discouragement in Seville, but the canons of the Collegiate Church overcame it and resumed the works. The ground was full of rubble, as happened in 1674 after the collapse of the original mosque.

The economic resources necessary to face this new construction stage were also centered on popular devotion and the sending of almsmen to the Indies. The progress of the works required abundant amounts of alms and their regular flow had to be guaranteed by any means. The accounts of the Collegiate were going through difficult times and the canons had to resort to the sale of antique and valuable objects.

The reconstruction began by respecting the planimetry of the sunken building, that is, the foundations corresponding to the three naves of the temple. The new project was consulted with Eufrasio Lopez de Rojas, master builder of the Cathedral of Jaen, insisting, as is natural, on the safety and stability of the new building.

The dilemma, at that time, was whether to make the pillars of stone or brick. The collapsed temple, as it seems, had, like the pillars of the Cathedral, an outer cladding of stone and a core of brick, rubble and rubble, a common constructive form at the time.

To advise the canons, José Granados, then in charge of the works at the Cathedral of Granada, was brought in to advise them. According to the architect’s recommendation: “the pillars should be made of dove stone and according to the measurement of rods left by D. José Granados”.

This decision was fundamental to guarantee the future of the temple, since the pillars have withstood perfectly all the structural and seismic movements that the building has suffered throughout its 292 years of life.

Once the reconstruction of the church began, a certain Alonso Gonzalez, self-titled “master architect of civil and military works”, wrote a document in 1694 stating that “the walls that are being built over the arches are very thin”. And it is affirmed so that “there will not be another ruin like the past, and that it will be said, as they said then, that it was due to the lack of intelligent men in the city”.

It was the stonemason Francisco Gómez Septier who carved the stone. In 1696 he was replaced by Leonardo de Figueroa. This master belongs to one of the most important architectural sagas in Andalusia. The family of the Figueroa’s came to fill the totality of the Sevillian baroque from the last third of the XVII century until the end of the following century, that is to say, from the establishment of the style with plenitude, until the progressive disintegration and reaction of the first clarifying tendencies of the neoclassic.

In fact, practically until his arrival in the city around 1670, the architectural schemes developed in Seville drank from the lower Renaissance sources, recreating and slightly transforming mannerist formulas, and only incorporating Baroque decorative elements. Leonardo de Figueroa was the artist who established the full formulas of this style, both from a tectonic and ornamental point of view.

In 1712 the building was finally finished thanks to the impulse of Archbishop Manuel Arias. Due to technical and economic difficulties, the twin towers flanking that main facade were never built, reusing the old Islamic tower that Figueroa finished off.

The extinction of the Collegiate: the Parish of El Salvador

On June 28, 1852, by virtue of the concordat between Isabel II and the Holy See, the character of Collegiate was suppressed, being the Salvador reduced to one more parish of Seville. This meant an important change in the religious and economic status of the building: when its collegiate character was suppressed, the choir became unnecessary. Already on June 28, 1861, the clergy in charge of the parish requested

On June 28, 1852, by virtue of the concordat between Isabel II and the Holy See, the character of Collegiate was suppressed, being the Salvador reduced to one more parish of Seville. This meant an important change in the religious and economic status of the building: when its collegiate character was suppressed, the choir became unnecessary. Already on June 28, 1861, the clergymen in charge of the parish requested the Cardinal Archbishop to suppress the choir:

“that on any feast day most of the faithful cannot see the divine offices; that being also very thick and increasing considerably with the two large pulpits the groups of columns of this one, the place from where the high altar can be seen is also very reduced on both sides of it.”

Moving the choir meant finding a new location for the organ. This exceptional instrument, with a double facade, was located on the boundary between the central nave and the north aisle above the choir stalls.

This transfer took place in 1861, eliminating the choir, some of whose loose pieces have been preserved to the present day.

The organ lost much of its sonority when the set of trumpets that was located on the north facade, towards the patio of the Naranjos, was removed. Its new location was at the foot of the church, above the main door. For its installation, a grandstand combined with the entrance gate was installed, “touching up” the structure of the building in a dangerous way.

The disappearance of its status as a Collegiate generated the loss of an important part of its economic patrimony and of the resources for the maintenance of the building. Its artistic and religious heritage was largely broken up and important elements were lost.

The conservation problems of the parish.

The origin of the deterioration of the Salvador complex is due to a set of complex causes, together with the lack of adequate maintenance. Since the Collegiate lost its real estate assets due to the ecclesiastical confiscation, it was left without funds for its maintenance. A fragment of plaster gives the date 1831 as the last restoration activity on one of the high cornices.

Subsequently little was done: The Passion Chapel was restored by Juan Talavera in 1907 after the fire of the previous year. In 1915 the interior of the half orange was painted. Since the intervention of the Marquis de la Vega Inclán in the courtyard of the orange trees in 1918, there has been no restoration or construction activity until 1987, when the Junta de Andalucía began to intervene with small-scale works that allowed the church to remain open for 16 years.

In the archive of the Collegiate Church of El Salvador, an interesting correspondence between the parish priest of the time (1893), the Diocesan Board for the construction and repair of temples and the City Council of Seville about the precarious conditions of conservation of the building has appeared.

The set of documents begins with a budget presented by the parish priest for the amount of 6,000 pesetas, dated April 13, 1893, to the Diocesan Board for the construction and repair of temples and ecclesiastical buildings, for a set of consolidation works that are justified as follows:

“In this parish church, undoubtedly the most important of this capital, for some time now, movement has been noted in some of its main walls, whose movements have produced cracks of consideration, detachment of some ashlars in the lintels of several openings and separations in the elements of some reinforcements.
It is urgent to repair such flaws and link the walls together, if we are to avoid, in the not too distant future, the ruin of such a beautiful temple”.

This budget is presented in the face of the lack of funds of the parish and the poor results of a public collection in the neighborhood in the face of “the commercial and agricultural crisis”. We are on the verge of the great crisis of 1898, which would end with the war with the United States and the loss of the Spanish colonies.

This document is sent to the City Council who requests the drafting of a preliminary project and overall budget to be inspected by the Municipal Architect.

On July 20 of the same year and in response to the Diocesan Board, the parish priest again insisted that:

“In answer to your very attentive letter which you kindly sent me regarding the repair of this parish church, I have to tell you that the worship allowance is barely enough to cover the ordinary expenses that occur; that due to the commercial and agricultural crisis, this parish is not in a position to make an important subscription, so that after having announced and promoted it, the amount collected does not reach one hundred reals.”

Finally, the municipal architect issues a report, after a “thorough and detailed survey of the entire building” with two conclusions:

First, that the requested works are not as important as claimed:

“The requested works do not really have the importance that has been given to them, since they consist simply of some cracks of little importance finding the covers of the part in which they are, in good condition, so that the repair will amount to approximately two thousand pesetas not existing today any danger of ruin.”

However, says the Municipal Architect, there are other problems, much more serious “whose repair is most urgent, if it is to be avoided that it does not happen to this beautiful temple, the first and best after the Cathedral, what in the latter”. It refers to the collapse of the Cathedral’s dome that occurred recently at that time, specifically, in 1888. This ruin caused great alarm in Seville.

“The petition only includes the works in the part corresponding to these cracks, and on the other hand there are flaws and construction defects, whose repair is most urgent if we are to avoid that what happened to this beautiful temple, the first and best after the Cathedral, does not happen to the latter. The roofs of the lateral naves are almost flat and as a consequence the waters enter in such a way that the vaults that cover them are completely stained and detached, and the wood is rotten to a great extent. These covers need to be raised or else, and in a very short time, they will fall to the ground as well as the vaults. Two of the main arches have large channels for water collection and due to their bad disposition they are leaking, and in addition to the damage caused to the arches, their beautiful paintings are coming off. Both works are very urgent as well as the route of the flights and roofs, which must be arranged in terms that they do not suffer alteration with the frosts, using cement pavements and zinc or tin channels in the main arches. All these works will not cost less than thirty-five or forty thousand pesetas, since the roofs of the side naves must be raised and almost entirely new roofs. In short, the necessary and most urgent works in the Church of the Savior will not be less than forty thousand pesetas.”

It is really curious that one hundred and ten years ago, with only visual inspections and without any control technology, very similar conclusions were reached to those we have reached after many years of studies, controls and structural verifications. It is also a reaffirmation of the diagnosis that we have made and that has given rise to the Restoration Project, currently underway.

Of course, these “most urgent” works were never carried out, and El Salvador has reached the present day in the same delicate situation. In 1987 emergency works began, due to the poor condition of the temple, designed and directed, since then, by the architect Fernando Mendoza, on the initiative of the then parish priest, D. Manuel del Trigo Campos.

The recognition of the artistic and monumental values of El Salvador came very late: it was declared a National Historic and Artistic Monument on February 5, 1985. For the General Plan of Seville, it is catalogued with the letter A (Integral Protection), which means that it only admits restoration works, such as those that were carried out between 2001 and 2008.

1 Emilio Gómez Piñól “The Collegiate Church of the Savior….”.

The Light

The Church of the Savior, as conceived by architects Esteban García and José Granados, is a temple full of light, as a luminous metaphor of the Divinity: light is Life and Salvation.

But the glass windows that we can see today in the church are not those that existed at the time of the inauguration of the temple in 1712, where a large window to the rising sun and whose light penetrated through numerous transparent blown glass and wired lead or tin forming squares and hexagons. In 1870 the stained glass windows that we see today were installed under the patronage of the Dukes of Montpensier.

The schemes composed by the crystals are almost exclusively geometric in nature, of Hispano-Muslim matrix, with star and floral motifs that leave a space for the emblem of the Collegiate, the cross on the ball of the world.

The colors are so intense that the passage of the sun creates effects of colored lights on the stone, extolling its religious symbolism in a church whose fundamental theme was the celebration of the Divine Light.

The symbolism of light in the Christian world is, therefore, especially evident in the Church of the Savior; “light illuminates nature so that man can contemplate it and orient himself, it illuminates the paths of life so that they can be traveled, it is the indispensable clarity so that man can orient himself”. It is undoubtedly, this sensory framework, one of the protagonists of our visit in an unparalleled tour of the Footprint of the Sacred