Lion Gate at Alcázar, Seville

The Royal Alcázar of Seville

The Algarve Archaeological Association (AAA) will be presenting two lectures, in English, by Mervyn Samuel on Tuesday, January 8. The first lecture will be at 2.30pm at the Museu do Traje in São Brás; the second at 6pm at the Convento de São José in Lagoa.

In this lecture, Mervyn Samuel will be taking us on a photographic promenade through the history of the Royal Alcázar of Seville, Spain. The talk will be structured around a series of photographs of the buildings and gardens of the Alcázar, mostly taken by the speaker over a period of years, through which it will be possible to evoke the millennium of history since the first moments of the palace.

From the Caliphate of Cordoba, advancing to the independent Kingdom of Seville during the 11th century, the Almoravid and Almohad invasions from North Africa, and the Christian reconquest by Saint Ferdinand (King Ferdinand III of Castile and Leon) in 1248.

Many monarchs have lived or stayed in the palace, but particular mention must be made of Pedro I of Castile, who in the mid-14th century built what is now the central part of the palace complex. He used Islamic craftsmen from his own cities of Seville and Toledo, and from his vassal kingdom of Granada, precisely at the moment when his ally Mohammed V was building key elements of the Alhambra.

One of the most splendid moments of the Alcázar’s history came in the spring of 1526, when the Emperor Charles V married his cousin the Empress Isabel of Portugal in the already venerable palace.

This was a political marriage desired by both parties, but it was also a true love match of kindred spirits, and the Empress became the Emperor’s key collaborator during the remainder of her all-too-short life.

Their son, Philip II of Spain (soon to become Philip I of Portugal), spent 12 days at the palace during 1570 receiving a spectacular reception from a city at the height of its commercial prosperity and political power when it was known as the ‘port and gateway to the Indies’. His grandson Philip IV (III of Portugal) also spent 12 days in the palace and, during his reign, the gardens were adapted to the Italianate Baroque taste, whilst a theatre was built in the Patio de la Montería in front of the main façade of Don Pedro’s Palace.

The Alcázar continued to be the personal possession of successive Spanish monarchs up to and including the reign of King Alfonso XIII. When he went into exile in 1931, the palace was expropriated and assigned to the Ayuntamiento (City Council) of Seville. However, it is still a royal residence and when the King or Queen is present, administration of the complex is taken over by Património Nacional, a state institution charged with maintaining Spain’s royal palaces and monasteries.

Mervyn Samuel studied at Bristol Cathedral School and the University of Oxford. He lived and worked in Argentina and Peru before taking up residence in Seville and then Madrid. He has translated books on Spanish royal palaces and museums and has written one on the Royal Alcázar of Seville, as well as two others on Peruvian themes. He collaborates with cultural and heritage defence organisations in the United Kingdom and Spain and has travelled extensively in Europe, the Mediterranean and the Americas. At present, he divides his time between Spain and England.

Non-members are welcome to attend AAA lectures for a €5 admission, with all money raised by the AAA being spent on archaeological grants and speakers.

For more information, contact, visit or Facebook ‘Algarve Archaeological Association’. Please check the website or Facebook page for any last minute changes.


Pool Cenador del León, Alcázar, Seville
Patio de las Doncellas, Alcázar, Seville
Palacio Don Pedro
Lion Gate at Alcázar, Seville