Seville's parish churches display a fascinating variety of architectural styles. Several are converted mosques with belfries built over their minarets, others range through Mudejar and Gothic (sometimes in combination), Renaissance and Baroque. Most are kept locked except early in the morning, or in the evenings from about 7 pm until 10 pm - a promising time for a church crawl, especially as they're regularly interspersed with bars!
For a good circuit, make first towards Gothic San Pedro near the Setas, where a marble tablet records Velazquez's baptism, and then San Marcos in the Macrena district, with a fine minaret tower. Nearby, in the Macarena district, is the 15th-century Convento de Santa Paula (Tuesday-Sunday 10.30 am - 12.30 pm and 16.30 - 18.30), its church decorated with a vivid ceramic facade and superb tile work, with an excellent museum containing fine artwork by Zurbaran and Ribero among others. Further on you meet the last remaining stretch of Moorish city walls - remains of the Almoravid fortifications which once spanned 12 gates and 166 towers. Now there's only one main gate, the Puerta Macarena, beside which the eponymous basilica houses the city's cult image and patroness of matadors, La Esperanza Macarena, a tearful, bejewellede Virgin seated in the midst of gaudy magnificence.
Iglesia de San Marcos
This 14th-century church retains several Mudejar features, notably its Giralda-like tower (based on the minaret of an earlier mosque) and the decoration on the Gothic portal on Plaza de San Marcos. The restoration of the interior, gutted by fire in 1936, has highlighted unique horseshoe arches in the nave. A statue of St Mark with book and quill pen, attributed to Juan de Mesa, is in the far left corner. In the plaza at the back of the church is the Convento de Santa Isabel, founded in 1490. It became a women's prison in the 19th century. The church dates from 1609. Its baroque portal, facing onto Plaza de Santa Isabel, has a bas-relief of the Visitation sculpted by Andres de Ocampo.
Iglesia de Santa Catalina
Built on the former sight of a mosque, this 14th century church has a Mudejar tower modelled on La Giralda. Within the entrance is a surprisingly placed horseshoe arch. At the far end of the nave, the Capilla Sacramental is by Leonardo de Figueroa while, on the right, the Capilla de la Exaltacion has a decorative ceiling which dates from around 1400.
Iglesia de San Pedro
14th-century Gothic Mudejar with later additions. There are three naves, the one on the right has a beautiful four sided chapel with a Mudejar ceiling dating from 1379. Dating from the 17th century, there are several paintings by the Sevillian painter, Zurbaran.
Convento de Santa Paula
Seville has many enclosed religious complexes, but few are accessible. This is one of them, a convent set up in 1475 and still home to 40 nuns. The public is welcome to enter through two different doors in the Calle Santa Paula. Knock on the brown one, marked number 11 to look at the convent museum. Steps lead to two galleries, crammed with religious paintings and artifacts. The windows of the second look onto the nuns' cloister. The nuns make a phenomenal range of marmalades and jams which visitors may purchase in a room near the exit.
Ring the bell by the brick doorway nearby to visit the convent church, reached by crossing a meditative garden. Its portal vividly combines Gothic arches, Mudejar brickwork, Renaissance medallion and ceramics by the Italian artist, Niculoso Pisano. Inside the nave has an elaborate wooden roof and there are some fine statues here of St John the Evangelist and St John the Baptist.
Iglesia de San Luis de Los Franceses (Church of St Louis of the French)
One of the finest examples of Baroque architecture in Seville, San Luis de los Franceses (known simply as San Luis) is an extravagantly decorated circular church in the Macarena district.
Located in the street of the same name, the church of San Luis was completed in 1730 and is dedicated to King Louis IX of France, cousin of King Fernando III of Castile and Leon (aka San Fernando of Seville – his statue is in Plaza Nueva). It recently underwent an extensive 10-year renovation, reopening to the public in 2016; the private chapel and crypt can also be visited. More>
Santa Maria la Blanca
Like many churches in Seville, this has been used as a place of worship for several religions, stretching back over 1,000 years. It was originally built as a mosque, with the ablutions patio and entrance in what is now the priest's house, to the left of the church. After the reconquest of Seville by Christian King Fernando III in 1248, it became a synagogue, and the building was left intact until 1356, when the Jewish community asked King Pedro permission to rebuilt it after an earthquake. in 1391 anti-Jewish feeling started in Seville and the synagogue was handed over to the church. The synagogue's structure is still intact in its Christian incarnation as a church, including the rows of small high windows along either side of the nave, although the niche where the Torah was kept is hidden behind the altar and the walls are covered with plaster reliefs. You can also see the women's balcony, above the entrance. One of the outstanding features of this church is the painting of The Last Supper by Murillo, on the left near the altar. A small museum upstairs shows original timbers from the synagogue, with coloured painted parts, and other precious pieces such as the cup used in Murillo's painting,
Iglesia Del Salvador
The Salvador church began construction in 1674 on the remains of Mezquita Mayor, which was the main mosque in Seville from the 9th century. Architect Esteban Garcia originally began erecting the church, but it was left to Leonardo de Figueroa to complete in 1792. The architects incorporated the Arabian mosque’s Patio de Abluciones and basement into the design, and also added sculptures from Martínez Montañés and Juan de Mena. Today the plaza in front of the church, Plaza del Salvador, provides a popular meeting place and destination for both locals and visitors alike, with its various bars offering outside tables.