This museum in Triana offers a fascinating look at one of the most notorious chapters in Spanish history: the Inquisition. It is housed in the former headquarters of the Catholic Church's "Tribunal of the Holy Office of the Inquisition" itself, which adds an extra frisson to the visit.
The entrance to the museum is easy to miss – it’s to the right of Triana market, accessed by some steps leading down from the street. As you cross Triana bridge from the city centre, look out for the tower on the right-hand side: the steps are just past the tiny chapel inside. The actual museum itself is underneath the market, overlooking the river Guadalquivir.
Essentially, the museum consists of the remains of the Castillo San Jorge, the seat of the Spanish Inquisition, brought to life with detailed explanations of what happened where, and to whom. Triana, the area of Seville best known for its flamenco and sailors, was also where thousands of poor souls were imprisoned over centuries – the castle served as headquarters of the “Tribuno del Santo Oficio o de la Santa Inquisicion” from 1481 to 1785, which was set up to “defend the Catholic faith”.
The Inquisition was one of the darkest periods in the history of Catholic Spain, and of Seville itself. These religious purges were largely targeted at the wealthy Jewish population, who lived in Barrio Santa Cruz. Many had converted to Christianity (called conversos), while continuing to practise their own religion secretly - these were known as marranos.
You get an excellent free audioguide, which starts with an atmospheric introduction and fascinating historical context-setting. The first room offers a high-tech multimedia presentation on topics such as judgement and abuse of power. Then you go downstairs, to the ruins of the castle itself, with a view to the river Guadalquivir right outside, where boats deposited visitors – lawyers, relatives and informers. This mighty waterway, which has played such an important role in Seville’s history, flooded the castle repeatedly, including the cells where the “heretics” were housed – some lucky ones even floated out to freedom.
You can see a map with pictures of the other key sites of the Inquisition in the city, for example where the autos da fe (public sentencing) took place – in Plaza San Francisco), and the quemaderos (burnings) – at the Prado de San Sebastian, as well as prints of how the castle looked. Look out for the model of the castle, a citadel in itself complete with chapel, stables and streets.
The process of Inquisition is explained – accusation, enquiry, detention, hearing, torture, sentence and auto da fe. It is also interesting to see Goya drawings of suspects wearing their sinister X-marked tunics and pointed hats (meaning under investigation).
One of my favourite parts, and certainly the most moving, was a film about a (fictional) young woman falsely accused of witchcraft because she makes cures using plants and likes astrology. She is reported by a spurned neighbour, imprisoned, interrogated, and eventually confesses (although she has done nothing wrong), and is burned. You can also read about other main players, both instigators and victims, of the Inquisition.
If you (or your children) are hoping for gruesome evidence of the horrific experiences suffered by the castle’s prisoners, such as instruments of torture, then you’ll be disappointed. This museum is more subtle than that, with its day-to-day view of life inside the castle: what people ate, where the kitchens were, who lived where, and so on. You really get a sense of what it would have been like all those centuries ago. Sometimes our imagination is more powerful than pictures.
Plaza del Altozano, s/n
** As of July 2023 this museum is temporarily closed. We will update this information when the situation changes, but we would advise that for the latest news, you check at one of the Seville tourist information offices. **
Monday to Friday 11.00 - 18.30 h
Saturdays, Sundays and holidays 10.00 - 15.00 h