Real Fabrica de Tabacos - Royal Tobacco Factory
When visitors see the magnificent baroque entrance to this vast stone building, most assume they're looking at yet another of Seville's palaces or grand residences. In fact, its origins are more prosaic: a tobacco factory, albeit one of Spain's largest buildings.
An impressive piece of 18th-century industrial architecture, which takes up an entire city block, this was the second-largest building at the time (El Escorial near Madrid was the biggest); measuring 185m by 147m, it is still one of Spain's largest industrial buildings.
Located on Calle San Fernando, next to the Alfonso XIII hotel, the factory was Europe's most important tobacco factory, producing around 75% of the cigarettes consumed in Europe.
The fabrica's other claim to fame is that the opera Carmen by Bizet was set here, based on a novella by French writer Prosper Merimee.
We will start with a Sightseeing tour and discover the most emblematic monuments of Seville, the University, the Old Tobacco Factory scene of the story of Carmen, etc...Later, a lovely river boat trip along the Guadalquivir. Close by also, we'll see the famous Isla de la Cartuja and the monastery where Christopher Columbus lived for some years.
Approx. 2hrs 30mins - 23 €
Tobacco was one of the first plants which Columbus discovered on his arrival in the New World, and brought back to Seville; the city enjoyed a lucrative royal monopoly on tobacco trade for centuries afterwards. You can see depictions in stone of Columbus - as well as the conquistador Hernan Cortes, supposedly Europe's first smoker - on the entrance arch of the factory.
Tobacco merchants were established in the city from the 16th century, with Europe's first tobacco factory located by San Pedro church near Plaza Encarnacion.
The Real Fabrica de Tabaco (Royal Tobacco Factory) was built just outside the muralla, or fortified city walls (largely disappeared now), on a site used for burials in Roman times. The architects were, successively, Ignacio Sala, Diego Bordick Deverez and Sebastian Van der Borcht, and the project lasted from 1725, when the initial design was submitted, until 1770, when the building was officially completed, with a break from 1735-1750.
The building and its workers
The interior consists of a series of arcaded patios with long corridors and rooms, the most important of which are the Clock Patio and Fountain Patio. The layout is Renaissance in style, in terms of its floor plan and facades, with the principal building material being stone from Moron de la Frontera. A moat around the building was for defensive purposes, to protect this highly valuable product.
Production began in 1758, with 1,000 men employed, plus horses to turn the mills which ground tobacco into polvo or rape (snuff), which was still in fashion when construction started in the 1730s.
Subsequently, cigars were produced, also by men - elsewhere in Spain, and in Cuba, women were used to roll them. By the late 1800s, the entire workforce was women - 6,000 at its peak according to some sources. With mechanization, this was reduced to 1,000 by the 1940s. Carmen of the eponymous opera was a cigarrera (cigarette girl).
Part of the Fabrica was used for residential purposes.
Various paintings, including one by Gonzalo Bilbao, depict the women at work inside the factory during the 1910s. Bilbao's painting can be seen in the Fine Arts Museum in Seville.
The factory, which had its own prison for workers who stole cigarettes(on the far right as you go in, near the Hotel Alfonso XIII) and chapel (on the left), was used until 1950s, when production was moved to more modern premises in Los Remedios. This factory, latterly owned by Altadis, was closed in 2007, signalling the end of an era in Seville.
The Tobacco Factory today
Since 1950s the factory has been used by the University of Seville for its main offices, including the Rector's, and several faculties.
Every summer, the 21 Grados (21 Degrees) arts festival is held here, with films, plays, music, flamenco,exhibitions, poetry readings and other cultural activities. See the CICUS website for details.
Calle San Fernando.
Tel: 954 551 000.
Monday to Friday 10.00 - 20.00, Saturday 10.00 - 14.00