THINGS TO SEE IN ZUFRE
by Chris Chaplow
The village centre has several small squares; Plaza de la Iglesia, La Plaza de las Quebradas, and Paseo de los Alcaldes.
Plaza de la Iglesia (Church square) also known as Plaza del Ayuntamiento (Town Hall square) is well worth taking a walk through the town to see this quiet, pretty square (without any cafes) where you can see the church, town hall, and Fuente de Consejo public water fountain (see below). In spring, you can see hundreds of swallows and house martins flying to their nests, as well as smelling the sweet scent of orange blossom from the trees outside the church. Bullfights took place here from 1790 until 1890 (see Plaza de Toros).
The town hall building was finished in 1570 and has a main façade of three arches on columns, which opens out onto the square. This multi-use building is said to have been constructed by Hernan Ruiz II (although there is no documentation to support this claim). The building consisted of the high and low council chambers, a grain store, a jail and a fountain. Architecturally the building has Mudejar elements such as the alfices or Moorish horseshoe-shaped arches,but also Gothic and Renaissance influences, and overall a more Castilian appearance than Andalucian.The building still houses the offices of the local council and us probably the oldest town hall in continuous use in Andalucia.
On the lower level, reached from steps in the square, is an open terrace in front of the entrance to the original ayuntamiento. Over the old wooden door is the coat of arms of Zufre, which includes the crest of King Charles V who married Isabella of Portugal in the Alcazar of Sevilla in 1526. Isabella's entourage probably stayed here in Zufre en route to Seville, hence this honour bestowed on the town. Behind the old wooden door is the council chamber where there are still two (of three) chairs which were used by the Tribunal of the Holy Spanish Inquisition, positioned looking out towards the square, so verdicts could be handed down in public. This chamber is normally locked, but tourists can ask for the key in the current town hall reception, at the back of the building at a higher level. (Open 08.00 to 15.00 Monday to Friday Tel: 959 19 80 09.)
Fuente del Consejo
Fuente del Consejo(the Fountain of Advice) is next to the town hall. This fountain has provided fresh mountain spring water to the weary traveller since the Roman times.It has two levels: the upper, for people, and is decorated with a marble mask of a newt's face, while the lower (and larger) basin is intended for livestock. Overflow water is channelled by underground pipes to the allotments below.The fountain was referred to by Juan de Mal Lara in 1570.
Iglesia Parroquial de la Purisima Concepcion More>
Iglesia Parroquial de la Purisima Concepcion
The original single-nave building dates back to the 14th century, constructed, as is common, on the site of a Moorish temple. Its style was slightly fortified and Gothic-Mudejar elements can be seen on the main façade.
Hernan Ruiz II added two large ceiling domes in the central part of the nave, decorated with arches and radial concentric ribs which were typical of his style. The main facade is Gothic and at the opposite (altar) end of the church's exterior you can also see Gothic gargoyles, however the central section is Renaissance, suggesting that this was also completed by Hernan Ruiz II.The tower is more recent and, like many in the area, was rebuilt in 1758 after the terrible Lisbon earthquake. The church has a famous painted altarpiece. More>
Plaza de Toros
"This bullring, was constructed between 1879 and 1885 by a private company formed by 30 shareholders". Visitors walking past and reading this simple sign will be unaware of the turbulent history of bullfights in Zufre. The first records of a corral de novillos in Zufre dates to 1547. However, in 1682 the Archbishop of Seville banned bullfights during religious festivals as they had become purely popular merriment. This ban caused a long series of arguments between the church and the mayor for not complying with the ban, leading to court adjudications and fines. Plaza de la Iglesia was the only suitable square in the village, argued the mayor, and it wasn't a deliberate act of defiance to hold the bullfights in front of the church. To solve the problem, in 1790 the mayor constructed a physical wall across the Plaza de la Iglesia to divide it into two, one for religious use and the other for public use.
By the second half of the 19th century, bullfighting changed from being a free public festival to a commercially-led industry. The aforementioned private company engaged the master Portuguese stonemason Domingo Alfonso de Amorin, who had lived in Zufre since 1860 after marrying a girl from Badajoz and was known locally as 'Tio Domingo el Portugues'.
The bullring was inaugurated in 1885, but in the 20th century it fell into disuse and the Town Hall took possession of it in lieu of debts in 1949. It was remodelled and reopened in 2009, and has seating for 1,000.Its unusual elliptical shape is due to the hillside setting and the 1948 and 2009 refurbishments to squeeze it into line with bullfighting regulations. The plaza de toros does not have a callejon, the protected corridor between the bulls and the spectator's terrace. Instead it has eight burladores (protection boards).Outside the ring, in the pen, it only has six. Nowadays only a couple of bullfights take place every year, timed to coincide with the festivals. It is also used in the summer for cultural events and concerts. The dilapidated wall in Plaza de la Iglesia was removed in 1928 and no evidence of it remains today.
Ermita de Santa Zita
This small chapel is located on the eastern edge of the village next to Casa Vesta hotel and has some interesting elements.
The unconfirmed legend of Santa Zita (in Zufre) is that some prisoners from Genoa, Italy, an important trading city for Seville, were held in the chapel. They prayed to Santa Zita for help and after their unexpected release, and true to their promise, they returned to Zufre to donated to the chapel an image of their home town's saint -Santa Zita de Luccar. Luccar is a village near Genoa where the incorrupt body of Santa Zita (1218 - 1272), the patron saint of domestic servants, lies. Her image is always shown with flowers in her hand. She kept breadcrumbs in a pocket in her apron and gave them out to the poor. When her master once questioned what was in the apron, she answered 'I love flowers', and he only saw flowers.
The image of the Santa Zita resides in the chapel and is usually placed in a position that can be seen through the hatch in the front door. On or near the Saint's day, 27 April, the image of the virgin is carried in a procession by women from the village up to the Iglesia Parroquial de la Purisima Concepcion. 100m from the chapel you may notice a stone pillar and iron cross. Here lie the ashes from the original virgin statue, which burned in a fire on 20 December 1889, caused by too many candles left burning by the devoted. The procession stops here for song.
The chapel itself is a simple single nave and pitched roof construction, divided into three sections by two pointed arches, supported by four exterior buttresses. One arch is semi-circular (Renaissance) and the other is Gothic, suggesting a change in fashion at the time of different rebuilds. The chapel lacks decoration in the stonework, which is typical of the 12th century. 16th century documentation records a belfry over the front entrance and the collapse of this probably led to the brick entrance doorway. The current plain ceiling replaced a coffered (series of square or rectangular inset panels) after the fire of 1889. When the floor was replaced in 1920 an eighth-century Visigothic capital (piece at top of a column) was found and is now used as blessing font.
The chapel was most likely adjacent to the main track leading out of the town to the east and down to the trade route along the bottom of the river valley that linked Seville with Portugal.
Paseo de los Acaldes
A park area, open on one side to fantastic views over the countryside at the edge of the escarpment. Trees provide shade. The benches and entrance gates are ornately tiled. Centrepiece is a fountain of four ceramic frogs each spurting a water jet into the centre. There are two outdoor cafés serving drinks and snacks, and meals at lunchtime.
The Paseo de Zufre (original name) was constructed by the expropriation of three sloping allotments in 1932. A retaining wall was constructed and the land infilled to give a level area. The tiled front wall, benches and fountain were constructed in 1940 by a team lad by Santiago Flores.
The 'Quiosco de El Paseo',the café-bar at one end, also dating back to the 1940s,was reopened in 2007. At the other end the Mercardo de Abastos (fresh food market) was completed in 1951. In this market there is a butcher and on Monday and Tuesday a fishmonger. The paving at the back was laid in 1961 and the Bar de Sociosin 1979.
The 'Alcaldes' (mayors) in today's name refers to José Navarro and Andrés Pascual. José Navarro Rodríguez was mayor of Zufre in 1931, and Andrés Pascual López was the mayor of Zufre from 1940 to his death in 1957.
Torre de Harina
The 'Flour Tower' is a defensive tower which dates from the12th Century and is part of the old Almohad wall. It is constructed from mud bricks and this can be seen today in the centre of the wall panels. The major reinforcements to the four corners were part of a 2001 reconstruction. The tower's name is nothing to do with edible flour, but stems from the mud dust emitted from the decaying tower. It can only be visited when the post office is open - from 09.30 to 10.00 weekdays.
This tower is built entirely from stone. Located between Calle Carnecería and Calle Torre,its rectangular base measures 12m. Of Almohad origin, it forms part of the curtain wall that surrounds the town and has a commanding view over the river valley to the east and the main trade route from Seville to Portugal.
Olive oil cooperative
The olive oil plant is the only industry in the village. It can be seen operating during the harvest season in December and January.
Outside the village
Ermita Virgin del Puerto
The Sanctuary shrine was built on a Roman site. Constructed from masonry and plastered brick, it features a single nave subdivided into four sections with semi-circular arches. The nave has a modern pitched roof. The chancel has a rectangular plan and domed roof, topped off by a square main chapel. Normally kept in a glass case is an image of the virgin by the sculptor Antonio Castillo Lastucci in 1937 as a copy of the original the burned in a fire and was attributed to Juan de Mesa. A copy of the contract to reproduce the image can be seen framed on the chapel wall. In the floor (front right of the nave) there is a stone slab that covers a chamber containing the ashes of the original virgin. Outside and external cloister provides shelter and provide protection.
The 'Misa de Mayo' festival is on the third Sunday in May. Pilgrims leave the village at 09.00 and make way to the chapel making obligatory rest stops at the crosses by the road. At 13.00 a horse race takes place of three circuits around the chapel, it is followed by a mass and then a picnic. In the evening, back in the town another horse race takes place.
The main Romeria Virgin del Puerto (pilgrimage)however is on a Sunday at end of August when the Virgin Mary is carried from the Ermita Virgin del Puerto to the village to be paraded around the streets. She is returned two weeks later.
Ermita Virgin de Pueblo is located 12 km south of Zufre on the HV-3129 near the dam of the Zufre Reservoir (GPS: 37.784252, -6.288201). It is open from 10.00 to 20.00 hrs. You may need to ask at the guardian's house for a key.
Old Railway Station
There used to be a railway line from Minas de Cala to San Juan de Aznalfarache, Sevilla which opened in 1905 and closed in 1955. The line led to economic development for Zufre, particularly as there was a branch line from Zufre to Santa Olalla. The station was located a few km east of the village down in the valley next to the (old) road bridge on the road to Santa Olalla. It cannot be seen today as the valley was flooded with the construction of the Embalse de Zufre (Zufre reservoir) in the 1980's. However it did resurface in the drought of 1992.
If you are interested in a personalised tour of the village, contact knowledgeable local guide Felix Alvarez Rosillo on Tel: 655 85 35 84 or email: [email protected]