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Don’t miss the palace!

May 12, 2010 – 4:00 pm

This week, there’s a rare chance to visit one of Seville’s most impressive buildings, the Palacio San Telmo. It has been closed to the public during the last five years for a major refurbishment project. Anyone who has passed it in the last few months will have noticed that it now has a broad pavement outside it, next to the Paseo de la Delicias, all the better to stand back and take in its extraordinary “Churrigueresque” (a kind of Spanish baroque) facade with huge stone doorway, without getting knocked down by a passing taxi.

Even more exciting, until 16 May (Sunday), you can get a glimpse inside this whopping great building (4-8pm weekdays, 10am-7pm weekends). I haven’t made it there yet myself, but will try my best to visit over the coming weekend.

Used variously as a naval university, church seminary and ducal residence, from September it will resume its latest role as the office of the president of the Junta de Andalucia.

Built (well, started) in 1682, it was designed by Leonardo de Figueroa, helped by his son and grandson, since it took over a century to build. The 40-million-euro restoration has been carried out by architect Guillermo Vazquez Consuegra. Its chapel, with the Virgen del Buen Aire (patron saint of navigators), is exagguratedly gilted in that typically Seville way – why use just a smidgeon of gold and silver, when we can chuck cartloads of the stuff in? Pure bling-baroque.

The Salon de los Espejos (previously used as bedrooms for student sailors, then a ballroom) looked a bit more tasteful – at least mirrors are clear glass and can’t have moulded gold plastered over every last part of them. It is now used as the reception hall of the Junta`s president. That’s one way to impress a visitor. There are also a couple of patios – de la Fuente and de San Jeronimo – but unfortunately the gardens aren’t finished yet.

Check out the rogue’s gallery of 12 illustrious Sevillano personages on the roof of the back part of the palace, facing the hotel Alfonso XIII. They include – listen out for the names resonant of various plazas and buildings around the city – Rodrigo Ponce de Leon (born in Cadiz, but an adoptive Sevillano), Lope de Rueda, Velazquez, Murillo and Fray Bartolome de las Casas.

Get there now before it’s too late! Whether or not it’s to your taste is neither here nor there – it’s one-off opportunity not to be missed. You heard it here first.

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