As we tend to call Sevilla an ‘open-air museum’ one does not have to search a lot to find her impressive monuments. But one monument in particular still often is forgotten by visitors. But ask any local in the city and they will point you out a route north, where she stands: La Puerta de la Macarena, Seville’s royal gate.
As was normal through medieval times, Seville as an important city had always been walled since Roman times. It was Julius Caesar himself who ordered the construction of the first city walls around his beloved ‘’Julia Romula’’. But it was the Moors who created the city walls how we know them now, creating a network of more than seven kilometres of wall, more than a hundred towers and thirteen main gates. In the 19th century, the majority of the city walls were demolished in favour of the growth of the city, but of the original thirteen gates, three were preserved: La Puerta de Córdoba, el Postigo del Aceite and of course la Puerta de la Macarena. The gate of Córdoba and the Macarena gate stay connected through a part of the wall with seven towers, which was preserved during the demolition. These monuments are still to be visited up to date, in the north of the city centre of Seville.
Makrin, Macaria or Macarius?
The gate of Macarena has always been the most northern entrance to the city, already since the Moors created ‘’fortress Sevilla’’. The gate at that time was known under the name of Bab-al-Makrin, though certain theories exist over where the current name of the gate and the neighbourhood comes from. All theories are somehow connected with certain persons. Some say the name is an evolution of the name of Hercules’ daughter, Macaria, her father being the mythical founder of the city. Others say it comes from the name of an important Roman noble living in the area called Macarius. But the most accepted theory is that of a Moor called Macarena, who lived next to the gate and passed through it regularly to go to his inherited property which was to be found just outside the city gate.
Behold the king of Spain!
After the conquest of the city in 1248 by king Ferdinand III, the city for good transformed into a major Catholic city in Europe. Seville even sometimes hosted the royal seat, as it was in its own royal palace the Real Alcázar. But the Spanish royal court was to be moved through the country throughout history, and so Seville became a city to visit for the kings of Spain. The Macarena gate was then baptised into the Royal gate, hosting entrances of Isabel I of Castille, Ferdinand II of Aragon, Charles I and Phillip IV. Charles I, the first king of Spain as the country we know it and first holding the title of Holy Roman Emperor, entered through the gate at the 10th of March 1526, for his royal wedding with Isabel of Portugal was to be held in Seville. His son Phillip II, by surprise, changed the title of the royal gate to the Puerta de Goles, breaking tradition, which was later reinstalled by his grandson Phillip IV. From the entrance of the gate, we find the street of San Luis, which has been historically one big road all the way up to the royal palace. Along the way this street contains a lot of churches, because who knows how many times the king wants to pray on his way to the centre?!
While in the Moorish era (and also a vast part after the conquest) the gate had a sober Almohad outlook, the gate was refurbished and changed into a typical classic gate in the 18th century. This is why the gates stand out from its surroundings and the other gates by its design and bright colours. Most known is the gate for its ceramic (1922) which tops the arch showing us the ‘most beautiful’ and ‘most powerful’ Virgin Mary of all: La Virgen de Esperanza de Macarena.
It is this Virgin that takes the spotlight as one of the most attended processions leaves every year at the so-called ‘madrugada’, the night from Holy Thursday to Good Friday. At this night the most famous brotherhoods of Seville leave around midnight, to walk the road of penitence and to come back around midday. The ‘salida’ or departure of la Macarena is one of the most spectacular of all as she also, like the great kings of Spain did before her, passes through her own gate (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TIm7Z-cHbqg). Behold how the locals salute their Virgin!
Especially for this and her historical value the Gate of Macarena is one of the most symbolical and cherished monuments of the city of Seville. It is for sure worth passing through the gate and visiting the Virgins own Basilica when staying in Seville.