It’s ten o’clock in the morning on July 22. On time for his appointment, the curator Jose Maria Cabeza Mendez (National Award for Restoration and Conservation of Cultural Assets) appears at the Puerta de Sevilla , the starting point for a tour of the entrails of the old town of Carmona , a Sevillian city that aspires to be declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO .
The first steps to achieve this goal have already been taken, with the recent support of the plenary session of the consistory of this town of Los Alcores. An old desire that began in 2003 and that, after various difficulties, is now taken up again with another perspective and with the very important support of the person who was director of the Seville Alcazar for 18 years.
The choice of the Puerta de Sevilla to start the route is not trivial. This point sums up like few others the philosophy of Carmona’s candidacy, which brings a novelty to the previous attempts that have been made to achieve such qualification. It is not only about the recognition of the immeasurable architectural and artistic heritage of the city, but also about the relationship with its landscape, specifically, from the promontory on which the old Carmo stands, a high mound (with a height of 235 meters above sea level) that, in addition to giving the municipality a strategic defensive position, has soil with a peculiar stratigraphy : It is hollow, full of water inside, with galleries and underground mines, which has allowed the town to have been inhabited for 5,000 years by all the civilizations settled in the Guadalquivir valley.
1. Puerta de Sevilla
When a visitor arrives at the Puerta de Sevilla , they are impressed by the ocher color of the complex, made up of the remains of the old fortress and the Torre del Homenaje. An albero yellow hue that contrasts with the lime that prevails in the Carmona farmhouse. The curator Jose Maria Cabeza gives the explanation for it. It is an autochthonous stone of the region: the alcoriza. And that is where the landscape is justified as a support for cultural heritage. The Torre del Homenaje itself sits on the rocky terrain, without the need for artificial foundations. A natural use that is repeated in numerous properties.
Archaeological investigations carried out in the last 30 years confirm that Carmona has been inhabited, at least, since the Chalcolithic. “In the underground galleries there are reinforcements of Roman engineering, which explains that they had already been used by previous civilizations, such as the Turdetans,” says Cabeza.
An example of the use made by different cultures can also be seen in the main access to the Puerta de Sevilla: The lower arch is Roman (Julio Cesar said of Carmo that it was the best fortified city), then another horseshoe arch from the Muslim era is superimposed and, above both, a matacan appears, the defensive overhang of the Castilians. Cabeza adds another fact: “All the brotherhoods of the city pass through here, so the religious representations pass through a place that is contemporary with Christ. This coincidence is rare in Andalusia”.
2. The Forum
Carmona maintains the main axes of the Roman era. The cardo (which joins the Puerta de Sevilla with the Puerta de Cordoba) and the decumano. Both intersect in the forum, the current Plaza de San Fernando, remodeled by the grandfather of Jose Maria Cabeza in 1924 and made up of houses from the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries, whose numerous windows were rented to witness the shows that took place in this important enclave. celebrated: autos sacramentales, autos de fe and bullfights.
In its center stands a lamppost designed by Anibal Gonzalez , identical to those used in Seville’s Plaza de America.
3. The Roman Thistle
The Roman Thistle–Calle Prim– continues to display the importance of that time. It brings together the buildings of greatest architectural value in the old town. It includes from the Puerta de Sevilla to the Cordoba. And it is the central road of this city of Los Alcores.
4. La Prioral
Among the most important buildings located in the old Roman cardo of Carmona is the Priory Church of Santa Maria , built on an old mosque from which the ablutions patio survives (whose orange trees offer a placid shade in summer) . It is made up of columns carrying different invoices, among which one that preserves a Visigothic calendar stands out.
The temple began to be built in 1424 from the retrochoir, where poorer materials were used, and continued towards the head, where its architecture, elevation and ornamentation acquire a cathedral air. The priory worships the venerable Virgin of Grace , patron saint of Carmona and one of the most important Marian icons in Spain.
5. The conservation of its own urban planning
Not far from there is the food market, which Jose Maria Cabeza calls “the urban living room”. It sits on the site that was occupied by the Convent of Santa Catalina, which disappeared with the Confiscation of Mendizabal. Its design is reminiscent of the Castilian porticoed squares, although with decorative elements in line with Carmona urban planning, where whitewash and clarity prevail on the walls.
This is another of the realities that are included in the candidacy file: the urban management mechanisms to conserve heritage .
6. The Museum of the City
One of the symbols of Carmona is the Griffin , a mythological figure (half bird, half deer) painted on an amphora from the 4th century BC that is exhibited in the Museum of the City, former palace of the Marquises de las Torres.
Impressive Roman mosaics found in the town center are also contemplated in this enclosure, of which the best reference is the one shown in the main courtyard of the Town Hall, built on the old house that the Jesuits had in the city during the 18th century and which survives the Church of El Salvador , with its unfinished tower.
Another enclave that is a vestige and a clear example of the mark left by the Romans in Carmona is the necropolis that is located on the outskirts of the city and in which the visitor can get an idea of the importance that this civilization had on this promontory.
7. A privileged place
The tour through the bowels of Carmona concludes in what is known asRonda del Cenicero , a few meters from the Alcazar de Rey don Pedro (Carmona once had three), converted into a parador. From here you can see half the province of Seville.
A natural balcony that explains the importance that the landscape has had in the city’s 5,000-year history , since its privileged position made it difficult for it to be invaded, which is why Fernando III considered his conquest strategic to achieve that of Seville, which is why he entered in this city a year before.
Its wide municipal term (the fifth largest in Andalusia) has also allowed it to live off all the fruits of the extensive plain that surrounds it. Intertwined landscape and heritage that validate Carmona as a World Heritage Site.