The Amazing Hospital of Charity in Seville

Spanish Art, in its huge diversity, was never frightened by extreme representations of pain, sadness and death.

The Hospital of Charity in Seville received a great impulse with Miguel de Manara whose profligate life before he joins the Brotherhood of Charity would have inspired the character of Don Juan. The almshouse became more and more active and with him, the most important charitable house in Seville.  His wealth enabled him to finish the construction of the church and he founded the hospital in 1664. With its white walls, its dressing of reddish stones and azulejos, the façade offers a typical example of Sevillian Baroque architecture. The square patio adorned with Tuscan arcades is embellished with plants, Dutch ceramic tiles of the XVIIIth century and the fountain decorated with Italian statues featuring Charity.

The façade of the Hospital of Charity, Seville, Spain.

Image source: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/b/b3/Fachada_del_Hospital_de_la_Caridad.jpg

The Patio with Tuscan arcades and fountain.

Image source: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/4/46/Patio_001.jpg

The main altar of the church irresistibly draws the visitors' attention with the scene of the empty cross above the Entombment sculpted by Pedro Roldan in 1670. This work symbolizes the ultimate act of love for our fellow beings: the burial of the dead. This scene offers a remarkable realism in Spanish art that is never frightened by the extreme representation of pain, sadness and death. For the ornementation of the Hospital church, Miguel de Manara also requested two great artists from Seville, Juan Valdès Leal and Bartolomeo Esteban Murillo, in order to illustrate major themes of his own concerns: vanity of terrestrial existence and charity. The nave of the edifice houses one of the most important collection of paintings in town. "Finis Gloriae Mundi" (1671-1672) by Valdès Leal on the South wall shows the ephemeral character of celebrity. In their tombs are lying the corpses of a bishop, and a knight of the Order of Calatrava. (Manara belonged to this order). In the backstage are found the skeleton of a king in the shade and several skulls. Above, the Christ's hand holds a pair of scales meaning that with death, all men will be equal. As opposed to this macabre pessimism, six paintings by Bartolomeo Esteban Murillo contrast by their pleasantness and depict merciful actions, such as Saint Elizabeth of Hungary looking after a leper (1671-1674). Five paintings out of the eleven were stolen by Marshall Soult during the Napoleonic wars. Today, the hospital still dispenses medical care and social assistance. 

The main altar, the Entombment by Pedro Roldan, 1670.

Image source : http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/6/6b/Altar_mayor_001.jpg

The symbolic "Finis Gloriae Mundi" by Juan Valdez Leal, 1670-1671.

Image source: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/3/36/Finis_gloriae_mundi_from_Juan_Valdez_Leal.jpg

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