A Tower of Gold and Potatoes

On one of my recent strolls home from Goldenmac (computer service) in the neighborhood of Los Remedios followed by a stop at the Foreigners Office (travel papers) in the Plaza de España, I walked most of the way along the river. This walk took me past the Torre del Oro (the Tower of Gold), a beautiful historic landmark. The tower was built as a defensive lookout in 1220 by the Almohad Dynasty, the Moorish ruling dynasty of the time.


There was a companion tower across the river and a gigantic chain was said to be stretched between the two to prevent enemy ships from sailing upriver. That only lasted 28 years when, during the Reconquest, a powerful ship was able to break the chain and isolate Sevilla from Triana, which caused Sevilla to soon surrender to the Christian invaders (led by San Geraldo’s 22-Greats Grandfather Fernando III). Although I’ve read many times about the solitary chain said to be stretched from tower to tower, I’ve found information recently that explains it was really a string of boats. The boats were attached by a chain between the towers and used as a defense and, more importantly, as a bridge between Sevilla and Triana. Either way, it didn’t stop Great-Grandpa.


The narrower (but still 12-sided) top to the tower was added some time in the 1300s and the capped dome was added in 1760. The other tower is thought to have collapsed during the Great Lisbon Earthquake of 1755 (more than 400km/250 miles away). The tsunami and fires that followed almost completely destroyed Lisbon.


During the Middle Ages, the tower was used as a prison. There are a couple of different stories about how the tower got its name. But the most likely is the fact that the tower had a golden glow that reflected on the river. It is still said that the reason for the glow was because the tower was possibly originally covered with gilded ceramic tile. But, during restoration work in 2005, it was determined that the golden glow was produced by the mixture of lime mortar and straw. Another story often repeated is that the name came from the fact that the tower was used to store the precious metals plundered, oops, I mean brought from the New World. But that appears to be another legend not based in fact (especially since the name in Arabic was Golden Tower long before Spain began to bring its plunder, I mean treasure (I don’t know what I could possibly be thinking), to Sevilla.


As we settled ourselves into our seats this morning at our usual table at Emperador Trajano, San Geraldo beamed at me and said, “Listen to what’s playing!” Fred Astaire was singing “Heaven, I’m In Heaven.” But Fred wasn’t singing about Patatas Bravas.

San Geraldo began to sing quietly along, and he finished the phrase with what he thought were the correct lyrics “… When we’re out together dancing in the street.” I explained to him that the real words were, “When we’re out together dancing cheek to cheek.” He told me it didn’t matter; he liked his original version better anyway — the one with patatas bravas.

Author: Moving with Mitchell

From Brooklyn, New York; to North Massapequa; back to Brooklyn; Brockport, New York; back to Brooklyn... To Boston, Massachusetts, where I met Jerry... To Marina del Rey, California; Washington, DC; New Haven and Guilford, Connecticut; San Diego, San Francisco, Palm Springs, and Santa Barbara, California; Las Vegas, Nevada; Irvine, California; Sevilla, Spain. And Fuengirola, Málaga..

22 thoughts on “A Tower of Gold and Potatoes”

  1. You learn something new every day…as many times as I have walked past that tower I never thought it was so old. Thanks for the bit of nostalgia and the pictures…makes me wish I was in Sevilla.


    1. Raulito:
      My pleasure as always. I was never much interested in historic details. Blogging has really changed that for me. I can't believe how much I'm learning. (And I'm constantly amazed at the age of the structures still in use around here!) I hope you can get back to Sevilla some day!

  2. You really are living in the most fascinating place which is slowly revealing all these bits of history and speculation to you. And so beautiful. I wonder what you'll discover in September.

    But I hate the prove you're not a robot stuff which I usually have to do three or four times. It's too difficult to see.

    1. Kristi:
      I agree with you about the word verification. Sometimes it's smooth. Lately, it's been a pain. (I've just been visiting some other sights and trying multiple times to submit my comments).

      When I didn't use the service, I started receiving a lot of annoying spam. I also tried the process where I have to approve the comments before they appear, but I hated that I was delaying comments appearing. It might be worth re-considering. I've been hearing a lot of negative comments yet again about Google's word verification.

      Thanks for sticking with it!

  3. I remember climbing the Torre del Oro when I was in Seville. It cost a few pesetas but it was very interesting. I have a fascination with Old things and you often help me scratch that itch.

  4. Fascinating history – and that tower would make a nice single-dwelling conversion (with modern plumbing and air-con). Is it up for sale?

    It took me years and years and many, many convictions to discover that, when a song waxes lyrical about dancing cheek to cheek, in polite society that usually means the face cheeks only …

    1. Owl Wood:
      You missed your chance. The tower was put up for sale as scrap in 1868 (that was before you were born, wasn't it). Anyway, the residents of the city very intelligently didn't let that happen.

      Thanks so much for the cheek-to-cheek information. Very good to know.

    1. Ms. Sparrow:
      So much music is international. Some mornings at Emperador Trajano, Adele is singing. Other mornings it's Moby or Frank Sinatra or the soundtrack to the French film "Amelie" or Lou Reed or Flamenco by performers we don't know or popular Spanish singers we don't know. So, sometimes it's familiar, but we still have a lot to learn. (And it all depends on who's working!)

  5. I really like that you and therefore we, get to know about where you are living. Sevilla is truly becoming your home.
    Gerry is hilarious! He knows how to get you going!

  6. The story of the chain and the boats (and Great Grandpa) is wonderful. You live a truly beautiful place!

    By the way, I like Gerry's version best; it just fits so well with all those parades which Sevilla is so fond of.

    1. Elaine:
      You know, they DID write a song with those exact lyrics. I believe they even called it "Dancing in the Street." There was no need for San Geraldo to bastardize another perfectly good song. (But he wouldn't be San Geraldo if he didn't.)

      Whenever I get in a rut, I just take a walk and fall in love with the city all over again.

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