Located at the top of a high hill, for more than three millennia this stronghold has ruled its surroundings. It was a powerful Taifa and later the impenetrable stronghold of the last followers of Peter I of Castile. Its Roman sites, fortifications, palaces and churches have turned it into a repeated set for all kinds of films.
Plan your stay in Carmona
What to see at Carmona requires a full day at least. It is a place with important attractions both Roman, Arab and Christian. For the rest of the trip you can go to the nearby Alcalá de Guadaira or spend several days in the magnificent Seville.
It is best to review the local history before discussing what to see in Carmona. Thus, its foundation is possibly due to the Tartessians and was made more than three thousand years ago. After this enigmatic culture came Phoenicians and Carthaginians.
Already in Roman times it became one of the most important centres of the Betica. It was established as a notable producer of ceramics under the name of Carmo. Julius Caesar gave it a walled enclosure and granted it the privilege of minting its own currency. Thanks to this it sided with the famous general in his war against Pompey. The city had a forum, a theatre and an amphitheatre, as well as thermal baths.
Later, in 712, Carmona was conquered by the famous warlord Muza ben Nusayr. He made it the capital of one of the smallest coras of Al-Andalus. As Qarmuna was an important crossroads and commercial centre, it enjoyed great prosperity. In this way it will become a Taifa over time. The Berber family of the Banu Birzal expelled in 1013 the governor of the Umayyads of Cordoba, placing one of their own as king. Several fortresses and mosques were built at that time.
After losing and recovering the government of the kingdom due to its tense relations with the neighbouring Taifa of Seville, in 1067 Al-Mutadid made it pass to the dominion of this one. After passing through the hands of Almoravids and Almohads, Carmona was reconquered by Ferdinand III in 1247. The king gave the city its own charter and made a pact with the Muslims not to leave. However, Alfonso X the Wise broke the pact and carried out a distribution of land between the orders of Santiago and Calatrava. These would be in charge of ensuring their defence.
Peter I would consider Carmona as one of his favourite places of residence. So, he fortified it and built a palace. The master of the orders of Alcántara and Calatrava, Martín López de Córdoba, took in the king’s children after his death. The last supporters of the murdered king resisted Enrique de Trastámara, until they agreed to surrender in 1371, three years later; something that gives an idea of the impregnability of the steep plateau and fortifications of the town.
The confrontations between the Ponce de León and the Guzmán will have Carmona as the main scenario. Being a royalty town, the Catholic Monarchs subdued the sides by appointing a corregidor who depended on them, thus restoring order. In 1504, the village was severely affected by an earthquake, from which it soon recovered. Thus, it experienced strong growth over the next two centuries. Proof of this are the numerous convents, temples and palaces built. During 1630 it obtained the title of City from the hands of King Philip IV.
Already in the 19th century, the disentailment of many properties of the religious orders put many properties on the market. These were mostly acquired by local landowners.
The tour of the best things to see in Carmona starts with a climb. In this way you will reach the high part of the steep plateau where the old town is located. At the northeast end, the Puerta de Córdoba stands out, originally built in the first century. The place of passage would be respected by Visigoths, Arabs and Castilians. It was the point where the alcabala tax was collected for the goods brought in. In 1688 it acquired its current baroque appearance.
The importance of the Puerta de Córdoba lies in the fact that it is the only one in Spain that has three entrance arches. Thus, in addition to the central one, there are two other eyes on each side. Nowadays these secondary arches are integrated in the houses located there.
Puerta de Córdoba in Carmona. | Wikimedia
From there you will soon reach another element to see in Carmona, the Alcázar del rey don Pedro or “Alcázar de Arriba”. It was built as a residence by a local Taifa king. Later, in the 14th century, Peter I of Castile restored it. Behind its large horseshoe arch is the Parador Nacional de Turismo. The parade ground and its wide terrace stand out, from where one of the best views of the town awaits.
The Convent of Santa Clara is located in the heart of the old town. Begun in the 15th century, it was reformed over the next three centuries in various styles. The temple, with only one chapel, is surrounded by paintings and images. The tower-viewpoint of this construction that you can see in Carmona dates from the 18th century.
In the former house of the Marqués de las Torres (16th century) is now the Carmona Visitors’ Centre and Museum. This space shows archaeological objects that go from Prehistory to the Contemporary Era. Thus, an effective journey through the millennial history of this city of Seville is made.
Next to the museum stands the Priory Church of Santa Maria (1427). The temple, which is Gothic, was built over the main mosque. The main altarpiece, in Renaissance style, stands out. It is also worth visiting the Patio de los Naranjos, built on the site of what was the ablutions courtyard of the old mosque.
Continuing the walk through what to see in Carmona you reach the Plaza de San Fernando or “Plaza de Arriba”. It extends over the old Roman forum. Its original rectangular shape has been adapted to the current circular one. It contains houses from whose balconies the local rulers watched bullfighting shows, processions and executions. Among the buildings that make up this place are the House of the Old Audience, the Convent of Madre de Dios and the City Hall.
Alcazar Puerta de Sevilla
From the Church of San Bartolomé (built in the 15th century) shines its curious tower-façade and its chapel of Jesús Nazareno with its image from 1607. Meanwhile, in the Plaza de Blas Infante survives the imposing Alcazar de la Puerta de Sevilla. Built on Tartessian and Carthaginian foundations from the 9th century BC, it was adapted by the Romans in the 1st century. Thus, Julius Caesar proclaimed that Carmona was “the strongest city in the Betica”. The Muslims were to widen it. Today it has been restored for cultural events.
Made up of the Torre del Homenaje and the Torre del Oro, the Alcázar de la Puerta de Sevilla has a double entrance made up of two arches of different sizes. According to a popular saying, if you pass through the minor with your eyes closed and your nose covered, a wish will be fulfilled. Doing the same for the older one guarantees that you will get married. On the other hand, the Tourist Reception Centre is located on the ground floor of the building.
Alcazar de Puerta de Sevilla in Carmona. | Wikimedia
Opposite, there is a remarkable temple to be seen in Carmona. It is the Church of San Pedro (15th to 18th centuries). Its late tower, dated 1783, is called the Giraldilla because of its appearance. Inside, the baroque dome and the choir stand out. The glazed baptismal font from the 16th century and the baroque style sacramental chapel, designed by Ambrosio de Figueroa, are also worth a look.
In the easternmost part of the town, far from the historic centre, there are two important Roman remains. The Roman Amphitheatre was dedicated in its beginnings (1st century) to shows with wild animals. The Roman Necropolis from the 1st century has a large number of tombs and burners. This is due to the fact that the incineration of corpses was a widespread technique in those times. There are also collective mausoleums, of the family type. The Tomb of the Elephant is named after a sculpture found there, which became the symbol of eternity. It is actually a sanctuary dedicated to the Cybele and Attis deities.
Another landmark to be seen in Carmona, also in the Roman Necropolis, is the Tomb of Sirvilia, which stands out for its monumentality. It is a reproduction of a luxurious Hellenistic style mansion. Paintings on its walls allude to the resurrection of the god Osiris. The Visitors’ Centre and the Archaeological Museum complete the complex. The space allows visitors to admire objects obtained by Jorge Bonsor during his excavations. It also has a viewpoint and a terrace with great views.
These are the great festivities to be seen at Carmona. Los Mayos (1st May), Holy Week, Feria (3rd week in May), Romería de la Virgen de Gracia (1st Sunday in September), Festivities in honour of the patron saint (from 8th to 16th September) and Romería de San Mateo (21st September).