Built in the year 1221 by order of Governor Abu-I-Ula, under Almohad rule. Since its inception became known as Torre del Oro, the Tower of Gold, “Borg – al – dsayeb”.
Some hypotheses regarding the origin of its name have been considered, since those people that believed the Sun’s rays produced this golden effect when reflecting on the tiles adorning its wall, even those who thought that its name was due to the treasures left by Galleons coming from America. The truth is that Muslims and Christians called it Tower of Gold since its construction.
This twelve-sided Defensive Tower was raised on the left bank of Guadalquivir River. It served as a surveillance and defense of industrial zone named Arenal and its river port as well as the bridge of boats, which was the only link of the city with the Aljarafe in the other side. During a long time believed that on the opposite side of the river stood another tower and between both there was a chain closing the entrance to Seville through the river. Subsequent studies have verified that no vestiges at all to confirm that, but could have been a chain linked to a few planks as floats; it could have a bollard on the bank of Triana where the chain was attached to close the harbor. The truth is that the chain broken by Admiral Bonifaz and his fleet of Cantabrian and Galician vessels during the conquest of Seville by Fernando III the Saint was the chain of the bridge of boats. That action let Seville isolated of the Aljarafe from where supplies and weapons were received. By royal granting the coats of arms of Santander and Laredo got an unfurled sails galley breaking a chain attached to the Tower of Gold.
Actually after the last restoration, a controversy has been created about how the original tower was built by the Almohads. While art historians say that it was composed of two bodies, the lower made of mud and stones and bricks the upper, archaeologists decant to the upper body was built by Pedro I a century later. In any case, the tower had another chamber now under the street level that made it an impressive Tower on the river bank. This chamber was blocked off with debris, in order to improve its stability after suffering Lisbon earthquakes in 1755. In the 14th century, King Pedro I called the Cruel or the Strict, either ordered the construction of the upper body or simply garnished on the Mudejar style.
In 1358, when King Pedro was in Sevilla, took Doña Aldonza Coronel from the convent of Santa Clara. She had been married to Don Alvar Pérez de Guzmán “The Old”. At the beginning she didn’t want, even she left voluntarily later. The King settled her in the Tower of Gold under the supervision of three knights for fear of his main lover Doña María de Padilla who dwelt in Alcazar. Don Juan de la Cerda was married to the other sister Doña María Coronel. He participated in the treason to the King Pedro, reaching an agreement with Aragon’s King Pedro IV to revolt Andalusia in favor of Enrique de Trastamara. When arrested he was imprisoned in the Tower of gold and executed despite real forgiveness given to his wife at the Court in Tarazona. Legend has it, that the King harassed Doña María Coronel that had taken refuge in the convent of Santa Clara after the execution of her husband, despite the King was lover of her sister Aldonza. The King sent to fetch her and Doña María hid in a ditch covered by soil, the grass sprouted immediately avoiding to be found. The King insisted and cornered Doña María at the kitchen, who poured oil boiling on herself disfiguring the face and part of her body.
The third body was raised in 1760 after the earthquake of Lisbon. Earthquakes have affected the Tower throughout history, especially those of 1504 and 1755. As a consequence of the first, the tower had to be reinforced by a belt of iron hugging around its perimeter. During the second, that took place on 9 November 1755 the city was devastated, the Tower suffered so much damage that the Mayor of Alcazar recommended its demolition to ensure the public passage and the subsistence of the quayside, but rehabilitation was opted; although with slowness, from March 1760 the most important works so far were made culminated with the placement of the third body, cylindrical, without ornaments and topped by a dome of yellow glazed tiles.
At the beginning of 19th century the “Guadalquivir River Navigation Company” sought to establish their offices in the tower. The company built in Seville the first steamship in Spain, the “Real Fernando”, whose model is located on the ground floor of this museum. In 1822 the Navy established in the Tower the Port Captaincy Office; the Navy was granted with its usufruct in 1870, keeping this right since then. The Navy has taken care of one of the most important monument of our heritage. At the end of Expo 1929, the local Naval Authority moved from the tower to the new building built as a pavilion of the Marine and the Tower got empty. It was declared national monument in 1931. In 1936, by order of the Ministry of the Navy and by proposal of the Naval Museum a branch of it was arranged to be stablish at the Tower. The Civil War paralyzed the works that were retaken in 1942. The first and second floors were enabled for the Museum and the third for offices. On July 24, 1944 the Maritime Museum was opened.
On the night of February 28, 1969 another strong earthquake happened in Seville that caused serious damage to Tower, mostly affecting the third body, forcing to block off some spaces on the two upper chambers. Finally, the Tower has suffered two major restorations, one in 1991, on the occasion of the Universal Exhibition of Seville, Expo 92 and the last in 2005 for general cleaning of coating, modification of access and new external lighting. The Museum comprises two floors can be visited and a panoramic terrace. On the ground floor speech of exhibition starts showing the history of the Tower until the end of the career of Indies with the transfer of the House of Trade to Cadiz; It highlights the copy of the engraving of Johannes Janssonius from Seville in 1617, where clearly observe the walled enclosure and the view of the Tower before the addition of 1760. On the same floor you can admire one of the main parts of the Museum: the model of the “Real Fernando”, first Steamboat built in Spain, which did the route Seville-Sanlucar and were General Espartero led to his exile in 1843.
On the second floor is found an exhibition focused on different periods of the Spanish Armada, in which maps, charts and nautical instruments, as well as the around the world with Magellan can be seen. Wonderful views of Seville and its river can be seen from the panoramic terrace.