Royal Tobacco Factory of Seville

Royal Tobacco Factory of Seville, now the University of Seville

Last updated on October 17th, 2023

🚬 The Carmen Tobacco Factory, now the University of Languages and Literature

The building of the former Royal Tobacco Factory, today the University of Seville, is a pleasant visit that is worth enjoying. As Seville was home to the Casa de Contratación, where from the 15th century onwards tobacco from America was brought to the city, several tobacco factories were set up in the city.

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A historic building that is famously associated with the opera “Carmen” by Georges Bizet

In the 18th century, the decision was taken to build the Seville Royal Tobacco Factory, a large stone building outside the city walls in the Renaissance-medieval and Baroque styles.

It has a large rectangular floor plan with two floors, a mezzanine and a rooftop terrace.
Powdered tobacco, which was common at the time, was manufactured here and later made into cigars.

Las Cigarreras, by Walter Gay, 1893

At the beginning of the 19th century, it had 12,000 workers, most of them cigar makers, like those who appear in Bizet’s opera Carmen, which is set in Seville and is based on the love story of an employee of this tobacco factory. It was the birth of a legend, that of the Spanish Venus.

The legend of Carmen. Gypsy by Víctor Moya Calvo.

It operated as a factory until 1950, when, after the factory moved to a new building in the Remedios neighbourhood, and following renovation work, it became the headquarters of the University of Seville.

Cigarreras painting by Gonzalo Bilbao - Museum of Fine Arts
Cigar makers, painting by Gonzalo Bilbao

It is one of the largest buildings in Spain. Construction took half a century and culminated with the moats in 1770.


Outer Building

Industrial building, one of the oldest of its type remaining in Europe. Rectangular, measuring 185 x 147 metres. Its façade facing the Prado de San Sebastián has a statue of the Cid in front of it, the work of the sculptor Cayetano de Acosta.
It occupies a rectangle area of 185 x 147 metres, second only in Spain to El Escorial, which measures 207 x 162 metres.

On the Avenida de San Fernando side, there is a Baroque façade made of limestone from the quarries of Morón and the Sierra de Estepa, in three sections and three tiers. In the centre, a beautiful semicircular arch flanked by double columns that support a balcony, and above it, a split pediment decorated with royal emblems finishes off the whole, above which are vases of lilies and the allegorical sculpture of Fame, the emblem of the University of Seville.

The eighteenth-century chapel, in the northeast corner, is home to the Christ of the Good Death, the work of Juan de Mesa, of the Brotherhood of Students that processions on Holy Tuesday.

The Old Dungeon-Jail, to the west, was the place of arrest for personnel who committed petty crimes. It is a small, austere building, the headquarters of the Department of Modern History.

The Moat

It surrounds the building on three sides and is marked by several guardhouses, except for the area that borders Calle San Fernando. It was built for security since the building was located on the outskirts of the city.

The enclosure, formerly surrounded by a wall, was endowed with railings in 1861 that helped to enhance one of the most beautiful buildings in the city.


Inside

Building of the Rectorate of the University of Seville

The interior is made up of 14 courtyards, rooms and large, long galleries. It has a vestibule, or halt, behind the entrance through the doorway on Calle San Fernando.

Central Courtyards

Patio del Reloj, the old stable with a belfry and a clock, has two sections with beautiful arcades. It houses the sculpture of Maese Rodrigo de Santaella, founder of the University of Seville. This courtyard is for cultural and social use.

Patio de la Fuente, where tobacco was weighed and loaded, where the four main doors of the building meet, with two sections and a fountain designed by Cayetano da Costa in 1756.

There are galleries and wide corridors that structure the building with vaults. It is very well lit by windows.

The monumental double staircase that gives access to the Auditorium and the Gallery of Rectors is worth seeing.

Paranymph hall:  The assembly hall where the most solemn academic events are held. It is decorated with paintings from the 16th and 17th centuries, including San Francisco by the painter Herrera el Viejo.

Patio del Arte: current Art Lab. Old Sevillian courtyard house of the Director. It has a central courtyard, fountain, galleries with arches and balconies and is decorated with tiles, plasterwork and woodwork from the original Baroque work.

La Gipsoteca:  a space where plaster casts are exhibited, reproducing pieces from Mesopotamian to Egyptian.

The Library: founded in 1505, enriched with the libraries of the Jesuits and other suppressed convents. It consists of 917 manuscript volumes, books of the sixteenth, eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.

Highlights include the Gutenberg Bible and Pablo de Olavide’s Plan of the city of Seville.