The Giralda is the bell tower of the Cathedral of Seville in Seville, Spain, one of the largest churches in the world and an outstanding example of the Gothic and Baroque architectural styles. The tower's first two-thirds is a former Almohad minaret which, when built, was the tallest tower in the world at 97.5 m (320 ft) in height. It was one of the most important symbols in the medieval city.
The tower, an ancient minaret from the Almohad mosque of Seville, is constructed in several distinct parts from different cultures. The Islamic body is the oldest part. It was built in 1184 under the orders of the Caliph Abu Yusuf Ya'qub al-Mansur by the architect Ahmad ibn Baso and finished by Abu-l-Laith As-Siqilli in 1198. Several old buildings, including Roman stones from the ruined city of Italica, were reused to provide construction materials. The Giralda has no stairs; instead, 34 ramps are used to ascend the tower. The ramps were sufficiently wide for the muezzin to ride a horse to the top of the tower to recite the Adhan (call to prayer).
The copper sphere that originally topped the tower fell in an earthquake in 1365. Christians replaced the sphere with a cross and bell. Later, in the 16th century, the architect Hernán Ruiz designed an belfry extension to convert the minaret to a bell tower At the top of the extension stands a statue representing Faith. According to tradition, Saints Justa and Rufina, the patronesses of Seville, are also the protectors of the Giralda.
The statue stands 4 m (13 feet) in height (7 m (23 ft) with the pedestal) and has crowned the top of the tower since its installation in 1568. The statue was originally called the Giralda ("weathervane") since it twists with the wind on a weathervane. With the passage of time, the tower became known as the Giralda while the statue took the name Giraldillo.
The Renaissance section of the tower also contains a large inscription of Seville's motto, NO8DO. Alfonso X of Castile gave the motto to the city when it continued to support his rule during an insurrection. A rebus, the motto means no me ha dejado or "it did not abandon me" in reference to Seville's loyalty during Alfonso's civil war against his son, Sancho IV.
Covering the top of the tower is the "Lily section" of the tower. This surrounds the enclosure with the bell. In this section, located near the top of the tower, each corner has a basin containing bronze lilies. Below the statue of Faith sits a dome covered with stars.
The Giralda has several sister towers. The same architect, Jabir, who built the Giralda also built similar towers in what is now Morocco. The tower of the Koutoubia Mosque in Marrakesh served as a model for the Giralda and its sister, the Hassan Tower in Rabat. Several church towers in the province of Seville also bear a resemblance to the tower, and may have been inspired by the Giralda. These towers, most notably those in Lebrija and Carmona, are popularly known as Giraldillas. Several replicas of the Giralda have been built in the United States: one, now destroyed, in Madison Square Garden in New York and another in Kansas City. The clock tower of the Ferry Building in San Francisco is also based on the Giralda. The clock tower at the University of Puerto Rico's Rio Piedras campus was also inspired by the Giralda.