During my recent trip to Seville, I came across the old convent of La Merced, in the heart of the city, which now houses the Seville Fine Arts Museum. This historical gem occupies a significant block in the heart of Seville and I could not help but be enchanted by it.
One of the most remarkable features I discovered in the convent was the Imperial Staircase, a true masterpiece of Mannerist craftsmanship. Built in 1612 by the talented architect and sculptor Alonso Álvarez de Albarrán of the Sevillian school, this staircase is an absolute marvel. Its elegance lies in the fact that it gracefully connects three main cloisters: the Great Cloister, the Bojes Cloister and the Aljibe Cloister, each with its own unique character and historical significance.
What makes the Imperial Staircase a hidden gem is its exquisite architecture and unique iconographic programme. This architectural marvel is adorned with intricate depictions of the Virgin Mary or Marian themes, elegantly housed in a cubic box.
These stories include the Annunciation, the Birth of Jesus, the Visitation, the Assumption of Mary, the Coronation of the Virgin and various other events and attributes associated with the Mother of Jesus in Christian theology. Each of these stories has a particular religious and spiritual significance in the Christian faith and can be represented through various forms of art and iconography, such as on the Imperial Staircase in the old convent of La Merced in Seville.
The staircase has a double beginning in its two sections and culminates in an octagonal dome. This dome is supported by angular spikes that form pairs of diamond tips and double oculi in the corners, which enhance the visual impact of the space and show off the magnificent Mannerist decorations that adorn the staircase.
The name "Imperial" is appropriate for this staircase, as it is centrally located and emphasises its original purpose as a private and intimate space in the daily life of the monastery. The separate flights for the ascent and descent only add to its grandeur and functionality.
Finding the Imperial Staircase was like being immersed in the art and history of the old La Merced Monastery. It is a hidden treasure that I had the pleasure of discovering during my recent trip to Seville, and I recommend it to all future visitors looking for a unique and impressive experience in this charming city.