This remarkable town is chockful of ancient architecture; the university, monasteries and churches full of priceless
sacred art. You can see my earlier entry about this town here.
Nowadays, arriving in the sleepy town of Osuna one would be forgiven for thinking this was just another rural community in the vast farmlands east of Seville capital. Yet look a little closer and there is plenty of evidence to suggest that the town was once an axis of the moneyed elite that spilled out from capital.
Here a few centuries ago patronising the arts with extravagant commissions, and supporting the Church with ostentatious gifts helped secure one’s position of power and influence.
Discovering this rich and flamboyant cultural legacy makes for a fascinating weekend away. There is a golden
triangle of architecture, art and aristocrats, which includes the towns of Osuna, Écija, Carmona, and ending in the capital Seville. It makes for an ideal self-drive itinerary, with plenty of interesting places to stay, restaurants to enjoy and exceptional cultural sites to visit.
Once in Osuna, head up to the historic quarter, on the hill overlooking the town. It is a good place to start on a tour of 16th Century bling. Here the Dukes of Osuna consolidated their social climbing through the construction of over-the-top mansions and the building of exceptional art collections. In fact The Collegiate Church of Santa Maria de la Asuncion, that dominates the hill, is home to world-class craftsmanship and a very rare collection of religious paintings.
Despite the treasures held in the town, access for visitors is a little disorganised. Yet with a smile and some patience one can get to see a great deal. For example, knock on the heavy wooden door, within the elaborately carved entrance of The Collegiate Church and with luck one is greeted by the resident custodian. A ticket of only a few euro secures a personalised tour of this huge building and also the closed crypt and pantheon, both built by the town’s Dukes. The custodian, eccentric and slightly bossy, is formally trained in fine art and as a guide she determines the best place for visitors to stand and review each of the priceless pieces of art! She brings the paintings and architecture to life with both facts and anecdotes.
There are striking works by José de Ribera that have hung on loan in London’s National Gallery and New York’s Metropolitan Museum. The crypt, unique in Spain, has recently been renovated. Centuries of candle smoke contamination has been removed from the low ceilings revealing exquisite gold covered carvings. Intimate niches in the walls are filled with rare religious icons and art. Whilst, the adjacent
pantheon has a beautiful atrium, a stunning Renaissance style courtyard with ornate pillars and ancient frescos. All-in-all it’s quite a visit.
It is worth staying the night in Osuna, as there is so much else to see; from the ecclesiastical to the famous ‘St. Pedro’ street with its collection of baroque and renaissance palaces and mansion houses. The dramatic style of the architecture was considered the perfect way to impress visitors in their day and now these icons of conspicuous wealth are examples of superb craftsmanship and design from a fascinating era.
There are some B&BS as well as a few boutique style hotels in Osuna, including, at the heart of the historic district, the ‘Hospedería del Monastario’. It is a family run hotel, housed in a converted ecclesiastical building. Rooms are full of old world charm, with views
over the garden, swimming pool to the convents and churches of old town. The dining room is open for lunch and dinner to non residents too, offering more varied options than the local tapas bars.
Below are pictures of the famous ‘St. Pedro’ street (calle San Pedro)