Torre del Oro

By the Editors of the Madain Project

The Torre del Oro, literally meaning the "Tower of Gold" (برج الذهب), is a dodecagonal military watchtower in al-Andalus the modern day Seville, southern Spain. It was erected by the Almohad Caliphate in order to control access to Seville via the Guadalquivir river. The most recent restorations to the tower were made in 2005 CE.


The Torre del Oro is located on paseo Cristóbal Colón, on the bank of the Guadilquivir river.

Constructed in the first third of the 13th century CE, the tower served as a prison during the Middle Ages. Its name comes from the golden shine it projected on the river, due to its building materials (a mixture of mortar, lime and pressed hay).


circa 1145 CE

Construction Details
The tower is divided into three levels, the first level, dodecagonal, was built in 1220 CE by order of the Almohad governor of Seville, Abù l-Ulà; As for the second level, of only 8 meters, also dodecagonal, was built by Peter of Castile in the fourteenth century, a hypothesis that has been confirmed by archaeological studies; The third and uppermost being circular in shape was added after the previous third level, Almohad, was damaged by the 1755 CE Lisbon earthquake. Rebuilding of the third level was made by Brusselian military engineer Sebastian Van der Borcht in 1760 CE.

Eighteenth Century Damage and Restoration

circa 1145 CE

The tower was badly damaged by the Lisbon earthquake of 1755 CE, and the Marquis of Monte Real proposed demolishing it to widen the way for horse-drawn coaches and straighten access to the bridge of Triana; however, the people of Seville objected and appealed to the king, who intervened.

Restoration and Additions
In 1760 CE, the damage was repaired, with repairs to the bottom floor of the tower, reinforcement with rubble and mortar, and the creation of a new main access via the passageway to the path around the wall. That same year, the upper cylindrical body was built, a work of the military engineer Sebastian Van der Borcht, also architect of the Royal Tobacco Factory of Seville. These works changed the appearance of the tower as compared to what is seen in engravings from the sixteenth or seventeenth centuries CE.

Military Function

circa 1145 CE

It was one of two anchor points for a large chain that would have been able to block the river. The other anchor-point has since been demolished or disappeared, possibly collapsing during the 1755 Lisbon earthquake. The chain was used in the city's defense against the Castilian fleet under Ramón de Bonifaz in the 1248 Reconquista. Bonifaz broke the river defenses and isolated Seville from Triana.

Naval Museum

circa 1145 CE

As of 2008 CE the naval museum or the maritime museum of Torre del Oro displayed a variety of old navigational instruments and models, as well as historical documents, engravings, and nautical charts, relating Seville to the Guadalquivir River and the sea.

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