Friday, 7 February 2014

La Plaza de Toros: The Bull Ring!

Like it or loath it, the bull ring is a Spanish institution. Dating back hundreds of years, millions of Spaniards have taken part, in one way or another, in the time honoured tradition of the la corrida (bull fight).
Plaza de toros de la Real Maestranza de Caballería de Sevilla (bit of a mouthful eh?)
Some Seville Plaza de Toros facts:

  • Its is the oldest working bull ring in the world and the build took 120 years to complete.
  • It is one of only 4 private bull rings in Spain.
  • The ring itself is not completely circular and its stands as the only oval bullring in the world.

As my tour guide Lauren is helpfully pointing out, there a five gates in to the ring itself and each one serves its own purpose. 
  1. The first gate is the one from which the matador enters the ring. 
  2. Gate two is where the bull enters the ring. 
  3. Gate three is the infirmary, which, at best, is rarely used.
  4.  Gate four is where the bull is dragged to exit the ring after the fight. 
  5. Gate five is the Prince's Gate, situated under the Royal Box, through which a matador with three trophies or more can enter. The 'trophies' that are presented after a successful fight are either the ears or the tails of the conquered bull.

The Royal Box is reserved exclusively for members of the Spanish Royal Family. Either side are small balconies, at one side sit members of the Bull Ring committee and at the other the president of Spain if he chooses to visit. A vet is present at all fights.
Seat prices can vary from 120€ for a top price ticket to 25€ for the cheapest tier. The prices don't just depend on how far away from the ring you are sat but also if you are sat in the shade or the glare of the sun - it is a very precise art!
Once you've left the ring, there are various small exhibits to look at. The first being of art of  la corrida (bull fight), where you can see various colourful representations of the long celebrated tradition. The statue below is the artists model for its larger counterpart which stands imposingly at the front of the bullring. The numbers indicated how to put together the pieces of the statue itself when it was erected piece by piece in its current home.
The next room shows a plotted history of la corrida, with many of the exhibition pieces relating directly to the bull ring in Seville. The uniform below is that of the owner of the bull ring and is still in use today. It gives a real sense of the pomp and ceremony of the fights even today.
 As a controversial sport, la corrida has always had its opponents. One of the French kings notoriously tried to encourage the Spanish to give up bull fighting in favour of these interesting medieval games:
The cavalry were challenged to get a lance through the loop held by the bird. 
 False heads were also used for lance target practice.
Although these games proved to be popular war training apparatus and were used many times in the square in front of Seville's fame cathedral, the tradition of la corrida lived on. Sorry Mr French Guy!

This is one of the most revered stars of La Corrida (who's name currently escapes me!). He started training with real bulls when he was only 9 years old and turned professional aged 14. Unfortunately, he came to his untimely end aged 25 in the Plaza de Toros of Toledo.
Of all the impressive finery in the cabinets of the museum, this traje de luz (the real name for the costumes of the matadors) is by far the youngest at only 2 years old. It graces the collection to mark a first in the Plaza de Toros of Seville: the first and only time a bull has won a fight. On rare occasions, the life of the bull can be saved by the committee if they decide that it has shown particular bravery or that it shows aptitude for ring fighting. Said bull now resides peacefully back at the ranch, never to face the ring again.
These beautiful capes are those that the matador uses in the ring. The famed symbol of la corrida! The embellished one at the top is used only for presentation and the more plain one folded below is used for the fight itself. It is a common myth that bulls are enraged by the colour red as they are, in fact, colour blind (you heard it here first!). It is the movement of the cape itself that winds them up!
Though there are many bulls heads mounted on the walls as you wander the halls of the museum, there is only one cow's head and that is of this lovely lady, Islera. Islera was the mother of the bull who killed Spain's most famous matador. As a very superstitious community, the breeders thought it best to sacrifice her to ensure that she bred no more killer sons!
As well as being a suspicious lot, the bull fighting community is deeply religious, none more so than the matadors themselves. There is an on-site chapel containing a beautiful icon of the patron saint of bull fighters( La Macarena), to whom the matadors pray before each and every fight.
One of the most famous and important rooms in the bull ring is the contaduria where the matadors get paid their fees for the fight. There are only two rules: that pay is cash in hand and that it is received before the fight takes place. The one at the plaza de toros in Seville is no longer in use.
My visit to the Plaza de Toros was by far my favourite part of  last week's Seville Saturday. Our guide, Lauren, was very informative and the visit taught me a lot about a subject that I previously knew very little about. 

La Plaza de Toros
Paseo de Cristóbal Colón 12
41001 Sevilla

Visits are guided only.
Tours run approximately every 20 minutes in various languages including English and French.

Entrance fee: Adults 7€
Concessions: 4€
Children aged 7 -11: 3€
Under 7's go free.


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