La Giralda is the centerpiece of the city of Seville, Spain (map). It remains to this day the tallest structure in Seville, by law. The Giralda was built in 1198 and spent its early years as the huge single minaret of a Moorish mosque; it was so big, in fact, that it was the world’s tallest structure at the time.
Conquering (and cathedral-building) Christians couldn’t bear to tear down such a world-class tower, and instead incorporated it as a bell tower in their grand cathedral. Perhaps sensing the monumental Moorish tower would forever call their cathedral chump, the Christians built the medieval equivalent of the Mall of America: the Cathedral of Seville is the second-largest medieval cathedral in the world, behind only St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome.
That’s the case whether you measure by area (size of its footprint) or by volume (number of milk jugs you could fit inside it)—an important distinction, because when you consider modern cathedrals, too, Seville’s comes in third by area (bumped by this 1950s bigfoot in Brazil) and fourth by volume (this 1990s Ivory Coast basilica fits more milk jugs).
But despite the Christians’ greatest efforts, flashbulbs are still directed more at the Giralda than at the cathedral (and this even after the cathedral became Christopher Columbus’ supposed final resting place).
The Giralda has inspired many copycats in America—scroll down this article for some revealing photographic evidence. But remember, the Giralda is a copycat of sorts itself: The Kutubiyya minaret in Marrakesh, Morocco, built three years before the Giralda, is still a minaret and was the initial inspiration for all imitators, medieval and modern.
Seville—and guided visits to the cathedral and the Giralda—are included on many EF Educational Tours itineraries to Spain.