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The Corral del Conde is one of the biggest and most important corrales de vecinos (neighbor’s houses) in Seville. It is located in Calle Santiago, 27 – about 5 minutes walking from the Casa de Pilatos.
I tried to get there many times before I could finally go inside and wander around. It’s a private building where people live and want to protect their privacy so the main door is usually locked. Unlike other Sevillian houses, the gate is not an wrought-iron gate allowing you to look through so you can’t have a sneak peak at the inside.
However, I was lucky enough during 2011 Easter celebrations to be walking in the area. I suddenly discovered that the main gate was open, and one of the Semana Santa brotherhoods was celebrating a Via Crucis inside.
The Corral del Conde was probably built in the 19th century, although the exact date is not clear. It has gone through many restorations and works, the most important being between 1981 and 1984. However, it keeps the original essence and distibution of a traditional corral de vecinos.
The corrales de vecinos started to become very popular in Seville in the 16th century. The city was becoming extremely richer due to the increasing trade with the American colonies. Thus, the size of its harbour and the population grew dramatically.
This architectural model was developed in order to provide the workers (e.g. builders, blacksmiths, carpenters, shoemakers) and their families a decent house.
Before being transformed into a neighbor’s house, the building was either a convent, a stately mansion or a palace abandoned long ago. Its large size and robust architecture were often put to good use as a corral de vecinos.
A corral de vecinos is generally built around a big courtyard or patio with a fountain or a well in the middle. Every side of the patio is full of doors, each of them being the entrance of a house. In the older times there was also a small room for the laundry and another one for the garbage.
The patio was the neuralgic center of the house. Everything important happened there: family celebrations such as a baptism, commercial trades and even vigils.
And why did she play an important role? Because she was in charge of the gate’s opening and closening, she was the landlord representative, she collected the rents and she even evicted delinquent accounts!
But that wasn’t all, since she was also consulted in case of quarrel or dispute between neighboors. The latter usually argued about common obligations like cleaning the gate, fixing the lights or placing a bucket full of water at the laundry. Her decisions were generally respected due to the admission and refusal power she had over the tennants.
As I said earlier, it took me several attemps to finally enter the Corral del Conde, but it was totally worth it. The corral is currently undergoing some renovations and the new faÁades look great. It’s a relief to see that owners and tennants care about this extraordinary building.
Once I crossed the gate I had the impression to be in a small town rather than at the center of a big city like Seville. Inside you don’t hear cars or buses but the water flowing from the fountain and the sound of the birds instead. The courtyard has several trees but I was stroke by the huge one next to the fountain, a great shelter for the summer heat.
The Corral del Conde is enormous! It is one of the rarest to have 3 floors (they are usually only 2) and you could count 113 houses in the 19th century. I believe the number is lower nowadays, around 70 or so, since the houses are larger. Nevertheless, it looks like a cozy honeycomb.
So I was happy to explore it for at least half an hour, taking pictures here and there. I also went to see a secondary patio, smaller and darker but still lovely. It’s at the left hand side once you enter the corral.
Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to go to the upper floors since a lot of people was attending the Via Crucis and I didn’t want to bother anyone’s view. I hope I’ll get another chance some time in the future. I can’t wait to get back…
And I almost forgot to mention it has a small chapel, palm trees, banana plants and hundreds of flowers!
If you happen to be near the Corral del Conde, you should take a chance and try to have a look. Who knows? You might be as lucky as I was…