The Sevillian town of Aznalcóllar is home to the Zawiya, an Islamic, religious monument unique in Andalusia. These buildings, commonly found in the Maghreb and West Africa, were used as Islamic schools or monasteries.
The building is located in the town’s cemetery, at the foot of the hill where the old castle used to stand. It was converted into the chapel of the San Sebastian cemetery in the 18th century.
The Zawiya dates from before 1248 when King Fernando III conquered the city. Two religions coexisted in Seville before that date. This Zawiya is a reminder of the legacy left by the Mudejar Arabs, builders and masons who did not move back to Africa.
The brick building, which is larger than a “rabita”, a Moorish fortress, or a marabout, has a square plan covered by an octagonal dome, “qubba”, on squinches.
The thick brick walls on the southern and eastern façade have lobed loopholes framed by a blind horseshoe arcade with a recessed alfiz.
The eastern façade is a pointed access arch, today partially blinded, framed by an alfiz.
The inner walls are lined with a tiled plinth from the Mudejar period. A staircase leads to the roof. The dome has 19th-century paintings.
The southern inner wall has an extensively renovated niche that may have been the oratory’s mihrab. It is oriented in the north-south direction as required in the Almohad ritual.