The palace of Altamira, or palace of the Counts of Altamira, located in the city of Seville, is located in the neighbourhood of San Bartolomé in the historic centre of the city, in Santa María la Blanca street, also bordering with Céspedes street and the Dos Hermanas beach bar, which gives access, a well-traveled sector, near one of its most traditional entrance doors, the La Carne gate, which after the reconquest was inside the Jewish aljama, an area of great economic activity .
It is known, by archaeological investigations, that in the site that today occupies the Palace of Altamira there was an Almohad construction that has been interpreted as a dwelling. A mosque, baths and a small souk are known from their surroundings, which indicates that an intense urban life developed around them. Shortly after the conquest of Seville by the Castilians this area was included in the Jewish aljama whose inhabitants participated intensively in the commercial and economic life of local scope, as well as in that of the Crown of Castile. As proof of this, the position of Senior Accountant was during several reigns in the hands of Jewish characters who lived in the rich houses found on this site (such as José Pichón and Samuel Abravanel). The assault on the Jewish quarter in 1391 caused these lands to pass into the hands of the justice and the king's mayor sheriff, Diego López de Zúñiga, who raised the current building over them. The mansion was united in the 15th and 16th centuries to the lineage of the Stúñiga, Counts of Plasencia, Dukes of Béjar and lords of great states in Extremadura and the Kingdom of Seville, until it was linked to the Marquesado de Villamanrique and Ayamonte and later to the Altamira County, by which until today it is known. Of all these owners was receiving works and improvements adapting to the tastes and needs of their owners during the seventeenth to nineteenth centuries, century in which he ceased to be linked to the noble lineage, and as happened with other notable sevillians mansions was intended to house neighbourhood for rent. Therefore, the building would undergo reforms that definitively masked the original Mudejar construction that has been discovered again in the process of archaeological intervention.
It is one of the largest buildings in the city, consisting of a juxtaposition of buildings whose origin is a Mudejar palace that was later expanded to become the residence of noble families and finally in the nineteenth was adapted to the house of neighbors.
The structure of the Mudejar palace was organized around a courtyard and shows many analogies, especially in the arrangement of its essential pieces, with the Mudejar palace of the Alcazar of Seville. From the set of primitive buildings seems to be recorded in a large rectangular building divided into two floors and parallel to the facade and another square room located to the right of the courtyard, as well as in the two smaller courtyards, juxtaposed to these rooms.
The rectangular room is symmetrically arranged and has a large central space, covered by a wooden paneling, and two side rooms with vaults on trusses where the shields of the family of Altamira and Guzmán are painted. A narrow corridor that supposedly would be the access from the small patio to the galleries of the big one and from this one to the rooms, separates the room of the Céspedes street. Both the central space and the corridor are covered by a wooden paneling and are decorated along with the patio with plasterwork of the late fourteenth century.
The palace has a second patio of greater dimensions, 14 x 18 meters, With arcades on its four sides and two different moments can be seen in its construction, one corresponding to the side that separates it from Céspedes street, where the arcade seems to be included in ornamental mouldings and one of whose columns has a caliphal capital, and another one corresponding to the other three faces, whose arcades seem to be all of recent date.
Of the two currently existing stairs, the one at the back of the building seems to be original and the staircase closest to the facade seems to be coeval with it, from the time when the palace became the house of the Villamanriques.
The façade bay appears as a unitary operation, executed in the seventeenth century, designed to provide a facade and a main body of rooms to the set of rooms and main courtyard that formed the old Mudejar palace. It consists of two floors and mezzanine and has a depth of 7 meters.
Another important transformation that affects the building can be dated at the end of the 19th century, when it is adapted to the neighbours’ house. From this date must come elements such as the small building that occupies part of the entrance courtyard and the stairs that connect the ground floor of the front corridor with the mezzanines.
In the elevation stands the main doorway open in a semicircular arch, with jambs and lintel molding that collects the main balcony. The wall is divided into streets by paired pilasters and is topped by a cornice with modillions along the entire façade. On the eaves of tiles there are two attics, topped by a curved pediment.
The palace was in an advanced state of deterioration when it was renovated and renovated in order to house the main headquarters of the Ministry of Culture of the Junta de Andalucía. The project participated in the strategy of the Ministry of fragmenting its dependencies in various buildings -in front of the model of concentration adopted by many other Counseling- with the ultimate goal of promoting the comprehensive rehabilitation of the neighbourhood, former Jewish quarter, practically abandoned, in ruins and absent For the city. Other units were located in the same street and in the neighbouring Levíes street.
The rehabilitation carried out during the last decade of the twentieth century has allowed the recovery of the building through a careful project that has put in value the different spaces of the Palace, an example of intervention in which the multidisciplinary participation has allowed to properly assess the overlapping structures of the building.
The rehabilitation project was drafted and executed by the architect Francisco Torres Martínez, concluding the works in 1999.