The Lizard of the Cathedral
The crocodile on the roof of the Patio de los Naranjos
On the grounds of the Cathedral of Seville, hanging from one of the old wooden ceiling beams in the Patio de los Naranjos, you can see something surprising: three objects… A horse bridle of considerable size, a walking stick or command staff, and a life-size crocodile…
Why is there a crocodile on the roof of the Patio de los Naranjos?
When in 1260 the Sultan of Egypt learned of the power of the Kingdom of Castile after the Christian Reconquest, he sent an embassy to King Alfonso X “The Wise” in Seville. The company, besides carrying a purpose of strengthening ties of friendship, had another objective: to ask for the hand of Princess Berenguela.
To achieve this, a large number of gifts were delivered to the Court of Seville, ranging from rich and coloorful fabrics, to elephant tusk (ivory), to wild animals… among them, a giraffe and a rather sociable crocodile that missed its little piece of the Nile.
Alfonso X refused to give Berenguela’s hand to the Sultan with the utmost courtesy, so as not to offend the powerful lord, and in Seville the giraffe and crocodile remained. The king was not sure what to do with the crocodile, so he decided to let it live its life out in one of the pools of the Alcazar.
With the passage of time the crocodile died, and it was decided to embalm the animal. His body was hung in the Patio de los Naranjos of the Cathedral, and next to him the bite and bridle of the giraffe.
In time, the ambassador that the kingdom of Castillo had in Egypt returned, bringing with him the command staff, an insignia representing the king. The king then hung this with the crocodile and the bridle, in memory of those visitors who had come from so far away with such pleasant intentions.