Cover photo full
Mosque–Cathedral of Córdoba
Wikipedia | Google | Google Images | FlickrThe Mosque-Cathedral of Córdoba, at Córdoba in Spain, is a remarkable building and has an astonishing history, highlighting the extent of religious tolerance practiced in the Medieval Period. Once a Roman temple, it was converted into a church, a part of which was purchased by Abd-ur-Rahman I to build a mosque. Today, it is a cathedral dedicated to Our Lady of Assumption. Known variously as the Mosque of Córdoba, Mezquita de Córdoba, and Catedral de Nuestra Señora de la Asunción, it is visited by hundreds of thousands of pilgrims and tourists every year. It was declared as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1984. Spanish Muslims are still lobbying with the Vatican for a right to pray in the complex.
HistoryArchaeological findings in and around Córdoba indicates that the city was inhabited since at least 300,000 BC. But the advent of Romans in the early 3rd century, the subsequent rule by the Visigoths, and the Moors followed by the Catholic King, Ferdinand III, define Córdoba as we see it today.
The Romans built a temple dedicated to their two-faced God, Janus. The Visigoths, who defeated the Romans in 572 AD, built a Catholic church and dedicated it to St. Vincent. Abd-ur Rehman I, the Umayyad prince, escaped the massacre of the ruling family by the Abbasid in Damascus, captured Córdoba, and in 756, declared it as his capital city of the Umayyad Emirate of Córdoba .
Abd-ur-Rahman I wanted to build a grand city with a mosque in it to rival those in Damascus, Istanbul, and Baghdad, He was an astute politician and negotiated with the Córdovan Catholics to buy a portion of the church compound to build a mosque. In return, he allowed the Catholics to rebuild their ruined churches dedicated to St. Marcellus, St. Januaries and St. Faustus. The construction of the mosque started in 786. Over the next two centuries, the subsequent Emirs and Caliphs enlarged the building, and largely contributed to enhancing the decorations in the mosque.
Ferdinand III, later declared a saint, captured the city in 1236. The Great Mosque was converted into a cathedral. Among other buildings, Ferdinand built the Fortress of Christian Rings (Alcazar de Los Reyes Cristiano) and Terra Fortaleza de la Calahorra, both magnificent constructions, to reinforce the fortifications around the city.
ArchitectureThe hypostyle prayer hall of the mosque, built by Abd-ur-Rahman I, had eleven naves separated by a total of 110 columns, salvaged from Gothic and Roman buildings. The influence of Visigothic architecture is evident in the horseshoe-shaped arches. Similar arches are seen bracing the columns to support the weight of the ceilings. Like the Great Mosque in Damascus, the Great Mosque of Córdoba faced south, unlike most mosques that face Mecca or the Qibla. Azulejos and mosaics decorated the interior of the mosque, embellished with gold, silver, jasper, ivory, brass, and copper. Panels of mahogany and scented woods were grouted to the walls with nails made of gold. In front of the mosque was a court yard, the Court of Oranges, referring to the trees imported by Abd-ur-Rahman I from Syria.
Abd-ur-Rahman II, while increasing the area of the hall, built a (Al-Minar) minaret in front of the mosque and his successor, Al-Hakam II, added galleries for women and enlarged the building while beautifying the Mihrab (niche in a wall indicating the direction of Qibla or Mecca). Above the Mihrab is a dome built covered with gold mosaic. Al-Mansoor, in 987, was among the last Islamic rulers to make major alterations to the building, increasing the area of the courtyard and building the outer naves.
The cathedral, as we see it today, is a sprawling building with an arcade, hypostyle hall having 856 columns supporting a high ceiling. Hernan Luiz I, a Spanish architect, followed by his son and grandson, supervised the conversion of the mosque into a cathedral. An altar made from marble was constructed in the 17th century, followed a century later with some beautiful pulpits. A choir was constructed using mahogany wood. Along the walls of the church are 32 chapels dedicated to various saints, the Holy Trinity and Mother Mary. The laminar (minaret) was converted into a 93-meter high belfry.
Several master artists over the centuries, both from Spain and the Islamic world contributed in making the Mosque-Cathedral an edifice whose beauty has to be seen to be believed.
Visiting the CathedralThe cathedral is open for visitors from 10:00 AM to 7:00 PM on all days except on Sundays and festival days. On these days, visitors are allowed from 8:30 AM to 11:30 AM and 3:00 PM to 5:00 PM, and entry between 8:30 AM and 9:20 AM is free. At all other times, adults are charged € €8 ($9.20) and children are charged € €4 ($4.60) for entry. Though entry tickets can be booked online, queuing up for tickets does not take much time.
Seeing Córdoba, food and accommodationSeville, 1.5 hours away by road is the closest international airport to Córdoba. The bus fare from the bus/railway station in Córdoba to the cathedral will cost € €1 ($1.15), while a taxi will charge € €5 ($5.75). The best way to see the older sections of Córdoba is on foot. It is best to leave one’s luggage behind, because the narrow streets are cobbled and can make walking with a load difficult. Alternatively, horse-drawn carriages are available. Driving through the streets of the old city can be haranguing for those who are not familiar with the place. Many of the streets are one-way and others are pedestrian only. Moreover, most of the places of interest are within walking distance of the Mosque-Cathedral.
There are many hotels close to the edifice that will suit any budget. It is however advisable to surf the web for the rates, and to locate your preferred place to stay. Budget hotels will charge anywhere from € €10 ($12) to € €15 ($17) for an overnight stay. There are also many restaurants along the streets just outside the cathedral that serve delectable food.
Other Places of InterestThere are many places in Córdoba that a tourist should visit. Besides the Mosque-Cathedral, Alcazar de Los Reyes Cristianos, Terra Fortaleza de la Calahorra (a museum now), Madinat al-Zahra and Medina Azahara, both built by Abd-ur-Rahman III, Museo Arqueologico, Palacio de Vienna, Centro Flamenco Fosforito are among the many places worth visiting.
Do you see any omissions, errors or want to add information to this page? Sign up.
Author: jackmartis. Last updated: Feb 18, 2015