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Mosque or Cathedral?
Member Name: catsholiday
Date: 28/08/10, updated on 27/10/11 (52 review reads)
Advantages: Truly beautiful architecture a mixture of different times and religions
Disadvantages: none for me
At the start of this year 2010 we spent a week in Fuengirola and we had two main places we wanted to see, one was Seville and the other Cordoba. It has taken me a while but I finally got around to writing this.
We arrived in Cordoba and parked across the river from the main old town. We walked across the bridge into the old town area and to the huge Mezquita. The river was in full flood and the bridge with the arches had water gushing through at a huge rate. It was really quite dramatic.
Córdoba is a city on the Guadalquivir river in Andalusia, southern Spain and is the capital city of the province of Córdoba. It dates back to ancient Roman times when it was founded by Claudius Marcellus.
We spent a day in this city but more specifically in the The Mezquita (Spanish for "Mosque") of Cordoba which is really what I shall be writing about in this review .This beautiful and fascinating building symbolizes the religious changes Cordoba has undergone over the centuries. Today, the Mezquita is the cathedral of Cordoba known as the Cathedral of St. Mary of the Assumption, but the art and architecture of the building and within is the work of Islamic architects who built it as a mosque in the 8th century.
The Moors came to Spain in the 8th century and in AD 711 Cordoba was the headquarters of the Emirate founded by the leader Abd al-Rahman I. Cordoba was during this time the richest and most glorious city in the known world. Under the Moors the Mezquita was known as the Aljama Mosque and at its time the second largest mosque in the world. Following this period of success and wealth came a period of civil war between the various Moorish powers until finally in 1236 the Christian army led by the King of Castile, Fernando III took the city and the mosque became a consecrated Christian Church.
The Mezquita is open all day from 10.00-19.00 with no siesta which is very unusual for Spain. As you approach the Mezquita, one's first thoughts are that you are approaching a massive fortress as all around the exterior there are massive doors, highly decorative but closed and uninviting. The entire building is enormous and takes up the whole of a city block. You need to be reasonable able to walk around although everywhere is flat and wheel chair accessible you do have to walk a lot to see everywhere and it is enormous. If I remember correctly it was about 6 Euros to get in but I would check before going if you are concerned.
The courtyard is the first area you come to and it has a lovely traditionally Spanish feel to it with all the orange trees, drainage channels and water fountains which was a lovely area to sit in and wait for the main area to open as we were a little early. The sky was a perfect blue and the sun warmed us as we leant against the wall watching the other visitors. As it was very early January there were not too many people around and to bask in the sun in such surroundings was especially pleasant as we had left snow in England.
At last we managed to get out tickets and walked around into the Mezquita proper. Wow! What an amazing place! Inside this enormous building you see row after row of arches and pillars. Apparently many of the pillars in the Mezquita were stolen from earlier Roman buildings in the area and if the pillar was too long, it was sunk into the ground and reshaped to fit in with the other columns. The pillars are decorated and perfectly lined up in rows.
The pillars are especially beautiful as there are alternate brick and stone in the arches, creating the red and white striped pattern According to the guide book there are more than 850 coloured granite jasper and marble pillars in total.
In the centre of this huge building is now a cathedral. When this part of the mosque was converted into a cathedral, a third of the pillars were removed for a courtyard. In the centre of what is left of the mosque, the arches were reworked and the ceiling raised, this space is now the heart of the cathedral.
As you wander round parts of the building are Moorish in architecture and have Islamic designs while next to it you might see a Christian image or a cross. It was really very unusual and positively awe inspiring in its scale. Around the outside of the building we several small chapels each dedicated to a different saint just as you would get in a Cathedral yet these were separated by these wonderful arches and architecture that was definitely more like that of a mosque. It was a real mix of the different religious architectures and artefacts and it made me think that it is a shame that people of the two religions can't blend their ideas as easily.
After you have been overwhelmed by the Catholic statues and rather ostentatious gilded decorations in the chapels and Cathedral area you can make you way to the most important area of the mosque, the Mihrab which is much more subtly decorated. The Mihrab is important in a mosque as it shows the direction of Mecca and it also amplified the words of the Imam. In the Mezquita it is particularly magnificent as the shell-shaped ceiling is carved from a single block of marble which I found quite stunning. On either side the chambers are decorated with mosaics of gold. Strangely in The Cordoba Mosque the Mihrab looks south not south east in the direction of Mecca but I don't know the reason for this it is just one of those little gems of information that the guides impart as you go around.
As we drove from Fuengirola to Cordoba we didn't get much of a chance to look any further in this beautiful city as we had to drive back. I would certainly recommend anyone visiting the Andalusia area to take a day out and visit this beautiful city as it has much to offer and it is worth a visit just for the Mezquita alone.
Thank you for reading. This review may be posted on other sites under my same user name.
Summary: Another Spanish gem