“ Address: Calle Cardenal Herrero „
The Mezquita, Cathedral of Cordoba.
I was really looking forward to visiting Cordoba and specifically the Great Mezquita which has an interesting history. Originally there was a small church on the site which was built in and around 600 AD called the Church of St. Vincent. However after the invasion and conquest by the Umayyads it was divided in half and used by both the Christians and Muslims. In 784 the Christian half was bought by Abd al-Rahman the 1st who then began to change the church into the mosque. The mosque took on part of its current shape and size by the end of 987 AD. Subsequently his family added to it over the next two centuries expanding and making it one of the largest mosques in the western world.
The Mosque was built with a massive courtyard at the Northern end with thick walls that were forty foot high enclosing the Patio de los Naranjose (Patio of oranges). They were fed with water collected in massive water chambers but eventually an aqueduct was added to water the trees with rain water. As in keeping with Islam the mosques outer walls are quite plain looking with little decoration apart from Koranic verse over some of the doors. A huge minaret at 93 meters was built in the walls of the northern edge of the courtyard.
The mosque is built at the southern side of the great patio and was subsequently added to in five stages until it reached its current size in 987AD. It covers an area of over 24,000 metres and is absolutely vast in size. Entering the building you are standing in the hypostyle hall which is absolutely stunning there are over 800 double arches constructed of Marble, Jasper, Granite and Onyx. The reasoning behind the double arches was that it was then possible to build the roof even higher than normal. The tops of the arches are decorated with intermittent red/brown paint adding to the wonderful appearance of the columns and the overall beauty of the building. This design is based on the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem. At the rear of the great prayer hall is the Mirab which meant that followers were facing Mecca during prayers however instead of facing south east the Mirab is actually facing south. As in keeping with other mosques not only was it used as a place of worship but also as a school and the Caliphs place of law hearing cases within the compound of the mosque.
After much fighting King Ferdinand III captured the capital city of Cordoba and immediately returned the mosque back into a Christian place of worship. It was subsequently added to by subsequent Kings and a massive chapel in the centre of the Mosque was built and incorporated into the building. Around the perimeter of the mosque chapels and altars were added by prominent and wealthy families including a royal chapel. The interior is a mixture of fine Islamic carvings and stonework, paintings, murals and elaborate Christian features depicting the scriptures. The minaret was converted into a bell tower and the cathedral bells of the captured city of Santiago de Compostela were installed in the tower.
In recent years representations to the Vatican by the Spanish Muslim council for the cathedral to be returned to them as a place of Islamic worship but this has been refused by both the Vatican and the catholic church of Spain. Most of its life it has been a place of Christian worship and is a reminder that it has quite some history from its early beginnings as a Christian place of worship, around four hundred years of Islamic worship and the rest of the time around 800 years returned to be used as a place of Christian worship.
Would I recommend a visit?
The Cathedral of Cordoba really is an eye catching and awesome sight and well worth a visit if you are visiting the city. The outside appearance it looks a little like a fort but once you enter the building it is stunning. I don't think there would be anyone who could fail to be impressed by its size and by the marrying up of both architectural and religious culture and style. It is a unique and beautiful building. There is a surreal beauty of the building and a mystique of the blend of east and west. In a way it is a shame that it cannot be a shared place of worship as they did in the early days of building so that both faiths can use the facilities of the building.
You will need to check the times of opening when you are there but generally it is open from between 10:00 to 18-1900 hours. The day I visited there was a fiesta in the town and it was closing at 14:00. I would allow 2-3 hours for your visit to give it justice.
Entrance is 8 Euros and well worth it in my opinion.