19 November 2019
Cordoba was once the largest city in Roman Spain. Today it is a small provincial capital with a nice old centre and one outstanding attraction that pulls in coach-loads of tourists – the beautiful Mosque-Cathedral called the Mezquita.
We followed the maze of streets of the old Jewish Quarter downhill towards the river and found the walls of the mosque. Passing inside we found ourselves in peaceful gardens, the Patios de los Naranjas, its fountains and orange trees creating a green and peaceful area in front of the main building. For a fee we could have climbed the bell-tower, the Torre del Alminar, built at the same time as the Cathedral (1523) but were keen to get inside and explore.
The Mosque of Abd Al Rahman was built nearly 1300 years ago on the site of a Visigoth cathedral, and further developed by his successors over the next 50 years. We walked inside and stopped to drink it all in. We were looking at a forest of pillars supporting red and white arches stretching away into the distance, chandeliers creating a dim light and a rather magical atmosphere.
There are niches all the way around the mosque which have been appropriated for Christian chapels, but most seemed clumsy or fussy in comparison to the simplicity of the arches and the delicate beauty of the Islamic decoration. At the far end the mihrab, indicating the direction of Mecca, was beautifully decorated and the dome of the first mihrab, designed to amplify the voice of the imam was also a work of art.
The Moors were conquered in 1236 and the beautiful mosque was consecrated as a church. After 300 years and after much resistance from the town council, a cathedral was built at the centre of the mosque. When it was complete, the king who permitted said “You have built what you or others might have been built anywhere, but you have destroyed something that was unique in the world”. Whilst the cathedral is far from ugly, it would be difficult not to agree.
Leaving the beauty of the mosque behind, we walked down to the Rio Guadalquivir and crossed the Roman bridge to the Torre de la Calahorra on the other side.
This medieval tower holds a small museum over 3 floors (and has nice views from the roof) about Moorish Córdoba which was a nice way to finish the day.
We were limited to a one-night stay on the Aire because of the battery problems but were glad we had taken the time to visit Córdoba and Spain’s most beautiful mosque. We will be back to explore further.