Cordoba, AndaluciaNovember 13, 2017 in Spain
Cordoba province is a largely rural area renowned for its olive, wine and the historic Roman-founded city of Cordoba itself. So it was no surprise on our journey there to pass by acres and acres of vines, which then gave way to olive trees as far as the eye could see in all directions. However, the city itself was the reason for our visit and one building in particular; the Mezquita, one of the world's greatest Islamic buildings and a symbol of sophisticated Islamic culture that flourished here more than a millennium ago when Cordoba was the capital of Islamic Spain, and Western Europe's biggest and most cultured city.
Evidence of Cordoba's Roman origins can still be seen today in the bridge crossing the Guadalquivir river and a temple, but nearly everything else is buried 1-2 metres below the ground. However, the city really took centre stage when Abd ar-Rahman I set himself up here as emir of the Muslim- controlled parts of the Iberian peninsula. He founded the Mezquita in 785. By 929, the city was the largest in Europe with a successful economy based on agriculture and skilled artisan products. It was also known as the 'city of three cultures' where Muslims, Jews and Christians coexisted peacefully and enriched the city with their different cultures until around 1008 when a ruthless general took the reins of power from the caliphs. Anarchy and uprisings followed until Cordoba was no more than a minor part of Seville.
The story of the Mezquita starts with Abd ar-Rahman I purchasing half of the church of San Vicente for the Muslim community's Friday prayers. Then he bought the other half and erected a mosque. Further extensions nearly quadrupled its size and then a 16th century cathedral was built right in the middle!
The entrance is formed by a courtyard of orange, palm and cypress trees and fountains. It was originally the site of ritual ablutions before entering the mosque for prayer. The Mezquita itself was a revolutionary building for its time, designed with lots of open space so that the spirit could roam freely and communicate with God easily during prayer. The prayer hall was divided into 11 'naves' by lines of red brick and white stone striped arches, representing a forest of date palms which rested on 1293 columns, of which 856 still remain. Further additions include the building of an intricately decorated area where the caliphs and courtiers would pray and a golden portal. Even today it is beautiful so it must have been stunning at the time.
Following the Christian conquest of Cordoba in 1236, the Mezquita was used as a cathedral and remained largely unaltered for almost three centuries until King Carlos I gave permission, in the 16th century, for the centre to be striped out in order to construct the main alter area and choir, which today features jasper and red marble for the alter and fine mahogany stalls for the choir.
It is impossible here to describe fully what a unique and beautiful place this is. You shall have to see it for yourself.Read more