Cordoba – the Mezquita/Cathedral

The Mezquita/Cathedral is regarded as one of the most accomplished monuments of Renaissance and Moorish architecture. A lot has been written about the history, the architecture and development of the Mezquita/Cathedral and is available on internet as well.  I will refrain from duplicating these informations.  After a short introduction and a few words to its origin, I will share our impressions in photographs, with a comment here and there.

Mezquita of Cordoba: Forst of arches and pillars

Mezquita of Cordoba: Forst of arches and pillars

The historic centre of Cordoba is a UNESCO world heritage site and here is a brief description from their website

Cordoba’s period of greatest glory began in the 8th century after the Moorish conquest, when some 300 mosques and innumerable palaces and public buildings were built to rival the splendours of Constantinople, Damascus and Baghdad. In the 13th century, under Ferdinand III, the Saint, Cordoba’s Great Mosque was turned into a cathedral and new defensive structures, particularly the Alcázar de los Reyes Cristianos and the Torre Fortaleza de la Calahorra, were erected.

Cordoba Mezquita: layers of history 584

Cordoba Mezquita: layers of history 584

Entering the Grand Mosque of Cordoba or the Mezquita (Spanish for Mosque)/ Cathedral of Cordoba leaves you in awe for its architecture, for the beautiful decorations, the layers of Muslim and Christian history and then the Reconquista.

Magnificence, beauty, sadness – are some of the feelings, I can recollect, as I walked through the forest of the pillars and arches, at times coming across old calligraphies uncovered, Moorish designs, and around the next corner an arch of angels or some other figures of the Christian heritage superimposed on the arches.

The Mihrab (where the prayer direction for Muslims towards Mecca is indicated) is an artwork of beautiful Byzantine mosaics and carvings. At one corner of the building is a fenced off chapel, where all the arches have been painted over/decorated with Christian traditions and then in the middle of the building, quite unexpected, lies a magnificent cathedral, the Cathedral of Renaissance. The insertion was constructed by permission of El Libertarod Charles V, king of Castile and Aragon. However, when Charles V visited the completed cathedral he was displeased by the result and famously commented, “they have taken something unique in all the world and destroyed it to build something you can find in any city.”

Origin (Source: Wikipedia)

The building was begun around the year 600 as the Christian Visigothic church of St. Vincent.

After the occupation of Islam to the Visigothic kingdom, the church was divided between the Muslims and Christians. When the exiled Umayyad prince Abd al-Rahman I escaped to Spain and defeated the Andalusian governor Yusuf al-Fihri, he allowed the Christians to rebuild their ruined churches, and purchased the Christian half of the church of St. Vincent. Abd al-Rahman I and his descendants reworked it over two centuries to refashion it as a mosque, starting in 784. Additionally, Abd al-Rahman I used the mosque (originally called Aljama Mosque) as an adjunct to his palace and named it to honour his wife. Traditionally, the apse of a mosque faces in the direction of Mecca; by facing the apse, worshippers pray towards Mecca. Mecca is east-southeast of the mosque, but the Mihrab points south.


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Coming from the Jewish Quarter (the Juderia) of Cordoba, this is the first sight of the Bell Tower of Cordoba/Torre del Alminar. The Bell Tower was built over the minaret of the Grand Mosque of Cordoba.

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Courtyard of The Orange Trees (Patio de los Naranjos) whose fountains were used for ablutions.

Door of Mezquita

This one of the sealed entrances of the Mezquita. On another note, as it is when you enter a Church or Cathedral, my husband was asked to take off his cap, while I was allowed to keep my hat on

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Isn’t this amazing? Words don’t do justice to this overwhelming architecture. I had seen pictures, I had read about it, but standing there, in the hall of these pillars and arches was another feeling!

The building is most notable for its arcaded hypostyle hall, with 856 (original 1,293) columns of jasper, onyx, marble, and granite. The ancient columns were taken from the Roman temple which had previously occupied the site and shipped in from other ancient buildings. The arches date from the late 8th century, with expansions in the 10th century.

Muhammad Iqbal (Pakistani poet) described its hall as having “countless pillars like rows of palm trees in the oases of Syria”.

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In the times, when this building was a mosque, it is said that there were no walls, so that the  columns ran  smoothly into the rows of orange trees out in the courtyard.

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Walking towards the Mihrab, the layers of Muslim and Christian religious decorations appear

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Close up of the beautifully decorated pillars, infront lies the Mihrab at the end of the corridor

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Sharing some of the beautiful works in the Mosque. Apparently the walls of the Mezquita had Quranic inscriptions written on them, which we didn’t see. However there were “rests” of calligraphies at the arches/pillars

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The Mihrab is a masterpiece of architectural art, with geometric, flowing designs of plants and Arabic calligraphy in Byzantine mosaics.

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The details of this work are shown here


In front of the Mihrab is the Maksoureh, an anteroom for the caliph and his court, also richly decorated with geometric designs and Arabic calligraphy. This is the roof of the anteroom.

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Pieces of calligraphy in the arches

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And more of them

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At one corner of the mosque, there is this fenced off church

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And then in the center, for me quite unexpected, opens up this huge and impressive cathedral, the Cathedral of Renaissance.

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The Mezquita/Cathedral is one of the historical religious places, which may be due to or despite the parade of religions and  history has survived them all.  It is a reminder of those days, when Muslims and Christians shared this place to perform their respective prayers and conquered each other. However it not only survived as a Museum, but even today serves as a an active prayer place.

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The massive exterior of the Mezquita

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Another reminder of the fascinating imprint of the religious phases the Mezquita went through

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Beautifully decorated portal in the west facade of the Mezquita

From architecture point of view, the Mezquita presents multiple architectural styles. Persian, Mid Eastern Islamic, Roman and Gothic that together helped define Moorish architecture.

Dr. Allama Muhammad Iqbal, who is considered as one of the founding fathers of Pakistan and its national poet, visited the Great Cathedral of Córdoba in 1931–32. He requested the authorities to offer Adhan (Call for prayer) at the mosque and was the first Muslim allowed to pray in the Mezquita since it was closed to Islam.  The deep emotional responses that the Mosque evoked in him found expression in the immortal poem called The Mosque of Cordoba. Iqbal saw it as a cultural landmark of Islam and described it as:

 “Sacred for lovers of art, you are the glory of faith,
You have made Andalusia pure as a holy land!


3 responses to “Cordoba – the Mezquita/Cathedral

  1. The tranquility in the hall of the pillars, despite the crowd, was amazing, awe-inspiring. Again, another place that literally carried me away into a distinct dimension of thoughts and dreams..

  2. Pingback: Weekly Photo Challenge: Curves | Following the trail of Ibn Battuta·

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