Today we went inside the Mezquita, where a fabulous mosque had a huge Christian cathedral built inside of it. The mosque was to be the best in the Moslem world, second only to the one at Mecca, although it was built oriented to Damascus, by a homesick ruler, Abd ar-Rahman I. He had converted part of a Visigoth basilica to use as a mosque, but started constructing his own larger building in 784AD.
A later ruler added to it, including this very fine section and prayer niche, or mihrab, in 961AD.
The prayer niche is to give the idea of praying towards your blank wall at home …. it is incredibly beautiful, tiled by experts brought from Greece to create these fine and sumptuous mosaics.
Aren't the arches wonderful?
Here are some close ups of the fine mosaics in the mihrab. Imagine how small each tiny piece is!
In 1236 the mosque was converted into a Christian church after Cordoba was recaptured by Ferdinand III (the Visigoths who had been driven north 600 years earlier came back!) … and then in 1520's a Renaissance-style cathedral was constructed inside of it. We had quite strong feelings about the Mezquita, along the lines of a famous old quote … in the 16th C King Carlos III visited the mosque and saw what had happened after he gave permission for the erection of a cathedral inside it … he regretted approving it … “You have built what you or others might have built anywhere, but destroyed something that was unique in the world”
Can you see the Christian bits here, blended into the old mosque?
And then of course there is the main altar, and endless other fussy bits that completely disrupt the peaceful design of the original structure. Suddenly quiet contemplation is full of ostentation, gold and silver, cherubim and saints, religious figures and so on.
Quoting from the Lonely Planet guide to Andalusia ” the Mezquita's aim was to form a democratically horizontal and simple space where the spirit could be free to roam and communicate easily with God” …. “the terracotta and white striped arches suggest an hallucingenic forest of date palms which supported the roof with 1293 columns …”
I hope you might still see that simple forest here … and feel your spirit roaming free!