Inside the Mezquita, Cordoba

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!


10 thoughts on “Inside the Mezquita, Cordoba

  1. There you are, in magical Cordoba! Isn’t it the most earthy of forests – just stunning in its simplicity and harmony – it just blew me away, when I first saw it – I’ve never allowed myself to venture into the cathedral side – what a travesty! I never knew about the Greek mosaicists being imported for the Mihirab arches – but I can see Byzantium glory. Fabulous post Christine. I’m having a lovely time sofa-travelling with you 🙂

  2. Amazing work – although not so amazing, really: the people putting up any part of this fabulous building wouldn’t have had much of a chance of doing sloppy work ! Wonderful shots, Christine – just wonderful !

  3. You’ve excelled yourself with these photos! I’m a bit partial to mosques, although my experience is limited – Damascus, and a new one in Abu Dhabi by proxy. For me, the delight is pattern and repetition. Following the patterns is an adventure. Thanks, too, Thomas, for the Escher link.

  4. I absolutely LOVE the Mezquita and have visited quite a few times, but I have a different take on the Christian cathedral inside the old mosque.

    At the time of the Catholic Reconquest of Spain from the Moors, it would have been very easy (and, some might say, understandable) to destroy all the old Muslim temples and rebuild over them with Christian cathedrals and churches. The Mezquita was NOT destroyed, but altered, preserving the history for us all to see to this day. That took foresight and a recognition of the beauty and significance of the building. Many town and villages around Spain had three cultures (Muslims, Jews and Christians) living alongside each other and are proud of that heritage.

    I applaud King Carlos III’s decision, or you wouldn’t have been able to visit the Mezquita this past week, Christine 🙂

  5. Ah, beautiful, beautiful post Christine. The Mezquita is by far the most exquisite monument I have ever seen. You managed to capture much of that beauty. Great job.

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