Cordóba is our final destination on our week-long exploration of Andalucia. We cross the olive orchard plains from Granada to this city on the banks of the Guadalquiver River. The Romans founded “Corduba” in 152 BC. The Moors ruled Al-Andalus (Andalucia) from their capital in Cordóba from 756 to 1236. At its peak during this time, 500,000 people lived here and one ruler’s library held 400,000 volumes. When the Catholic king captured Cordóba in 1236, the Moorish rulers fled to Granada, their final stronghold on the Iberian peninsula.
We cross the river on a pedestrian bridge to have lunch in the Judaeria, old Jewish part of the city, conveniently located next to the Mezquita, a magnificent mosque built and expanded by several Moorish rulers. The mosque was “re-purposed” by the Catholic church so now the Cathedral of Cordóba in the middle of a former mosque!
From left to right, Mezquita arches, Mezquita minaret turned into bell tower, and Cathedral with pedestrian bridge in foreground.
Mosque and Cathedral minaret/bell tower.
We enter the Patio de los Naranjos, courtyard of the oranges, get our tickets and audio guide and head inside. It’s cold and shadowy, but we are immediately drawn into the endless arches of the Mezquita.
The Moors first re-used columns from Roman and Visigoth temples to build the Mezquita.
The capital of a reused Roman column.
There are 856 columns made from marble, onyx, jade and granite. The arches of the first Mezquita are made from alternating red bricks and limestone bricks. The first part of the mosque was built in 785, and could hold 5,000 people.
The mihrab, or prayer niche, usually faces Mecca, but in this case, it faces due south. Built in the 10th century, the walls are covered in gold.
Approaching the mihrab.
White marble floor and intricate wall designs mark the entrance to the mihrab, the holiest place in the Mezquita.
Gilded ceiling above the entrance to the mihrab with sunlight streaming through windows.
Another wall of the Mezquita.
Behind these gold doors were the Koran and prayer rugs.
Every Caliph expanded the Mezquita and in the end, an estimated 40,000 men could lay their prayer rugs on its sandy floor for prayers, five times each day.
Arches upon arches, we loved wandering through the passageways.
The 16th century cathedral inside the Mezquita had its own ornate designs, but the skull and crossbones on the crucifix surprised us the most.
After exiting the Mezquita, we pause to enjoy the late afternoon sun in the Patio de los Naranjos. On our walk back to the hotel, we pass this old entrance to the Mezquita.
Puerta de San Ildefonso, entrance to Mezquita and Cathedral.
We stroll back to our hotel over the same bridge passing by a fortified tower from the 13th century, built when Moors ruled Europe. The Torre de Calahorra was built to protect the Roman Bridge; both were restored between 2003 and 2013.
Cordóba perfectly shows the long history of Al-Andalus, a place ruled by many cultures and religions. It’s a city where once upon a time, Muslims, Jews, and Christians lived in peace together enjoying a bright culture of art and intellectual pursuits while the rest of Europe wallowed in the Dark Ages.
© 2015 by Lisa Howells and Mary Reynolds. All rights reserved.