And the winner is…  Córdoba!

Last week we were trying decide whether we would visit Mérida or Córdoba en route to Madrid.

We chose Córdoba. I loved it!
It was so beautiful, and neither words nor photos do it justice, but I have lots of them to share and I’m also including a few short videos, but first, a little history lesson to go with the pictures.

One of the original entrances to the mosque.


Islamic Córdoba

In the year 785 the Moors invaded Córdoba, demolished the 6th-century Visigothic Church of San Vicente and in its place began construction on the Aljama Mosque, reusing building materials after eliminating any Christian elements. (Remnants remain though; a window in the mosque’s floor shows mosaic floors from the earlier Visigothic church.)

While the rest of Europe was lost in the dark ages, Córdoba of Al-Andalus (Moorish Spain) was Europe’s greatest city with a population of over 100,000 people, 70 libraries and a university. It was the Golden Age of Islam and Córdoba riveled Baghdad and Constantinople.

Catholic Córdoba

In 1236 King Ferdinand III conquered Córdoba and the former mosque was consecrated as a Christian church. (The city of Granada and its magnificent Alhambra Palace was the last Moorish stronghold in Spain, falling to the Catholics over 200 years later in 1492.)

Acknowledging the unique beauty of the Islamic architecture, King Charles V ordered a church to be built within the mosque.  It would have been both less expensive and easier to destroy the mosque and start afresh. The idea was controversial, but construction began in 1523, and a Latin-cross-shaped sanctuary with Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque elements was integrated into the existing structure.

The minaret turned bell-tower as seen from the Courtyard of the Oranges.

 

The Cathedral of Córdoba, known also as The Mezquita, is an amazing sight – a beautiful church springing up from the center of an 8th-century mosque. You have to see it to believe it! 

The church is poking out from the center of the former mosque as seen from the Court of Oranges.

Entering the building one sees a forest of slender pillars supporting red and white double arches stretching out in all directions. The mosque was a vast room of 850 pillars with room for 20,000 worshippers kneeling on prayer rugs.

The red and white detail in the arches are two different building materials: red brick and white stone.

  

I just love how they preserved the ancient mosque while building the Cathedral. It isn’t my intention to imply one is more beautiful than the other.  I’ve seen many impressive cathedrals so the less familiar Moorish design is novel to me. King Charles is reputed to have questioned why something so ordinary was built in an extraordinary structure.

 

Mosaics of multicolored glass and enamel cubes panel the walls of the Mihrab, a niche or room in mosques that directs the worshippers toward Mecca.

This photo of the ceiling of the Mihrab doesn’t do it justice.

Many chapels and altars have been incorporated within the original space and the juxtaposition of styles is striking.

Every square inch of wall and arches has been painted over in this small chapel.

The transititional details between the mosque and the cathedral.

Continuing into the center of the building one enters a richly decorated and light-filled sanctuary with ceiling soaring 130′ in the air – quite a notable change from the 30′ high ceilings in the mosque.

The high altar.

 

Spanning the Guadalquivir River at Córdoba is a bridge constructed on original 1st-century Roman foundations and 16th-century arches.

The old cobbled lanes of the historic area around the Mezquita and the architectural treasures preserved from 1st, 6th, 8th and 13th centuries make Córdoba a town you don’t want to miss on your journey through Spain.

Where are we presently?  We have been exploring Bucharest, Romania and plan to be present in a church service Sunday of one of our sister congregations.  On Monday we leave for Brasov and a few days later to Sibiu, and then to Timisoara. 

Next week we will have a lot of catching up to do!

You can follow Meet You in the Morning Travel on Facebook for real time posts. Thanks for reading. Until next week –  ciao!

7 responses to “And the winner is…  Córdoba!

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