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