Andalusia – Córdoba – early morning at the Mezquita

The big draw in Córdoba is of course the Mezquita-Catedral de Córdoba. Entrance is free if you go before 9.30am but if you go later in the day, you have to buy tickets from the ticket office of the Patio de los Naranjos (€10 in June 2018). I went down at 8.30am thinking I would beat the crowds but there was still around fifty people wating to get in. The Mezquita was made a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1984 and now approximately 1.5 million tourists visit each year.

You’ll find the Mezquita and many other places I mention on my map of Cordoba here.

Entrance to the building is through the orangery, the Patio De Los Naranjos (video here) and the Torre del Alminar, which was built on the site of the original minaret. I didn’t realise at the time but you can climb to the top of the tower to get a good view over the city (it’s 93 metres high).

Once inside you step into a forest of 856 columns, made of jasper, onyx, marble, and granite, many polished smooth by centuries of people rubbing against them. Down the side of the prayer hall are mihrabs (prayer niches) with horseshoe arches decorated with tesserae (the small cubes used in mosaics) made from small pieces of glass backed with gold and other colours to create an effect that dazzles the eye. Videos here and here. Click on the photos to see them at their best.

The historical account states that there was once a Visigoth Christian church here, located on the site of a Roman temple. The church was shared by both Muslims and Christians after the Islamic conquest of 711–718. It’s said that this arrangement lasted until 784, when the Christian half was purchased by the Emir Abd al-Rahman I who then demolished the original church in order to build a grand mosque for the city. However, the archaeological evidence supporting this chain of events is unclear. In 1236, Córdoba was reconquered by the Christians and the centre of the mosque was converted into a rennaiscance Catholic cathedral now known as the Catedral de Nuestra Señora de la Asunción.

Although the view of the ceiling is very impressive, the contrast between the two styles of architecture seems highly incongruous.

It is argued however that the cathedral provided a protective cover for the Islamic architecture which is why it has survived as well as it has.

My photos didn’t come out very well but a nice thing to do in the evenings is to view the Mezquita from the Roman bridge.

You’ll find a video of the exterior walls at night here.

A wonderful building! Some good places to eat in Cordoba next…

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