On our way south from Madrid, our next destination was Cordoba and visiting the magnificent Mezquita. First a church, then a mosque, then a cathedral. Built in the 8th century, by the Emir Abd ar-Rahman I, the mosque rests on the foundation of a Christian Visigothic Church (Basilica of San Vicente Mártir). The Mezquita was then established as a cathedral in the 13th century when the Christians conquered the city and became Cordoba’s first UNESCO World Heritage site. Mixed in with all the old curvy alleys and magnificent architecture, we were so impressed with the preservation of the Mezquita and Cordoba. During the dark ages, when much of Europe was barbaric and illiterate, Cordoba was a haven of enlightened thought. Famous for religious tolerance, artistic expression, and dedication to philosophy and the sciences. Even today, you will still hear the Muslim call to prayer. Our visit was only for a day, but it was a day that created a beautiful Lasting Impression.
Mezquita – Catedral de Cordoba
We entered the Mosque-Cathedral through impressive bronze doors and followed a path to the inner courtyard, Patio de los Naranjos. When this was a mosque, the Muslim faithful would gather to wash here before prayer. Today there are many trees including palm, orange, and cypress, as well as one very old olive tree. After admiring this peaceful patio, we made our way to the remarkable inner space of the mosque. The sight of the ribbed dome and the dozens of red and white arches was quite memorable. More than 800 red and blue columns are topped with double arches made from alternating red brick and white stone. The columns seem to recede to infinity in this vast space with low ceilings and dim light. The original mosque was brighter, before Christians made their renovations of closing the arched entrances and adding a giant cathedral in the center. With renovations over the years, light has been brought in through skylights and windows.
The Mezquita is a prime example of some of the best Moorish architecture that can be found in Spain which we admired throughout our visit. Beginning at the entrance, moving through the hypostyle hall to the dome in the chapel and then between the treasury to the altar and on to the choir. It really was so much to take in. The Mihrab, which is the equivalent to a church’s high altar, was the focus of the mosque and remains the highlight of the Mezquita. This decorated niche reflects the wealth of Cordoba in its prime. Shimmering multicolored glass and enamel cubes panel the walls and domes in mosaics. I have never seen anything quite like this!
Just beyond the Mesquita lies a stunning example of a roman bridge. Built in accordance with the wishes of the Roman Emperor Augustus, this 2000 year old bridge makes for an impressive sight of 16 consecutive arches spanning across the 820 feet of the Guadalquivir River. Nowadays the bridge is entirely pedestrianized and is used by visitors who come to follow in the footsteps of the Romans and Moors who crossed the bridge to the old quarter or to the Mezquita.