Córdoba, a thousand years ago was considered a “metropolis” of the Islamic world. It was on par with other Islamic cities, such as Baghdad in its time, with a population of around 500,000 – unheard of in those times. It was a great cultural, political, financial, and literary center. Under the Moorish rule, the three big monotheistic religions existed side-by-side: Christian, Islam, and Judaism. While Córdoba was under Moorish rule, Abd al-Rahman I, in 784, ordered the Mezquita to be built. It was the grand mosque of its day, but as centuries went on it grew more grand through additional additions/renovations until the final update could accommodate up to 40,000 people for prayers. In the 13th century, Spanish Christians in the north became more organized and overtook the Moorish city of Córdoba. They forced the Moorish people, along with their cultural impact, to evacuate the city (many went further south to Granada as it would remain under Moorish rules for a few more centuries). The Spanish Christians immediately decided the grand mosque should not be destroyed, but converted to a Catholic Cathedral.
We’re incredibly lucky the Spanish King, Ferdinand III, decided to convert part of the mosque into a Catholic Cathedral instead of razing it to the ground. It’s truly a feat of engineering, an architectural marvel, a masterpiece, a site that takes a minimum of a few hours to digest the wonder of it. Upon entering the Mezquita you’re immediately floored by the 856+ columns supporting double-arches, in perfect horizontal and diagonal symmetric rows, which support the structure and roof. The building is a large rectangle and in the center is where the Spanish Catholics decided to remove some columns and insert a more classic style cathedral featuring high arches, skylights, a choir area, an organ, and a pulpit. You would never even realize the catholic cathedral was there if you stayed along the perimeter of the inside of the Mezquita. The inside features Islamic artifacts and designs around the edges of the rectangular structure, including a still intact Mihrab as it was nearly 900 years ago. The two religious building styles juxtaposed against each other is truly a wonder and a sight to behold. Hubs and I spent two hours in the Mezquita trying as best we could to take it all in. We took hundreds of photos, but you can’t sum up this place in a series of photos, or even a video. You have to “feel” it to understand the brevity of its splendor. I have to say it’s one of the most spiritual places Hubs and I have ever visited. We were even lucky enough to have witnessed a wedding during our time inside.
If you do make your way to Spain to visit, go for the general admission ticket from one of the automated machines (avoid the evening sound and light private tour – no photos permitted). And, in order to get away from the crowds and tours, go around lunch (Spanish time) or after.
After the visit to the Mezquita, we roamed over to the roman bridge to take some of the pictures of the city you see in guide books. Córdoba is a quiet town and after seeing the Mezquita all other discoveries were just the icing on the cake.