The Mezquita of Córdoba

“The Mezquita epitomises this influence in the city, serving as a constant palpable reminder of its days as a mega powerful Caliphate when Córdoba was known in Arabic as Qurtuba, in the region of al-Andalus.”

There are plenty of articles and blog posts on the internet about the Mezquita already.

I can’t provide new information on it as such as it has all been said before, however I am hoping to tell you here just why it is so amazing and unique and the effect it has with every visit or just simply passing by it.

No trip to Córdoba would be complete without a trip to the Mezquita!

There is no way I can write a blog on Andalucía, being a former resident of Córdoba, and not write about this monumental, awe-inspiring site…

History

It’s officially known as the ‘Mezquita-Catedral de Córdoba‘ which respectfully includes both elements as it is indeed comprised of both a mosque and a cathedral. It is unique in the world in that it is the only site which combines both. The word ‘mezquita‘ literally means ‘mosque’ and is also used to refer to any mosque in the world.

The Mezquita has existed in several incarnations and it still stands robust and as intricately detailed as ever. Initial construction was ordered by Islamic ruler Abd al-Rahman I in the year 784.

It was then expanded exponentially across the decades by other Moorish architects until it was captured by the Christian Kings  in 1236 during the Spanish Reconquest and swiftly converted into a Roman Catholic cathedral. (The Moors also rebuilt an old Visigoth fortress and made it the Alcázar- read about it here).

In fact, they planted a Renaissance style cathedral nave slap-bang in the middle of the site. So, you see a minaret and cathedral side by side. Unsurprisingly, it has been a source of contention between some Muslims and Christians in debating the rightful ownership.

Today, the Mezquita is still undeniably the heart of Córdoba, a UNESCO World Heritage site which looms over the river and is nestled by the labyrinthine cobbled, narrow streets of the old Jewish Quarter.

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The minaret from when the Mezquita was a mosque

The Moorish is very much felt in present day Córdoba. It is everywhere from wall tiles, mosaics, lanterns and the markets. The Mezquita epitomises this influence in the city, serving as a constant palpable reminder of its days as a mega powerful Caliphate when Córdoba was known in Arabic as Qurtuba, in the region of al-Andalus.

Another Moorish construction remains on the hills overlooking the valley (which is essentially what Córdoba is, a valle, explaining why heat gets trapped there and doesn’t lift at night)- the Madinat al-Zahra which was actually a city of its own however it only functioned for 80 years despite all of the work that went into its building and establishment.

Such is the visibility of the Islamic architecture and design, when I visited Marrakech, I didn’t feel too much of a difference, visually speaking.

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The cathedral planted in the middle of the Mezquita site

I was lucky enough to live only three minutes walking distance from the Mezquita for around a year and a half. It never gets boring to look at; each time I pass it, I am transfixed by the ornate carvings and engravings. The design is mathematical in its symmetry. Inside is jaw-dropping. 856 granite columns uphold the structure with over 400 red and white arches which resemble a canopy of palm trees.

My favourite part is the white stucco domed ceiling in the cathedral section. Gold coats many of the religious artefacts and candlelight provides a holy glow and ambience. Stained glass windows, vidriera, cast prismatic light across one section of the Mezquita which is really quite stunning.

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El Patio de los Naranjos

El Patio de los Naranjos

The patio of orange trees is just as stunning at the Mezquita’s interior. There are water features which provide a sense of cool and calm and the sound of trickling water is so peaceful. The cobbled ground feels medieval while the lofty palm trees remind you where you are. Due to the number of trees in this patio, there is plenty of shade for the blazing hot days when it just gets too much. Sometimes, I’d go in there and just sit for a while to give my legs a rest from hours of walking around the city centre.

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The cathedral nave and patio as seen from the Islamic minaret

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In the Catholic cathedral section
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The Islamic architecture arches as seen all over Andalucía

The Patio de los Naranjos is also used for events sometimes such as hosting one of the flamenco performances on La Noche Blanca del Flamenco.

One time, a friend and I went on a peaceful women’s rights march through the city which culminated in wrapping a white rope around the perimeter of the Mezquita complex to symbolise peace and unity.

This was particularly pertinent as in 2016, an ISIS video was released calling for the Mezquita (and the whole city of Córdoba) to be recaptured and reconverted to Islam. Armed guards stand at the entrance to the Mezquita and it prompted the school I was working at to deliver training as to what we should do if terrorists ever targeted the school!

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Stained glass windows and intricate stucco design
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Me and my sister in the Patio de los Naranjos

The Mezquita also holds weddings which you don’t have to be Roman Catholic for; there is a long waiting list though!

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Me on a cold winter’s day visit to the Mezquita

How much does it cost to enter?

As of October 2019:

Adult with guide- 25 euros

Adult without guide- 10 euros

Children under 10- free

Children aged 11-14 without guide- 5 euros

If you are a resident of Córdoba, entry is free!

A trip up the minaret for outstanding views over Córdoba costs 2 euros.

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Salmorejo, cerveza y tortilla de patatas outside Bar Santos

An informal and fairly modern attraction to the Mezquita, unaffiliated of course, is the local tradition of getting a slice of tortilla de patatas from Bar Santos, a tiny little cervecería opposite one side of the Mezquita which is famed throughout Córdoba and beyond for apparently being the best place for tortilla.

It costs around 2 euros for a large slice as seen above, in fact with a tapa of salmorejo and a caña of cervceza, you can eat well for 5 euros! People take it out of the bar and sit along the steps of the Mezquita. It’s a new tradition and can’t be beaten on a day when you want to keep things cheap but good. It had to be mentioned in this entry on the Mezquita!

“My favourite part is the white stucco domed ceiling in the cathedral section. Gold coats many of the religious artefacts and candlelight provides a holy glow and ambience. Stained glass windows, vidriera, cast prismatic light across one section of the Mezquita which is really quite stunning.”

Whether you are religious or not, the Mezquita is a unique structure which I feel must be seen at least once in a lifetime. Despite its history of conflict and invasion, where else can one see Islamic and Catholic iconography in such close proximity, unified in the one site?

Let me know about your experience of the Mezquita in the comments below.

Laura

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The Mezquita as seen from the other side of the Roman Bridge
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The beautiful exterior and one of the archways leading to the Patio

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A view of the Mezquita from the terrace of where I used to live
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And another

 

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