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CORDOBA - THE GREAT MOSQUE

(and a cathedral)

 

Link to Al-Andalus Chronology  711 - c1232 - 1492

 

Andalucia Photo & History Gallery Links

 

 

The logistics of a visit to now little town of Cordoba from our Andalusian  base at Carmona could not have been easier.  As soon as you cross the river there is a convenient car park by the walls of the old Porta Sevilla, looked after by the usual helpful villainous looking Romany car space finder and (in our experience reliable) custodio.  Then it's just a quiet stroll through the attractive streets to the Mosque.  There are not even many people around until you close in on the coach dumping ground close to the Mosque.  Inside the great building the early crowds thin dramatically as American lunch time and tight tour schedules call (Cordoba is not a tour company overnighter), and by 2 the mosque is almost empty - time for serious photography. 

 

Then after 3 it's time to enjoy another great Spanish luxury - the late lunch (without tourists).  For the second time in Spain the Dom risked a restaurant next to the main event (José Garcia Marín's "El Caballo Rojo" -The Red Horse), and for the second time it worked brilliantly - an aperitif of cold dry sherry, cold white garlic soup (a superior cousin of gazpacho - made with ground almonds, bread and ?? as well as lots of garlic - and one of the gastronomic discoveries of the trip), a local dry white wine, and melt in your mouth poached fish.  The sort of day  that would make anyone want to be a Paradox.

 

If we were to revisit Andalucia we would spend 2 or three nights in Cordoba - there is more to experience and enjoy than can be done in a day trip.

 

 

784 AD, and Abd al-Ramin I gets going with the first phase of the Great Mosque of Cordoba, using columns, capitals and bases recycled from the previous site occupant, the Visigoth Church of  San Vincente, and the ruins of other Visigothic and Roman buildings.  As most of these components were different sizes, their incorporation into what comes across as a coherent whole, was in itself a major major architectural achievement.  For example, look at the way the bases on the columns above have been adjusted for height, or how the capital further below is clearly not sitting on the column it started its life with.

 

The need for height and lightness is achieved through the equally brilliant idea of double arches.  Just how critical the height is to the space's aesthetic is apparent when you go through to the "new" (= late 900s) al-Mansur part which superficially looks the same but feels more cramped because it is a foot or two less high.  Some of the double arches like those in the middle ground below are semi circle above over circle (horse-shoe), whereas others are semicircle above semicircle (see top photo), again designed around the requirements dictated by the recycled columns et al.

 

Today this is one of the oldest places of worship still intact, and it was so big that even the decision by the medieval church to build a large cathedral in the middle of it has not destroyed it's essential feel.

 

 

A closer look at how each footing / column / capital / arch structure had to be individually designed with appropriate spacers / joins to accommodate whatever recycled material was being used.  

 

 

From the orange treed courtyard, the cathedral structure - parachuted into the middle of the mosque - becomes more apparent, but inside it can be ignored, so large is the unaffected section of the columned mosque.

 

On the north side of the courtyard, a few modifications and height extensions converted a minaret into a bell tower.  After his sack of Santiago de Compostela in 997, Al-Mansur had had Christian slaves carry the cathedral bells from Compostela to the Great Mosque of Cordoba.  240 years later, in 1236, Fernando III ("The Saint"), King of León and Castile (1198 -  1217 (King of Castile) - 1230 (King of León) - 1252 (54)) had Muslim slaves carry the bells back to Santiago after he captured Cordoba.

 

 

The western facade gives one some idea of the size of the space inside.  There are also some attractive features on the East wall - which we will get to, along with the ghetto,  when we stay overnight in Cordoba one day. 

 

See more detailed description plus an aerial photo in Sacred Destinations.

 

 

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