More information, please!

The most important site in Córdoba, Spain is the Mosque–Cathedral. The name summed up what we already knew:

A mosque that dated back to the Muslim occupation of Hispania ….

… had been converted into a cathedral after the defeat.

We spent considerable time walking through, reading the few interpretative signs, observing, and, still, we couldn’t quite understand what we were seeing. This was one of those rare occasions when we wished that we had read about a site BEFORE our visit, rather than doing research afterwards.

Our basic assumption that the building started as a mosque proved to be incorrect. It started as a Visigoth Catholic Church around the year 600. When Muslims conquered Hispania, they shared the church but by 784 plans began for their own Great Mosque. Construction and renovations lasted until 987, and, at that time, the outer walls that we know today were completed.

From what we have read, the mosque was indeed “great” in historic design, opulent building materials, and superb craftsmanship.

More than 850 colored granite and marble pillars form a grid through the structure with red and white bricks in the arches.

Of the exterior doors, our favorite was the Puerta del Espiritu Santo, the “Door of the Holy Spirit”, dating back to the second-half of the 10th Century. The door accessed the mosque prayer hall but was blocked in and not restored until the 20th Century.

In 1236, four hundred fifty years after the Great Mosque started, the Muslims had been defeated and plans were drawn up to convert the mosque into a Catholic Cathedral. In the same amount of time that it took to build the Great Mosque, a cathedral arose in the center of the structure. When Charles V, King of Aragon and Castile, “…visited the completed cathedral he was displeased by the result and famously commented, ‘they have taken something unique in all the world and destroyed it to build something you can find in any city.’ ” Work on the cathedral continued on until the late 1700’s.

The angel and lion, along with the checkerboard black-and-white flooring, were later touches that emphasized the point that a truly great building had been destroyed by “something you can find in any city.’”

In many areas it was hard to determine what elements were from the earlier, Mosque-era building and what was from the later, Cathedral-era reconstruction.

After the visit, we wanted to know more. Using our photos as a guide, we started to research just what we’d seen. Truly, this was a place “unique in all the world,” and we had underestimated how more information would have allowed us a deeper understanding. If you plan to visit the Mosque–Cathedral in Córdoba – learn from our mistake. Do a little reading before you go.


October 2017

About simpletravelourway

Beth and Joe enjoy simple travel.
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9 Responses to More information, please!

  1. Luckily, we did some reading beforehand but it didn’t prepare us at all for the experience of seeing it in person. Quite simply, we were blown away and spent at least three hours wandering around and then sitting in the cathedral portion to soak up some of the atmosphere. There are many amazing places of worship in the world but this truly is one of the finest! Anita

  2. Thank you for sharing your impressions and photos. I have heard so much about this place and hope to be able to visit it one day.

  3. Marie says:

    This was one of my favorite buildings I visited in Andalucia. I wish we had spent more time but I was with a tour group. I need to go back. The contrast between the calm, solemn air of the mosque compared to the overwrought design of the church was striking.

  4. I’m in awe of the age and history of this place. Good advice to research before a visit and I think it applies to many places. Lovely photos.

  5. plaidcamper says:

    What an interesting building – all that history! You’d want to know more, that’s for sure. It’s on the list…

  6. Joe says:

    Thank you for the beautiful and educational article. I agree that the more I learn about a place beforehand, the more inspiring and meaningful the visit.

    • It’s a balance though between having the time to do meaningful research on all the sites we visit on our travels. There’s never quite enough time and also doesn’t take into account spur of the moment visits we make to new places. Usually we do an adequate job either before or after – but the mosque-cathedral proved to be an exception: better to have done our homework BEORE the visit.

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