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