The Mezquita, a World Heritage site:
The Mezquita, Cordoba’s Great Mosque is one of the most unique monuments that you’ll ever visit. In a world marked by decades of religious battles between Catholics and Protestants and Muslim and Hindus, who would ever have imagined that a mosque with a Christian cathedral within it could have survived the times!
When it all began
The Muslim arrival in Spain started in the 8th century when the Arabs and Berbers invaded Spain. A rich and powerful caliphate was established in Cordoba and this was the start of the brilliant civilization of early medieval Europe.
Mathematics, science, architecture and decorative arts flourished under the patronage of Abd al Rahman II during his 30-year rule. The Great Mosque was built where a Visigoth basilica once stood. Over the centuries, additions were made and its architectural and artistic styles evolved, but the most lavish changes occurred in the 10th century when Hakam II added the elaborate prayer niche (mihrab) and the caliph’s enclosure (maqsura). When Spain reverted to Christian rule, it was decided that a Gothic-style cathedral would be built inside the mosque itself. Part of the mosque was destroyed in 1523 to make way for the construction of the cathedral.
A sightseeing visit to the Mezquita therefore is a look all the way back to the wealthy period of the Caliphate and Spain’s Moorish heritage.
The Great Mosque, a symbol of Spain’s Moorish heritage
Set in the historic old town of Cordoba, the Mezquita is a World Heritage site. The most stunning of its features are the arches and more than 850 columns of granite, jasper and marble that support the roof. Nineteen naves make up the quadrangular plan of the early mosque, divided by a double series of arches. Alternating red and white, brick with stone and other decorative elements were used, in addition to sculpted marble, stucco, mosaics, and plasterwork to give this amazing look. Another star attraction from its Moorish heritage is the richly ornamented Mihrab.
Inside, at the centre of its forest of columns, stands a great Christian cathedral. It is a design wonder in its own right, with different styles of architecture ranging from the Gothic to the Baroque. The Capilla de Villaviciosa was the first Christian chapel built in 1371 and the 93m bell tower (Torre del Alminar) was built on the site of the original minaret. Also check out the elaborate Churrigueresque stalls of the cathedral choir
Just outside the Great Mosque itself you will find an orange tree courtyard where the faithful washed before prayers (Patio de los Naranjos). This beautiful garden is a perfect place to rest and catch your breath in the cool of its fountains and trees, and amidst the wafting scent of orange blossoms.
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