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"La Mezquita de Cordoba" - An outstanding Cathedral
Wednesday, May 22, 2013 @ 12:09 PM

The Mosque-Cathedral of Cordoba was is the third largest Mosque in the world after  Casablanca and Mecca. 
The original Mosque was built over the Visigothic Saint Vincent Basilica, Cordoba's most important Christian temple since its foundation in the 6th century. Hardly a trace of the ancient Christian church had been left, and it was not until the 1940s that rests of the Basilica, mainly mosaics and pillars, were discovered in the subfloor of the Cathedral when building works had to be carried out.

The building was divided into a courtyard, also known as the Orange Courtyard, the old minaret, which was transformed into the belfry tower of the Cathedral in the 17th century, and the prayer hall, made up of more than 800 marble, jasper and granite columns, which supported around 400 horseshoe arches with arch-stones in two colours. Above them, the mihrab impressed with all its splendour. It was built using marble, featuring stuccos and beautifully coloured Byzantine mosaics, contrasting with the gold background.

The Mezquita Cathedral is one of a kind and a unique place for Muslims as well as Christians. The construction of the Mosque began in 786 A.D. and enlargements were carried out by four different Umayyad Rulers. It is made up of a courtyard and a prayer hall, divided into nineteen naves running lengthwise.

Since its beginnings, the Mosque has been the biggest building of its kind in the western Muslim world. This building had not only religious but also social, cultural and political manifestations. The first Eucharistic ceremony of the Dedication of the Cathedral was celebrated in 1236 and the construction of the main chapel, transept and Choir was initiated in 1523.

The Cathedral was built in Renaissance style and was designed by the architects Hernán Ruiz I, II and III, Diego de Praves and Juan de Ochoa. Its impressive choir stalls around the High Altar were designed by Duque Cornejo. On both sides of the temple a number of Chapels are located, which were built to satisfy the desire of fervent Catholics to be buried in the Cathedral.

The Basilica of Saint Vincent the Martyr was the original seed that was later transformed into the Umayyad Mosque, as the Moors built the original Alhama Mosque over its foundations. It is estimated that the church was built in the mid-6th century and subsequently became the main place of worship for Christians in the city.

Abd ar-Rahman al Dahil or Abd ar-Rahman the First (also known as the Falcon of Al Andalus) was born in Damascus in 731 A.D. and died in Cordoba in the year 788. He was a prince of the Umayyad dynasty, who had to flee Syria after his family was overthrown by the Abbasids in the Abu Futrus massacre (Egypt). During his flight, he travelled through many places until he ended up in Al Andalus, conquered four decades earlier by his own family, where he was able to find a number of Syrian supporters. He went on to defeat the Emir Yusef and proclaimed himself the independent Emir of Al Andalus. He founded the dynasty which ensured Umeyyad rule in Spain until 1031.

The construction of the Mosque began during his reign, but it was, in fact, not until the last years of it that he felt the need to do so. Maybe it was only then that he realised that he would need to leave behind a religious legacy for his subjects.

Choosing the location of the old Visigothic Saint Vincent Basilica for his new Mosque, which ultimately led to the destruction of the church, meant that he was able to take advantage of a place already used for prayer and worship, and make use of its building materials for his new project.

Abd ar-Rahman II was born in Toledo in 792 A.D. and rose to the throne when he was little more than thirty years old. He distinguished himself through his ambitious construction projects, founding the city of Murcia, building the Arab fortress in Merida and the city walls of Seville.

His reign (822-852) was a fruitful period for the Umayyad dynasty in Spain, witnessing an intellectual rebirth which broke with Syrian traditions and the conservative tendencies of his predecessors.

Abd ar-Rahman III was born in 891 and acceded to the throne in 912. He succesfully defeated the rebels in Al Andalus and was able to pacify the Umayyad Kingdom after Zaragoza surrendered in 937. He proclaimed himself Emir as well as Caliph.

Although he didn't add a new extension to the Mosque, his most important work of architecture was the palace-city of Medina Azahara.

He didn't make any changes to the oratory but he enlarged the courtyard, dismantled the first minaret and built a new one, which served as a model for the Almohad minarets and the Mudejar bell-fries.

This minaret still exists today underneath the Christian belfry. Its original height is known through old drawings which have been preserved.

Al-Hakam II was born in 915 and rose to the throne in 961. He is described as a very religious, virtuous and pious ruler. He gave continuation to his father's policies and maintained peace and prosperity in Al Andalus. His reign symbolises the glory and splendour of the Caliphate of Cordoba.

He made enlargements to the Mosque, carried out reformation works in the Alcazar and finished Medina Azahara. He provided the city with street lights, a sewage network and paved the majority of its streets.

Al Mansur was born in Torrox in 940. He moved to Cordoba to receive his education when he was still very young. He later became a stubborn dictator who promoted a holy war against the Christians.

He brought large quantities of slaves to Cordoba following each of his 56 campaigns against the Christians in the North. He also reorganised his army, incorporating soldiers of Berber origin.

It was Gonzalez Frances who, in 1896, had the idea of putting together this collection of relics to display in a museum. The idea was not to create a big collection of artworks. The only aim was to add splendour to the liturgy and to express the devotion to the Virgin Mother and the Saints. The 17th of May 1345 is the date when the chapel was mentioned for the first time. The presence of Aragonese canons connects this altar with Our Lady of the Pilar from Zaragoza.

The altarpiece made of carved and gilded wood depicts Santiago kneeling before the Virgin Mary. Surrounding the two, we see an urban landscape that alludes to the city of Zaragoza. The altarpiece was designed by the sculptor Juan Fernández del Rio. There are two oval pieces of wood illustrating the indulgences granted to those who pray before the image of the Virgin.


The Mosque also holds many treasure such as beautiful ivory crucifixes, portapaces, chalices and ciboria, silver-works and large crucifixes made of precious materials. One of them was donated to the Cathedral by the Bishop Diego de Mardones in 1620.

A magnificent monument, The Mosque of Cordoba is a fascinating journey in time to be enjoyed by everyone.


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jane s said:
Sunday, May 26, 2013 @ 6:34 PM

Fascinating article thanks so much for sharing it

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