The Importance of Religious Buildings in Europe
Cathedrals, mosques and synagogues have been the centres of European cultural and social life for centuries. Their importance is such that whenever a city was conquered, the new rulers came to them to pay homage. They either modified them or destroyed them.
The arrival of the Moors in Spain displaced the Visigoth states. Mosques were built across the country. Historically, more instances of tolerance were shown towards Christian places of worship, by Muslims, than the other way around. The Mezquita Cathedral is a beautiful piece of architecture, although one can not help but be confused by its mixture of styles and faiths.
The Rulers of Cordoba Through History
Cordoba was conquered by the Umayyad dynasty in 711. In 750, the Abbasid dynasty
overthrew them in Damascus. The Umayyad fled to Spain. In 756 they conquered
Cordoba and founded an emirate. Its' ruler was titled; Sultan. This was transformed
it into a caliphate in 929. Their rule would last until 1031. The last 20 years
were wracked by civil wars.
By the time Ferdinand III of Castile captured the city in 1236, it was a mere shadow of its former greatness. IN its day it had many mosques and a massive library. Unarguable its jewel was the Mezquita. Such was its value that Cordoba's conquerors added something to it, to put their mark on it, up to the XVIIIth Century.
History of the Mezquita's Construction
The construction of Cordoba Cathedral began in 784 and would last two centuries.
Originally the site had an old church dedicated to St. Vincent on it. The Moorish
rulers initially shared the site, until the Christian space was purchased.
Abd al-Rahman II expanded the building. Abd al-Rahman III added a new minaret in 966. Al-Hakam further beautified the Mihrab or domed shrine. Some of its more spectacular Moorish elements were carried out by Al-Mansur in 987. He ordered the addition of the courtyard full of orange trees , which still thrive today.
Inside, Alfonso X of Castile added the Villaviciosa Chapel and the Royal Chapel. Charles V permitted the construction of the Baroque cathedral in 1523. It was finished by the XVIIth Century.
What to look for when you are there
- red and white poly-lobed arches
- prayer niches
- a blue tiled dome covered in stars
- a treasure room that holds a magnificent 1516 monstrance
- a Byzantine inscripted mosaic
- the Patio de los Naranjos with its fountain and orange blossoms
- the Mihrab with its vibrant plant images
- the Maksoureh or anteroom full of art
- the Torre del Alminar - the tower
- Second largest mosque in the world
- Keeper of a bone from the Prophet Muhammad
- its Mihrab does not point towards Mecca
- It measures over 20000 square metres
- It has about 1000 finely decorated jasper, onyx, marble and granite columns
Some of the Christian additions, such as the two chapels and the nave, were later on regretted according to historical accounts. One can only wonder if they had not been built what would have been there.