22.05.2019: The Mezquita-Catedral de Córdoba

Even if you are not into history, the great Mezquita-Catedral is a must-see place in Córdoba. The 14 400 sq meter building has seen it’s fair share of the Spanish history, as it was first built as a small church by the Visigoths during the Roman reign. When the Muslims conquered the Iberian peninsula, the Caliph Abd ar-Rahman I purchased half of the church for the Muslim community’s Friday prayers, and later, in AD 784 purchased the rest of the church to set up a mosque. Over the centuries it was extended twice, bringing it to the form you can see it today.

Patio de los Naranjos

(C) Two Queens Travel Blog 2019

Even when you enter the Patio de los Naranjos, the outdoor garden area surrounding the Mezquita-Catedral, it is quite obvious that this place wasn’t built to be a church, or a cathedral, but for something else. Even when the hustle and bustle of the daily tourist masses started, the gardens still felt tranquil, and you can easily lose yourself in thought when walking around.

The patio is also the place where, during the time when the Mezquita was still a mosque, the Muslims would perform the ablution (wudu) before going inside the mosque to perform the prayers.

At one corner of the patio is the 54 meter tall bell tower, where you have fantastic views over the city of Córdoba. Of course this requires you to utilise your leg muscles as you have to climb up to the tower. The cost for this is only 2€ per person, and this allows you to have possibly some of the best holiday snaps of the city. But you have to be “an early bird”, as the tickets usually sell out quite early in the day. And remember to time your visit right, as the church bells toll quite often…
Anyway, it might not come as a surprise to anyone when you find out that the bell tower actually used to be a minaret for the great mosque, and in its heyday this minaret was copied all over the Muslim Al-Andalus.

Inside the Mezquita-Catedral

First things first. When you come to any holy place, such as a church, temple, or a mosque, please be respectful enough to follow the rules of the place. 

The first thing that we noticed when entering the Mezquita was the serenity of the vast place. As we were there shortly after 8.30 on the Wednesday morning, the entrance was free of charge (normally 10€ per person). Despite the early time, there were still many people around, but the size of the place just seems to make everyone disappear (unless you try to take a photo – then everyone seems to congregate in the same spot).

(C) Two Queens Travel Blog 2019

During the restoration work of the Mezquita, they uncovered the original Visigoth / Roman era floors and mosaics, which are now visible through a floor window as pictured above. It is wonderful that something as beautiful and intricate has survived for over 1500 years and now that it has been uncovered, it can be viewed in such detail.

But it is not the only place in the Mezquita where there are beautiful mosaics. In the area of the Mihrab, a prayer niche, at the southern end of the Mezquita is more of the beautiful mosaics.

The Mihrab (C) Two Queens Travel Blog 2019

These are actually a gift from the emperor of Byzantium, from whom the then Caliph asked for a mosaicist, who could imitate the works in the great mosque of Damascus. The Christian emperor of Byzantium didn’t just send the person, but also 1600 kgs of gold mosaic cubes that subsequently were used to create this wall.

And of course the visit to the Mezquita wouldn’t be anything if you didn’t pay attention to the most well-known feature of the place. The beautiful red-and-white arches that you can see in all the souvenier materials of Córdoba.

(C) Two Queens Travel Blog 2019

The Mezquita-Catedral is definitely a must-see place. It may not be as grand as the Alhambra in Granada, but at the same time one has to remember that the Mezquita is not a palace or a fortress, it used to be a church turned and rebuilt to be a mosque conquered to be a cathedral, a house of God. But it will still take your breath away and make you feel that one step closer to the Creator.

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