Mezquita-Catedral de Córdoba

by Robert Bovington

Córdoba was once the most important city in Europe. It was the centre of the medieval Caliphate of Córdoba and capital of the western Islamic Empire. It reached its peak in the 10th century when it rivalled Baghdad and Constantinople as one of the great cities of the World. Its greatest surviving monument to the city’s magnificent past is its Grand Mosque – the Mezquita.

Córdoba Mezquita © Robert Bovington
Work on the mosque actually started in 786 when it was built on the site of an old Visigothic church. However, it was enlarged three times before reaching its present size in 987 when it became the largest sacred building in the Islamic world.

And big it most certainly is – so massive that a Gothic cathedral was built inside the mosque – and lots of chapels!

Following the Christian Reconquest of Córdoba in 1236, the mosque was consecrated as a Christian cathedral. During the 14th century, the Villaviciosa Chapel and the Capilla Real were built and then in 1523, work on the cathedral started with the building of a huge nave inside the mosque.
The interior of the mosque is spectacular – a forest of pillars and arches. 856 of the granite, jasper and marble columns remain – some were removed to make way for the Christian parts of the building. Horseshoe-shaped arches consisting of alternating red brick and white stone were placed above the lower pillars, which has given the Mezquita its distinctive character. 
Córdoba Mezquita © Robert Bovington
Of course, there is much more to this magnificent building than pillars and arches! The Mihrab is particularly magnificent with its intricately carved marble ceiling and exquisitely decorated chambers with their Byzantine mosaics. All this ornamentation is in great contrast to the worn flagstones – an indication that many Muslims prayed here.

The Villaviciosa and Capilla Real chapels are both quite splendid and are good examples of Mudéjar architecture.

There used to be many entrances into the mosque but nowadays, the only one open to the public is the Puerta del Perdón.

No self-respecting mosque should be without a patio where prospective worshippers can perform their ritual ablutions. The Patio de los Naranjos was used for this purpose. Visitors still pass through this delightful courtyard with its orange trees and fountains on their way into the Mezquita.
Patio de los Naranjos  © Robert Bovington
The minaret of the mosque is no longer visible. It is enveloped in a Baroque bell tower – the Torre del Alminar.
Torre del Alminar  © Robert Bovington
Finally, there is the Cathedral. Charles V later regretted the decision to build it within the Mezquita and many people since have agreed that its construction has devalued the mosque’s simple beauty. Nevertheless, the Cathedral has many impressive features, particularly the choir with its Baroque mahogany choir stalls that were carved by Pedro Duque Correjo in the 18th century. 
Mezquita Cathedral – part of the choir © Robert Bovington
Anything this special ought to be afforded special protection and it is – UNESCO has declared the Mezquita a World Heritage site.

more blogs by Robert Bovington… 

“Photographs of Spain”
“postcards from Spain”
“you couldn’t make it up!”
“a grumpy old man in Spain”
“bits and bobs”
“Spanish Expressions”
“Spanish Art”
“Books About Spain”

About Robert Bovington

Robert Bovington is an English writer of travel books. These include “Spanish Matters” and “Spanish Impressions” Robert Bovington was born in Brighton, East Sussex, the son of Leonard and Audrey Bovington. He is the first-born and has eight siblings – six brothers and two sisters. Having worked for many years in both the telecommunications industry and the teaching profession, Robert wanted to take on new challenges. He and Diane decided to relocate to Spain and, in 2003, the couple moved to Roquetas de Mar in sunny Andalucía. However, lazing on the beach was not Robert's idea of fun - he wanted to explore his new homeland. It didn't stop there! He was so impressed with Spain, its countryside, its historic cities and its culture that it inspired him to write about his experiences. Robert Bovington has been married to Diane for over thirty years. They have no children. However, Robert’s short marriage to Helene resulted in twin daughters Carole and Sheila. The author is also a grandfather and great grandfather. Robert met Diane when both belonged to the Crescent Operatic Society. Music is one of the author’s great passions. At primary school he sang in a choir in a concert of Bach and Handel. Another of his interests is football and for many years he supported Brighton & Hove Albion home and away. His favourite premiership team is Arsenal. Other interests include information technology, writing and ten-pin bowling.
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