Córdoba: Mosques and Flower Pots

Trip Start May 15, 2008
Trip End Jul 24, 2008

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Flag of Spain and Canary Islands  , Andalusia,
Thursday, June 12, 2008

On Thursday, June 12, we went on a day trip to Cordoba, the first capital of Al-Andalus (Muslim Spain) - a caliphate was located here from the 8th to the 12th century, at which time the Muslim capital moved to Sevilla, until it fell in 1248 and moved on to Granada, which remained capital of Al-Andalus until the Mores were finally thrown out of Spain by Ferdinand and Isabella in 1492.
Cordoba, a much smaller city than Sevilla, is most famous for its Cathedral, which was the old mosque of the city.  Instead of almost completely destroying the Muslim mosque as they did to build the Cathedral in Sevilla, those who reconquered Cordoba converted the space to a church without significantly changing the huge structure.  Centuries later, however, a Christian altar and shrine were built in the middle of the structure, destroying part of it.  For the most part, it is still intact and one of the best preserved mosques in Spain.
It truly is an impressive sight (on some lists it is one of the "new" wonders of the world, and rightfully so in my opinion).  Anyways, the Cathedral/Mosque of Cordoba was our first stop in the ancient city, actually established by Romans, of which one Roman bridge across the river still remains.
Right when entering the city, the Moorish architecture of the mosque startles the visitor.  Its minaret, converted to a bell tower by the Christians similar to the Giralda in Sevilla, stands prominent as do the huge outer walls of the mosque.  Upon entering the complex, there is a patio full of orange trees.  Once one enters the mosque, the sheer size is overwhelming, as is the monotony.  Hundreds of red-and-white striped horseshoe arches support the massive building, their columns stretching down into the interior.  Interestingly enough, the Mores used old Roman column capitals on their columns for construction, so there is a Roman element to the building as well, which is pretty obvious when one looks closely.  On one wall of the building, original Muslim rooms that housed the Koran remain.  Also, in the back there is a small chapel built by the Christians but mimicking the architectural style of the original mosque - only instead of geometrical patterns, scenes from the Bible are painted onto the arches and columns.  Unfortunately, the light isn't good in there and most pictures don't come out very well.
After finishing up at the mosque, we took a short tour of the old Jewish quarter of the town, which was very picturesque and somewhat similar to the Barrio Santa Cruz in Sevilla.  We visited one of the only three surviving synagogues in all of Spain (the other two are in Toledo).  There is a Courtyard and a Street of Flowers, in which flower pots cover the walls of all the buildings.  From there, there is a good view of the Minaret tower through the alleyway.  All over this part of town, the Muslim architectural elements are obvious, from horseshoe arches to narrow, curving streets.  However, many of these are mudejar (built during the Christian time period designed to imitate Muslim style because it was preferred aesthetically), as is obvious by the interlay of human figures in the artwork, which is against Muslim tradition.
In the early afternoon, we headed back to Sevilla.  On the slightly less than two-hour drive, there are beautiful fields of sunflowers covering the landscape.  Just lovely.
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