The Mosque-Cathedral of Cordoba is on the list of the world’s most spectacular structures. In the Western Islamic world, it is also acknowledged as being the most significant monument. One of the greatest works of Moorish architecture, the building is also referred to as the Great Mosque of Cordoba and the Mezquita Cordoba.
Complex and historically significant buildings may be found there. Abd ar-Rahman, the Umayyad king during the years 784–788, constructed the building’s initial framework. A large rectangle measuring 590×425 feet is understood to be the shape of the building’s ground plan. Almost a third of the space is taken up by Patio de Los Naranjos and the cloisters, which encircle it on all sides (east, west, and north).
History of the Mosque of Cordoba, Spain
This building, also referred to as the “Mosque-Cathedral of Cordoba “, is located in the autonomous region of Andalusia, Spain, in the city of Córdoba. Historians believe that in the current location of this mosque, there was a Roman temple that was dedicated to the god Janus. When the Visigoths conquered the city of Córdoba in 572 AD, this temple became a church.
After the conquest of Spain by Muslims in 711, this church was divided into two parts, Christian and Islamic. This religious tolerance lasted for many years until the Umayyad caliph, Abd al-Rahman I of Andalusia, purchased the Christian portion in 781 AD and chose to entirely destroy the cathedral in order to build the Great Mosque of Cordoba instead.
It took almost 2 centuries to complete the construction of this mosque, and various parts were added to this place in the 9th and 10th centuries; So that its size doubled from its original size and turned this mosque into one of the biggest historical structures in Islam.
The Christians took back their lands from the Muslim Moors, and this is how the city of Córdoba returned to Christian rule. As a result, the Grand Mosque was also converted into a Roman Catholic Church in 1236, and the Renaissance nave of this church was added to it in the 16th century. In 2010, there was a dispute over the name of the church, which was finally settled by choosing the name “Mosque-Church of Córdoba”.
Visiting the Mosque of Cordoba: The Hypostyle Hall
The Mezquita-Cathedral gateway provides easy access to the historic mosque’s oldest portion from the courtyard of the orange trees (786-88). The Abd Al-Rahman I mosque has eleven naves and is oriented south as opposed to Mecca. It’s a sizable prayer room in the hypostyle; hypostyle is Greek for “packed with columns.” After its completion, the hall contained 1,293 columns, of which 856 are still standing.
For the jasper, onyx, marble, and granite required to construct these arches, the Moors pillaged the Visigoth and Roman ruins on this location. Due to the enormous roof being too low with single-arch columns, the unique double-arch feature was created out of necessity for the architecture.
Building a Roman arch above a Moorish arch in the form of a horseshoe was another method of heightening the structure. When you walk between the arches, the sun and shadows produce peculiar effects.
The Mosque-Cathedral: The Mihrab
The prayer hall’s main point is said to be the prayer niche, also known as the well-known horseshoe-arched Mihrab. The wall fronting Mecca, which is thought to be the location where Islam first emerged, is marked by the Mihrab in mosques. The Mihrab is enclosed by an artistically crafted arch of the Great Mosque of Cordoba. Beyond the arch is a sizable space that is comparable in size to a small room. The gold tesserae provide a remarkable blend of gold, yellows, reddish browns, and dark blues that are used to create the elaborate botanical designs and calligraphic bands that embellish the arch.
The Mosque-Cathedral of Cordoba’s Horseshoe Arch
The Horseshoe Arch is incredibly prevalent in Visigothic architecture. With the fall of the Roman Empire and the coming of the Umayyads, these people ruled the region. Eventually, the horseshoe arch was found all throughout North Africa, from Morocco to Egypt. It helps to make Western Islamic architecture easily recognizable by its distinctive features.
The Dome of the Mezquita
Over the Mihrab lies a brilliant dome. It is made up of intertwining ribs that lavishly grow pointy arches and are covered with a radial pattern of gold mosaic. The Byzantine construction method is known to have been a smaller-scale precursor of the later Gothic rib vaulting.
The Chapels of the Mezquita
The Hypostyle Hall’s side was where the earliest chapels were built, numbering around 40 in all. A cathedral nave, today known as the Villaviciosa Chapel, was added by replacing some columns halfway through the prayer hall with Gothic vaulting. The enormous Renaissance-Baroque transept and choir that are shaped like a Latin cross and are located in the center of the ancient mosque are the unmistakable Christian addition, nevertheless.
The 54-meter-tall bell tower of the cathedral, known as the Torre Campanario or Bell Tower, is climbable for its stunning views over the city and the main Mezquita structure. The tower, which was initially constructed by Abd ar-Rahman III in 951–952, served as the Mezquita’s minaret until it was reinforced and elevated by Christians in the 16th and 17th centuries.
Several of the caliphal vaults and arches are still visible within. The Seville’s El Giralda, which was nearly a duplicate, would have been the original minaret’s style. All subsequent minarets constructed in the western Islamic world were influenced by the one at Cordoba.
Hours of Operation at the Cordoba Mezquita-Cathedral
The fact that it is a functional Roman Catholic Church affects its opening hours despite the fact that it is one of the most important Islamic monuments in Spain. The hours of operation for visitors are often lengthy, however they are shortened on Sundays and religious holidays.
Visiting and viewing are permitted within the Mezquita Mosque-Cathedral:
- From November until February:
- From Monday through Saturday, 8:30–9:20 & 10:00–18:00
- Sunday hours are 8:30 to 11:30 & 15:00 to 18:00.
- From March until October:
- From Monday through Saturday, 8:30–9:20 & 10:00–19:00.
- Sunday hours are 8:30 to 11:30 & 15:00 to 19:00.
Purchasing Tickets for the Cordoba Mezquita-Cathedral
Unfortunately, Mezquita tickets are only available for purchase on the day of the visit at the Courtyard of the Orange Trees. The vending machines rarely seem to work, therefore most purchases are made at the ticket windows. These aren’t available for preorder or online anyplace.
Visitor attire requirements
Because the Mezquita is still in operation as a Roman Catholic Church, it is strictly forbidden to wear headgear, hats, or anything that exposes one’s shoulders or knees. Moreover, there is no storage for baggage or strollers inside, and anything larger than a compact daypack is not permitted.
Seeing the Cordoba Mezquita-Cathedral at night
The cathedral arranges a nighttime Mezquita tour called El Alma de Córdoba, or Soul of Córdoba. The large Mezquita is still comparatively empty considering that these visits only last an hour and are limited to a maximum of 100 individuals.
After it is entirely dark outside, the Mezquita night visit period begins. But, unlike the daytime visit, the nighttime visit has a set path that you must follow. The structure will be completely dark when you first enter, but as you explore the various areas, the darkness will gradually give way to light.