The Cathedral and former Great Mosque of Córdoba, in ecclesiastical terms the Catedral de Nuestra Señora de la Asunción (English: Cathedral of Our Lady of the Assumption), and known by the inhabitants of Córdoba as the Mezquita-Catedral (English: Mosque–Cathedral), is today a World Heritage Site and the cathedral of the Diocese of Córdoba. The site was originally a pagan temple, then a Visigothic Christian church, before the Umayyad Moors at first converted the building into a mosque and then built a new mosque on the site. It is located in the Andalusian city of Córdoba, Spain. The Mezquita is regarded as perhaps the most accomplished monument of the Umayyad Caliphate of Córdoba. After the Spanish Reconquista, it once again became a Roman Catholicchurch, with a plateresque cathedral later inserted into the centre of the large Moorish building. Since the early 2000s, Spanish Muslims have lobbied the Roman Catholic church to allow them to pray in the cathedral. The Muslim campaign has been rejected on multiple occasions, by both Spanish Catholic authorities, and the Vatican. In 2010 there was a violent incident over the matter.
The building is most notable for its giant arches, with 856 columns of jasper, onyx, marble, and granite. These were made from pieces of the Roman temple which had occupied the site previously, as well as other destroyed Roman buildings, such as the Mérida amphitheatre. The double arches, pictured above, were a new introduction to architecture, and helped support the tremendous weight of the higher ceilings. The double arches consist of a lower horseshoe arch and an upper semi-circular arch. The famous alternating red and white voussoirs of the arches were inspired by those in the Dome of the Rock. They resemble those of the Aachen Cathedral, which were built almost at the same time. The mosque also features richly gilded prayer niches. A centrally located honey-combed dome has blue tiles decorated with stars. The mihrab is a masterpiece of architectural art, with geometric and flowing designs of plants. Other prominent features were: an open court (sahn) surrounded by arcades, screens of wood, minarets, colourful mosaics, and windows of coloured glass. The walls of the mosque had Quranic inscriptions written on them.
The mosque’s floor plan is seen to be parallel to some of the earliest mosques built from the very beginning of Islam. It had a rectangular prayer hall with aisles arranged perpendicular to the qibla, the direction towards which Muslims pray. The prayer hall was large in size, flat, with timber ceilings held up by arches of horseshoe-like appearance. One hundred fifty years following its creation, a staircase to the roof was added, along with a southward extension of the mosque itself. A bridge was built linking the prayer hall with the Caliph’s palace. The mosque was later expanded even further south, as was the courtyard which surrounded it. The mosque was built in four stages, with each Caliph and his elite contributing to it. Until the eleventh century, the courtyard was unpaved earth with citrus and palm trees irrigated – at first by rainwater cisterns, and later by aqueduct. Excavation indicates the trees were planted in a pattern, with surface irrigation channels. The stone channels visible today are not original.
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