We’ve had the fortune to see some incredible religious buildings over the last few years (including the Vatican earlier this year). Of those, it is Córdoba’s Mezquita that made the biggest impression on me.
You might hear the building called different names. It is commonly known as the Mezquita de Cordoba (Cordoba Mosque). It is also Cordoba Cathedral or the “Cathedral of Our Lady of the Assumption” (its owners are the Catholic church). It is also called the “Cordoba Mosque Cathedral” after a dispute between the church and the city over the name a few years ago.
It is both a UNESCO site as well as one of the “12 Treasures of Spain”. What makes the building so incredible are the mix of styles. The Mezquita is considered one of the two best examples of Islamic architecture in Andalusia (the other is the Alhambra in Granada). It also houses, in its vast interior, an exquisite Cathedral. While the mix of styles is confusing – and a blasphemy to some – the result is the best of both worlds in one incredible building.
Below: To enter the Mezquita, you first enter the Patio de los Naranjos “Courtyard of the Orange Trees”.
Below: Your first views inside the Mezquita will be of dimly-lit marble columns (there are 856 of them) and red and white arches.
- This location was first the site of a small Christian church
- Following the Moorish conquest of most of Iberia in 711 AD, the church was divided into Christian and Muslim halves.
- The sharing arrangement lasted until 784 AD when the Emir bought the Christian half and then proceeded to demolish the structure. The building of a new mosque, the present Mezquita, started and would take 200 years to finish.
- In 1236, following the reconquest of Iberia by Christian forces, the new rulers decided to build a Christian Cathedral in the very heart of the Mezquita. It is this blend of history and architectural styles that you see today.
Below: The Mirab is a semi-circular niche in the wall that indicates the direction of Mecca and the direction in which Muslims should face when praying. It is decorated by gold mosaic cubes and a dome built of a single block of white marble.
Below: More examples of Islamic architecture.
Below: different chapels including the very colorful Sagrario chapel (1st photo). There are over 30 chapels along the walls of the Mezquita.
Below: a last few photos of the arches that the Mezquita is so famous for.
We spent a little over 2 hours in the building but if you take your time with all the chapels along the walls you could easily spend 3-4 hours. What struck us was the size (the lines of arches cover an area of nearly 120 sq metres, making the Mezquita one of the biggest of all mosques) and the differing lighting which affords ever-changing perspectives and plays of light on the arches, mosaics and frescoes.
I’m not at all religious, if anything I have issues with religion (I wrote about that here). BUT – imagine the world without these incredible shrines. Who takes 200 years to build anything anymore? If it wasn’t for religion we wouldn’t have these superb works of art and architecture.
The official website of the Mezquita (including hours and costs)
Note about the bell tower: It is a separate ticket than the Mezquita and they have different tours up the tower based on capacity. We would have had to wait 2 hrs until our turn and decided not to do it. I would recommend you buy your ticket for the bell tower in advance before going into the Mezquita.
Other sights in Córdoba
Córdoba itself is a very pretty city and there are other attractions in addition to the Mezquita including the Roman Bridge, the Alcázar of Córdoba and the Palacio de Viana (a palace who’s primary highlights are a series of 12 courtyards and gardens). If the Mezquita is a 10/10, then these other attractions are probably a 7/10. We probably tried to see too much on our day trip to the city. I would recommend if there for only a day to take your time in the Mezquita and to then walk around the Juderia (the old Jewish quarter in which the Mezquita is located).
Below: sights in the pretty streets of the Juderia
Below: Colorful souvenirs
- Córdoba is a very easy day trip from Seville (Sevilla). High speed trains take you there in about 40 minutes.
- When you arrive, there is a tourist office in the train station where you can pick up a free map. I’ve also included a map here (just click on it and print it out).
- The best way to the Mezquita (which is right in the Juderia) is to walk straight out of the train station and make a right at the first street. You’ll be walking through a very pretty park – follow that about 20 minutes and you’ll get to the center (walk left through one of the old city gates).
- If you’re going to go to the Palacio de Viana (recommended if you like courtyards and gardens) you should take a taxi from the center. It is a bit far and the streets convoluted…
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