Córdoba (Spain) and the Mezquita – one of the most incredible sights you’ll ever see

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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.
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Below: To enter the Mezquita, you first enter the Patio de los Naranjos “Courtyard of the Orange Trees”.

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Below:  Your first views inside the Mezquita will be of dimly-lit marble columns (there are 856 of them) and red and white arches.

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Brief History

- 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.

 

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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. 

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Below: More examples of Islamic architecture.    

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Below: suddenly, walking through the Mezquita, you come across the Cathedral built in it’s interior. It is spectacular.

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Below: different chapels including the very colorful Sagrario chapel (1st photo). There are over 30 chapels along the walls of the Mezquita.

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Below: a last few photos of the arches that the Mezquita is so famous for.

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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.

Click here for much more detail on the Mezquita.

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.

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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

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Below: The Roman Bridge
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Below: views of Córdoba from the towers of the Alcázar.
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Below: Courtyard in the Palacio de Viana

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Below: Colorful souvenirs

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Practical Information

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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Thanks for reading!

 

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Comments

  1. It’s simply amazing isn’t it? Just so damn beautiful :-) . We really loved Cordoba and look forward to visiting it again. The Mezquita is as you know one of my very favorite places. I found it hard to describe in words. You have beautiful photos and l am really glad you guys took to Seville like we did. I think l will miss it a bit when we move, but hopefully we won’t be too far as we are still leaning towards where we had discussed :-)
    Kemkem recently posted…Jeronimos Monastery Belem Portugal: Must VisitMy Profile

    • Frank (bbqboy) says:

      Thanks Kemkem – agree that is really amazing. I actually enjoyed it more than the Vatican, simply because it has so many dimensions to it. A really, really interesting building. And yes, Sevilla is a place I would miss as well!

  2. As always, great pictures and comments, I agree with you, this is a beautiful place and even though I have been there, you show it in your pictures in a way that it looks better or a place that is new for you.

    I suppose it is still hot in Spain, this has been a very unusually hot beginning of Autumn.

    Unfortunately the last picture I could see was the first of the streets of the Judería, I don’t know why the rest of the pictures to the end did not download.

    Carlos

  3. I saw all the pictures already, beautiful.

    Carlos

    • Frank (bbqboy) says:

      Thank you Carlos. Yes, it’s still warm even mid-October (high 20′s C – mid 80′s F), in fact today was the first day we had rain in 5 weeks. But no complaints, it’s a beautiful place and we love the region and for sure will be back. Cordoba and Sevilla are gorgeous and we have a lot of places that we missed this time around. I guess you’ve been to Granada? And Cadiz? A little disappointed that we missed the Alhambra this time around but it’ll be something to come back for.

  4. More stunning photos from a beautiful location, thanks for my morning ‘fix’ , loved the post. Keep it up!
    Jane recently posted…Dargo – Remote, wild, spectacularMy Profile

  5. Are you tired of incredible views and history yet? Hehehe
    Hung Thai recently posted…Chicago in Pictures and Possibly WordsMy Profile

  6. I agree that this is one amazing building. The red and white arches are spectacular and the weirdness of having a Christian church inside an Islamic Mosque adds an intriguing twist.
    budget jan recently posted…Road Trip New Zealands South Island Part 1My Profile

  7. Another great recap! Been to Spain a couple of times, but unfortunately have not made it here. But definitely, it is on the list! Thanks for the motivation to visit!
    Gaz recently posted…Bali–Must-SeeMy Profile

  8. Spectacular history and architecture! Glad that in times of old, they were not in such a hurry to get things done… incredible. Definitely not a city I’d be content with only a day visit.
    Paula recently posted…Vancouver, A Stimulating CityMy Profile

  9. It truly IS spectacular, we were there years back. Thanks for the great memories.

    Peta

    • Frank (bbqboy) says:

      Thank you Peta. The Vatican was incredible – but for us the Mezquita was something that took our breath away just because it is so different that any religious building we’ve ever seen.

  10. WOW – I can see why this is of the “Twelve Treasures of Spain” along with Granada’s Alhambra (definitely put that on your list for your next visit :) ) and Seville’s Alcazar. I’ve read about the Mezquita before but guess that I just didn’t grasp the enormity of the Mosque-Cathedral until now nor the bizarre mix of competing religions. Your photos are beautiful but I’m thinking you probably had a difficult time trying to capture everything and convey the enormity of the space or the wonder that you must have felt. Cordoba is on our list for our next visit visit to Spain and now I’m thinking we’ll want to spend a few days there to see all that it has to offer!
    Anita recently posted…Planes, Trains and Automobiles or What We Did On Our VacationMy Profile

    • Frank (bbqboy) says:

      Yes, ideally you should overnight in Cordoba. It’s a pretty smallish city and from photos I’ve seen it looks beautiful at night.
      I think next time in the region we’ll take some holiday day and do more trips through Andalusia. Having Sevilla as a base has been great and we’ve needed the time to catch up on some work and rest a bit…but we’d like to see more of the region next time.
      I’m a little envious of you both – we’re leaving and you two are coming. We’ll for sure be back in the region and hopefully have a chance to meet up with the two of you sometime in the future.

  11. We really can learn a lot from ye olde times. Imagine a place of worship being shared by Muslims and Christians today, it’s incredible that they managed to do this in peace in the past. The Mezquita reminds me of the Hagia Sophia in Istanbul, which began life as a Greek Orthodox Church, before becoming a mosque. So wonderful that the same buildings are re-used, rather than being knocked down. As you say, we don’t build ‘em like we used to!
    Heather Cole recently posted…Fast food at Marrakech Express Cooking SchoolMy Profile

    • Frank (bbqboy) says:

      Actually you mention something important that I left out. Back in 2010 there was a violent encounter with some Muslims who wanted to pray in the Mezquita. The Muslim community has petitioned the local government as well as the Vatican to allow Muslims to pray there. It’s been rejected. Wouldn’t you think it would be great in building inter-faith relations? But of course it could turn into another Jerusalem and maybe they’re trying to head that off.

  12. Wow! Wow! Wow! I want to visit the cathedral so badly! Abi and I love to explore churches and cathedrals, although we see them primarily as works of art, architecture and historical significance. While walking across Spain on the Camino, we stopped at as many churches and cathedrals as we could and some of them knocked our socks off. Spain has it going on!
    Patti recently posted…The Quechee Gorge ~My Profile

  13. Thanks (as usual) for the wonderful photos Frank. Its such a pity that so many visitors to Andalucia and Spain miss out visitiing Cordoba. I guess its because its a little off the beaten track (although its not really at all)? On our last visit (2009) we spent 3 days there, and believe it or not it was still not long enough…There is much to see and discover in Cordoba (like Sevilla) outside of the major ‘billed’ atttractions – and to just soak in the ambiance of the place. Yes, its a pity ‘the old days’ were in fact more tolerant and ‘open’ than our modern times. Cordoba – one of the very few places anywhere where the Moores, Christians and Jews cohabitated peacefully together, was renowned as a key city of learning and a place instrumental in the enlightenment of Spain and Europe during the medieval and ‘dark ages’ – a place where Islam introduced and shared the ‘lost’ knowledge, sciene and arts of Ancient Times (Greeks and Romans) to a Europe that was exactly the opposite – ignorant, primitive and supersticious ! Its impossible today to imagine that other great cities of learning from the Middle Ages, like Constantinople (Istanbul) – which had over 600.000 europeans (Christians – mostly Greeks) living there as recently as 100 years ago, or Alexandria (which had over 500.000 Europeans living there as late as the mid 1950s) could ever
    exist today or again, in the modern world !

  14. Nice photos! You’re spoilt for choice in that part of Spain, what with the Mezquita, the Alhambra down to the right and Seville Cathedral down to the left. No wonder this part of the world is popular!

    ‘I’m not at all religious, if anything I have issues with religion’ – oh dear, that’s another thing we have in common!!!
    Mark recently posted…A Walk through Poznan’s Modernist Architecture | PolandMy Profile

  15. The Alhambra is a place very high on our travel wishlist. Now we’ll have to put Cordoba’s Mezquita up there too :-). Those arches are quite breathtaking! We’re really going to have make a Spain trip happen!
    Sand In My Suitcase recently posted…Bergen, Norway: A luxury place to stay on the historic waterfrontMy Profile

  16. amazing! so much of the world still to discover.
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