Mosque – Cathedral of Cordoba Spain

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The Church – Cathedral of Cordoba Spain, popularly know as the Mosque of Cordoba or the “Mezquita”, stands over a Christian church built in the Visigothic period (5th C).

In 711, after Moorish conquest of the Iberian Peninsula, it was used as a Mosque. In 786, Abd al-Rahman I tore down St Vicente church and erected the first section of the Great Mosque in its place, re-using much of the church’s materials. His descendants expanded the building twice towards the river, and the ruler Almanzor made a final enlargement in 988. In 1236, following Cordoba’s fall to Ferdinand of Castile and after over 500 years of use as a mosque, the site was re-consecrated Christian. The Cannons decided to erect a cathedral in the center of the mosque in 1523, tearing down the center to make room. The enclosed choir area now blocks some of the original views, yet the Mosque remains sublime. With the richest areas still untouched and its extensive vistas of columns and double arches, it is the foremost Islamic monument in Spain and a unique example of the inter-play of Christian and Moslem cultures in Spain.

Mosque – Cathedral of Cordoba Spain/Abd Al-Rahman I section

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This is the oldest section of the Mezquita, ordered built by Abd Al-Rahman I. Notice the great selection of columns taken from San Vicente church (whose floor was recently revealed beneath the Mezquita’s floor) and other ruins. The ceiling was raised by means of using a double arch, which some say was inspired in Segovia’s Roman aqueduct. The extra height, together with the open arches facing the patio, provided light. In the background, the butresses of the 16th-century cathedral.

Cathedral of Cordoba Spain/Double arches

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Double arches and ceilings of Abd al-Rahman I’s great mosque.

Mosque – Cathedral of Cordoba Spain/Abd al-Rahman II section

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The second section of the Mezquita, built by Abd al-Rahman II, continued to use salvaged Roman and Visigothic columns and capitals, but also capitals especially made by local artisans for the mosque. Notice the horseshoe shape of the lower arches and the semi-circular shape of the upper arches recurrent in all the mosque. The horseshoe arch was borrowed from Visigothic architecture. Original ceilings have been restored.

Mosque – Cathedral of Cordoba Spain/Dome above Mihrab

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This elaborate octagonal dome rises above the mihrab and the maqsura, which is flanked by columns with enterlaced multi-lobed arches and surrounded by Byzantine-style mosaics with Arabic inscriptions. Built by al-hakam II, this is one of the rare jewels of the Umayyad dynasty.

Cathedral of Cordoba Spain/Front View Mihrab and Inscription

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Front view of Al-Hakam II’s mihrab, at the center of the back wall of the 2nd expansion of the Great Mosque of Cordoba. The mihrab had been moved twice previously, as the Mezquita expanded to the south. Columns from the previous mihrab were re-used. Almanzor’s later expansion to the east would put this jewel of the Ummayyad Caliphate out of center with the rest of the building, but to demolish it and build a new one was out of the question.

The inscirption in large letters reads: “(Allah) He is the knower of things hidden and manifest. He is the powerful one, he that is full of pity, the living one. There is no other god than him. Invoke him offering him a pure heart. Praised be Allah Lord of the Universe. Blessed be Iman Al-Mostainsir Bil-lah, favored by Allah, and the servant of Allah, Al-Hakam, Prince of Believers. Make him prosper, Allah, for the work of this sacred temple, which exceeds all other memorable constructions in its size, comfort and adornment. And the construction was concluded by his virtue and command. The blessing of Allah be upon Mohammed. And the peace. – The Iman Al-Mostansir Bil-lah, servant of Allah, Prince of Believers (May Allah favor him) commanded his freedman and Hachib Chafar-Ben-Baderraman (mercy on him Allah) carry out the construction of this temple and it was finished with the help of Allah under the supervision of Mohamed-Ben-Tamlih, Ahmed Ben Nasar, Jayd-ben-Haxim of the prefect’s guard and of Motharrif.”

Nearby, another inscirption reads: “In the name of Allah, the Merciful. Praise to Allah, who guided us to this place; we could not have been guided if it had not been by Allah! For this reason was sent the legate of our Lord with the truth. He commanded the Iman Al-Mostarsin Bil-lah, the servant of Allah, Al-Hakam, Prince of Believers (Allah protect him), his freedman and Hadrib Chafar Ben Abd-al-Rahman (may Allah be pleased with him) to add to these, and this was built with the fear of Allah and with his aid. This was concluded in the moon of Dhu al-Hijjah of the year four and fifty and three hundred.” (Hijri calendar: year 354, Justinian: 965 AD). .

Mosque – Cathedral of Cordoba Spain/Al-Hakam and Almanzor sections

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View from the Al-Hakam II expansion of the mosque into the large Almanzor section. The altars between columns are built against the remaining sections of Al-Hakam II’s eastern mosque wall.

Mosque – Cathedral of Cordoba Spain/Almanzor expansion

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Almanzor’s expansion was the largest of all, and although it is rather plain in comparison with the others, there are some excellent vistas of the forest of pillars and arches.

Mosque – Cathedral of Cordoba Spain/Double arches

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View of Al-Hakam’s phase of the Mosque of Cordoba with horseshoe and semi-circular arches.

Mosque – Cathedral of Cordoba Spain/Almanzor’s expansion

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Here a marvellous contrast between Almanzor’s last expansion of the Mosque and Christian architecture, in the row of columns adjacent the 16th-century cathedral.

Mosque – Cathedral of Cordoba Spain/View of transept and high altar

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An excellent view of Cordoba Cathedral’s renaissance high altar, its gothic ceiling, the baroque lectern and pulpit, and the renaissance walls of the north and south transept, which blend into Islamic arches from Almanzor’s final expansion of the Mosque at the end of the 10th century.

Mosque – Cathedral of Cordoba Spain/Sagrario Chapel

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The Sagrario Chapel Parish (Capilla del Sagrario) is in the southeast corner of the former mosque and is full of vibrant frescos.

Mosque – Cathedral of Cordoba Spain/Villaviciosa Chapel Arches

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Front view of intertwined, multi-lobed arches in Villaviciosa Chapel, looking toward Al-Hakam II’s mihrab.

Mosque – Cathedral of Cordoba Spain/Nave Old Cathedral

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West view of the old, 13th-century Cordoba Cathedral (Capilla Mayor) built within Al-Hakam II’s section of the Great Mosque. At the east end stands Villaviciosa Chapel and the Royal Chapel. Villaviciosa Chapel was used as the cathedral’s sanctuary until the construction of the 16th-century cathedral. The king who oversaw its construction, Alfonso X the Wise, was once enterred at the east end of this nave in the Royal Chapel. This ceiling is a rare example of gothic carpentry in Spain.

Mosque – Cathedral of Cordoba Spain/Maqsura, Mihrab

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A front view of the Al-Hakam II’s maqsura, reserved for his royal highness, and the rich mihrab of the Mosque of Cordoba.

Mosque – Cathedral of Cordoba Spain/Mihrab Mosaics

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View of Byzantine mosaics on the qibla wall above the mihrab of the Mosque-Cathedral of Cordoba, framed by a multi-lobed arch and showing inscriptions in Arabic.

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