24 – The Great Mosque of Córdoba – April 16, 2013

Clearly one of the wonders of the world, built during the centuries of Islamic rule in Andalusia, expanded by different rulers.  An enormous size, 180 X 130 metres.  Very difficult to capture its dimensions given its location in a neighbourhood of narrow lanes.


Along the sides, amazingly beautiful doors and windows, 12 in total, the doors themselves covered in brass.


The intricacy is breathtaking and note the absence of human and animal depictions, celebrating the ineffable, the unknowable, Allah, in beauty and pattern.


856 columns, in marble, reused from various Roman buildings.  With horseshoe arches in distinctive red and white pattern;  also arches on top of arches to raise the height of the ceiling.


I took dozens of photos;  each captures and doesn’t capture the feeling, the sensation of being in this building, this prayer room for the Cordoban community a thousand years ago.

The mihrab, on the eastern wall, in the direction of mecca, to orient those praying in this direction.


The prayers in Arabic around the arch;  calligraphy is a key element in their art and architecture, almost invariably words from the Quran; the word glimmer in the morning light, coming through the strategically placed windows in the cupola.


And the stunning cupola rising above the interior space.


How about another attempt to capture the interior?


Cordoba was captured by the Christians in 1236.  The residents, a mixture of Muslims, Jews and Christians, continued to live together. Two of the groups prayed in the mezquita;  the Christians did build chapels around the exterior walls.  They closed the fountains, though, the source of water for making ablutions, an essential part of the preparation for prayer for Muslims.  There is some suggestion that in response to the Arab baths and the ablutions before prayer the Christians considered it holier to stay dirty;  pagans bathed, they didn’t.

In the early 16th century, 300 years later, 300 years after this new variety of convivencia, that a Christian church was planned to be built in the middle of the mezquita. The residents, Christian and Muslims, objected together.  The intervention by the distant king, Carlos V, who had never been to Cordoba, made the project a reality.  He came to Cordoba after it had been built and apparently said, ‘you have built what you or anyone else might have built anywhere else, but you have destroyed what was unique in the world.’  What does he mean?  ‘You have built.’  He made the final decision.   This Charlie also made the decision to build an incompatible Renaissance palace at the Alhambra.  Now look at the mezquita from the Roman bridge.


You have to look carefully;  where the bridge ends, you will see a building of uniform height which stretches quite a bit to the right, just beyond the lower buildings near the river bank – in the first part are recognizable five rounded arches.  This is the eastern wall of the mezquita.  Rising in the middle of the lower building, the Grand Mosque of Cordoba, is the enormous Christian church.  I could easily go into a rant.  I won’t.  The photo speaks for itself.  You can only imagine what the central part is like inside the mosque and the effect it has.  An abomination!  After centuries of convivencia, centuries of intolerancia.   Please Francis over there in Rome, tell them to undo this.  Restore the great mosque to its full original beauty.  Give it back!  What an opening to other faiths, to the equality of these faiths as faiths important to their faithful, the three peoples of the Book.

My shortest post, but the photos tell the story.

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