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Mezquita-Catedral de Córdoba

SPAIN | Friday, 6 January 2023 | Views [30]

856 pillars supporting double-arches, Mezquita-Catedral de Códoba

856 pillars supporting double-arches, Mezquita-Catedral de Códoba

CÓRDOBA, ONCE ROMAN AND LATER VISIGOTH, came into its own in the 8th Century when the Umayyad Muslims made it the capital of Al-Andalus—Islamic Spain.  While the rest of Europe succumbed to the ignorance and superstition of the Dark Ages, Al-Andalus was a center of knowledge and science.  Córdoba’s paved streets were filled with Jews, Christians and Muslims, all getting along.  Islam reigned supreme, however.  No church steeple could be higher than the minaret of a mosque.  And the Mezquita was the greatest of all the mosques.


                 Muslim Minaret is now a Christian Bell Tower


                  Dome of the Mithrab


             This way to Mecca, Mithrab of Mezquita-Catedral

The Mezquita-Catedral is the most popular site in Córdoba.  To my mind it is the equal of the Blue Mosque and Hajia Sofia in Istanbul in its design, symmetry and complexity. The mosaics and arches above the mithrab take your breath away.  


            856 Pillars; count 'em if you can


                       Double arches in every direction


           The best of Islam and Christianity

It must have been a sight to behold during the Golden Age of Córdoba when the orange trees in the courtyard morphed into the 856 marble and alabaster pillars of the interior, salvaged from Roman and Visigoth temples and churches.  When sunlight streamed through the arches (now sealed in) to illuminate the red and white double arches that are both artistic and structural.


                 Pillars, arches and ceiling of Mezquita-Catedral


                        Let the Sun Shine in


             From a different angle

All good things must end.  As today, there was division in the Muslim world.  With the fall of the Umayyads in 1031, power shifted to Granada and Sevilla.  When the Christians finally retook Córdoba in 1236 the Mezquita became a cathedral almost overnight. Today a cathedral rises in the center of the Mezquita, dominating the skyline.  Oh-so-Catholic Spain makes a point of highlighting Visigoth mosaics beneath the floor of the one-time mosque, “proving” that the Mezquita is – and should rightfully be – a church.


             To the Capilla Mayor


                         Royal Chapel

Thankfully, only minor alterations were made to convert the Grand Mosque into the Mezquita-Cathedral of Códoba. The minaret became the bell tower, several chapels were built along the exterior and in the early 1500s a new Capilla Mayor was constructed in the middle of the mosque. But the 856 pillars and double arches, even the mithrab of the mosque, were preserved. 


                   Capilla Mayor, the Christian Church

Walking through the Mezquita-Catedral yesterday it was difficult to remember that is a Christian place of worship. It is so overwhelming that converting to Islam doesn’t seem so far fetched, just as grandeur of the Cathedral of Chartres or the Duomo in Milan might inspire a conversion to Christianity. Nope. Un-un. No way! Impressive as it was, I escaped with my paganism intact.


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