Essential Architecture-  Cordoba

Great Mosque (La Mezquita)












Church Mosque
  Aerial view
  Portal on eastern facade, 10th c. and Interior of phase I
  Patio de los Naranjos (Orange Tree Courtyard), inside the Mezquita
  Plan of the present building and Plan of first three phases, 870-975
  Ribbed dome, 975 and Mihrab dome, 975
The Mezquita (Spanish for "mosque", from the Arabic مسجد "Masjid") is a Roman Catholic cathedral in Córdoba, Spain. It was originally built to be a warehouse/temple/lighthouse. It later became the second-largest mosque in the world.

The construction of the Mezquita started in approximately sixth century A.D. as a Christian Visigothic church. Later, the Mezquita (originally the Aljama Mosque) was reworked for over two centuries to refashion it as a mosque, starting in 784 A.D. under the supervision of the first Muslim Emir Abd ar-Rahman I, who used it as an adjunct to his palace and named it to honor his wife. The land was bought by the Emir from the previous owners. It is believed that the site included the Visigothic cathedral of St. Vincent. When the forces of Tariq ibn-Ziyad first occupied Córdoba in 711, the Christian cathedral was suppressed.

Several explanations have been proposed to explain the mosque's unorthodox orientation. Some have suggested the mihrab faces south because the foundations of the mosque are borrowed from the old Roman and Visigoth constructions. Others contend that Abd ar-Rahman oriented the mihrab southward as if he were still in the Ummayyad capital of Damascus and not in exile.

The mosque underwent numerous subsequent changes: Abd ar-Rahman III ordered a new minaret, while Al-Hakam II, in 961, enlarged the plan of the building and enriched the mihrab. The last of the reforms was carried out by Al-Mansur Ibn Abi Aamir in 987.

It was the most magnificent of the more than 1,000 mosques in the city and was at one time the second largest mosque in the Muslim world. It was connected to the Caliph's palace by a raised walk-way. Mosques within the palaces being the tradition for the islamic rulers of all times.

The city in which it was built was subject to frequent invasion and each conquering wave added their own mark to the architecture. The building is most notable for its giant arches, with over 1,000 columns of jasper, onyx, marble, and granite. These were made from pieces of the Roman temple which had occupied the site previously, as well as other destroyed Roman buildings. The double arches, pictured above, were a new introduction to architecture, and helped support the tremendous weight of the higher ceilings. The double arches consist of a lower horseshoe arch and an upper semi-circular arch. The Mezquita also features richly gilded prayer niches. A centrally located honey-combed dome has beautiful blue tiles decorated with stars. The mihrab is a masterpiece of architectural art, with geometric and flowing designs of plants. The Mezquita reached its current dimensions in 987 with the completion of the outer naves and orange tree courtyard.

The year (1236) that Cordoba was recaptured from the Moors, by King Ferdinand III of Castile and rejoined Christendom, the mosque was reconsecrated a Christian church. Alfonso X oversaw the construction of the Villaviciosa Chapel and the Royal Chapel within the structure of the mosque. The kings who followed added further Christian features: Enrique II rebuilt the chapel in the 14th century.

The most significant alteration was the construction of a Renaissance cathedral nave in the middle of the structure. It was constructed by permission of Carlos V, king of united Spain. Its reversion to a Christian church (officially the Cathedral of the Assumption of the Virgin) may have helped to preserve it when the Spanish Inquisition was most active.

Artisans and architects continued to add to the existing structure until the late 18th century.

Visiting Information
Entrance: open daily to visitors. Entrance fee 28.12.2006 - 8€


When the Mosque was converted to a Cathedral almost all the outer doors were sealed. During Moorish times, the many open doors of the Mosque let in light which made it brighter and one would imagine a more welcoming place than it is today.

The Mezquita is a large structure, taking up a good city block.

A section of the Cathedral and its elaborate ceiling

It is almost impossible to portray this masterpiece of architecture appropriately in photographs. The repeating arches and soaring ceiling are balanced by exquisite detail decorations Inside the Mezquita are row after row of arches and pillars. Marble was required for the Mosque's construction. Many of the pillars in the Mezquita were pilfered from earlier Roman buildings. If the pillar was too long, it was sunk into the ground and reshaped to fit in with the other columns.

All around the perimeter of the Mezquita are chapels each dedicated to a Saint.

The entrance to the "mihrab" (Islamic prayer room) is adorned with Byzantine mosaics and bordered by Koran inscriptions done in gold.

Elaborate arches.
When the Mosque was converted into a Cathedral a third of the pillars were removed for a court yard. In the center of what is left of the mosque, the arches were reworked and the ceiling raised. the Mezquita is Open:

Monday-Sat.. 10:00 to 17:30, Sunday 14:00 to 17:30 (until 19:00 in summer). you can get in at 9:00 as mass goes on. It is 750 pesetas to enter.
Enter the Mezquita through the court yard.


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