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Title: Mezquita  
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Subject: Moors, Umayyad Caliphate, Muslim world, Luis de Góngora, Islamic architecture, Early Middle Ages, Al-Hakam II, Islamic Fun, Vincent of Saragossa, Culture of Spain
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Mosque–Cathedral of Córdoba

Mezquita de Córdoba, a World Heritage Site.

Basic information
Location Córdoba, Andalusia, Spain
Geographic coordinates Coordinates: 37°52′45.1″N 04°46′47″W / 37.879194°N 4.77972°W / 37.879194; -4.77972

Region Iberian Peninsula
District Diocese of Córdoba
Heritage designation UNESCO World Heritage Site
Architectural description
Architectural type Cathedral, Mosque
Architectural style Moorish, Renaissance
Groundbreaking 784
Completed 987

The Mosque–Cathedral of Córdoba (Spanish: Mezquita–catedral de Córdoba, Mezquita de Córdoba), also called the Mezquita and the Great Mosque of Córdoba,[2] is a medieval Islamic mosque that was converted into a Catholic Christian cathedral in the Spanish city of Córdoba, Andalusia. The Mosque is regarded as the one of the most accomplished monuments of Moorish architecture. Since the early 2000s (decade), Spanish Muslims have lobbied the Roman Catholic Church to allow them to pray in the cathedral.[3][4] The Muslim campaign has been rejected on multiple occasions, by both Spanish Catholic authorities, and the Vatican.[3][5]


The building was begun around the year 600 as the Christian Visigothic church of St. Vincent.[6]

After the Islamic conquest of the Visigothic Kingdom, the church was divided between the Muslims and Christians. When the exiled Umayyad prince Abd al-Rahman I escaped to Spain and defeated the governor of Al-Andalus, Yusuf al-Fihri, he allowed the Christians to rebuild their ruined churches, and purchased the Christian half of the church of St. Vincent.[7][8] Abd al-Rahman I and his descendants reworked it over two centuries to fashion it as a mosque, starting in 784. Additionally, Abd al-Rahman I used the mosque (originally called Aljama Mosque) as an adjunct to his palace and named it to honour his wife. Traditionally, the mihrab, or apse of a mosque faces in the direction of Mecca; by facing the mihrab, worshipers pray towards Mecca. Mecca is east-southeast of the mosque, but the mihrab points south.[9]

The mosque underwent numerous subsequent changes: Abd al-Rahman II ordered a new minaret, while Al-Hakam II, in 961, enlarged the building and enriched the Mihrab. The last of the reforms was carried out by Al-Mansur Ibn Abi Aamir in 987. It was connected to the Caliph's palace by a raised walk-way, mosques within the palaces being the tradition for previous Islamic rulers - with Christian Kings following suit and building their palaces adjacent to churches. The Mezquita reached its current dimensions in 987 with the completion of the outer naves and courtyard.


Further information: Moorish architecture

The Great Mosque of Córdoba held a place of importance amongst the Islamic community of al-Andalus for three centuries. In Córdoba, the capital, the Mosque was seen as the heart and central focus of the city.[10] Muhammad Iqbal described its hypostyle hall as having "countless pillars like rows of palm trees in the oases of Syria".[11] To the people of al-Andalus “the beauty of the mosque was so dazzling that it defied any description.”[12]

The main hall of the mosque was used for a variety of purposes. It served as a central Prayer hall for personal devotion, the five daily Muslim prayers and the special Friday prayers. It also would have served as a hall for teaching and for Sharia Law cases during the rule of Abd al-Rahman & his successors.[13]

The Great Mosque of Córdoba exhibited features, and an architectural appearance, similar to the Great Mosque of Damascus,[14] therefore it is evident that it was used as a model by Abd al-Rahman for the creation of the Great Mosque in Córdoba.


The building is most notable for its arcaded hypostyle hall, with 856 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, such as the Mérida amphitheatre. The double arches were a new introduction to architecture, permitting higher ceilings than would otherwise be possible with relatively low columns. The double arches consist of a lower horseshoe arch and an upper semi-circular arch. The famous alternating red and white voussoirs of the arches were inspired by those in the Dome of the Rock.[12] and also resemble those of the Aachen Cathedral, which were built almost at the same time. A centrally located honey-combed dome has blue tiles decorated with stars.

The mosque also has a richly gilded prayer niche or mihrab. The mihrab is a masterpiece of architectural art, with geometric and flowing designs of plants. Other prominent features were: an open court (sahn) surrounded by arcades, screens of wood, minarets, colourful mosaics, and windows of coloured glass.[12] The walls of the mosque had Quranic inscriptions written on them. As Islam rejects all sculptural or pictorial representation of people or of God, all decoration of the mosque is accomplished through tile work, calligraphy and architectural forms.


The mosque’s floor plan is seen to be parallel to some of the earliest mosques built from the very beginning of Islam.[10] It had a rectangular prayer hall with aisles arranged perpendicular to the qibla, the direction towards which Muslims pray.[15] The prayer hall was large in size, flat, with timber ceilings held up by arches of horseshoe-like appearance.[10]

One hundred fifty years following its creation, a staircase to the roof was added, along with a southward extension of the mosque itself. A bridge was built linking the prayer hall with the Caliph’s palace.[14] The mosque was later expanded even further south, as was the courtyard which surrounded it. The mosque was built in four stages, with each Caliph and his elite contributing to it.[16]

Until the 11th century, the courtyard was unpaved earth with citrus and palm trees irrigated - at first by rainwater cisterns, and later by aqueduct. Excavation indicates the trees were planted in a pattern, with surface irrigation channels. The stone channels visible today are not original.[17]

The Reconquista

Main article: Reconquista

In 1236, Córdoba was conquered by King Ferdinand III of Castile in the 'Reconquista', and the mosque was converted into a Catholic church in its centre. Alfonso X oversaw the construction of the Villaviciosa Chapel and the Royal Chapel within the mosque. The kings who followed added further Christian features, such as King Henry II rebuilding the chapel in the 14th century. The minaret of the mosque was also converted to the bell tower of the cathedral. It was adorned with Santiago de Compostela’s captured cathedral bells.[19]

The most significant alteration was the building of a Renaissance cathedral nave right in the middle of the expansive structure. The insertion was constructed by permission of El Libertador Charles V, king of Castile and Aragon. However, when Charles V visited the completed cathedral he was displeased by the result and famously commented, "they have taken something unique in all the world and destroyed it to build something you can find in any city."

The mosque's reconversion to a Catholic church, 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.

Current Muslim campaign

Main article: Muslim campaign at Córdoba Cathedral

Muslims across Spain are lobbying the Roman Catholic Church to allow them to pray in the complex, with the Islamic Council of Spain lodging a formal request with the Vatican.[3][4] However, Spanish church authorities and the Vatican oppose this move.[5][5] These battles over the cathedral reflect the contested view of what constitutes Spanish history and Spanish identity.[20]

2010 incident

In April 2010, two Muslim tourists were arrested at the Cathedral, after an incident in which two security guards were seriously injured. The incident occurred when the building was filled with tourists visiting the cathedral during Holy Week.[21][22]

According to cathedral authorities, when half a dozen Austrian Muslims, who were part of a group of 118 people on an organized tour for young European Muslims, knelt to pray at the same time, security guards stepped in and “invited them to continue with their tour or leave the building”.[21][22] A fight took place between two of the tourists and the security guards. The security guards suffered serious injuries and had to be hospitalized and two Muslim men were detained.[21][22][23]

In popular culture

  • The philosopher and poet Muhammad Iqbal visited the Great Cathedral of Córdoba in 1931–32. He asked the authorities to offer adhan at the mosque. The deep emotional responses that the mosque evoked in him found expression in his poem called "The Mosque of Cordoba". Iqbal saw it as a cultural landmark of Islam and described it as:[24]
"Sacred for lovers of art, you are the glory of faith,
You have made Andalusia pure as a holy land!"[11]


Photos of the Mezquita architecture.

See also


External links

  • The Great Mosque of Cordoba, Shadieh Mirmobiny, Smarthistory
  • Mezquita (Great Mosque) of Córdoba
  • Mezquita (Great Mosque) of Córdoba at Google Maps
  • Wonders of the World: Mezquita videos
  • The Mosque of Cordova (during early 19th century)
  • , an exhibition catalog from The Metropolitan Museum of Art (fully available online as PDF), which contains material on the Mosque–Cathedral of Córdoba (see index)
  • The Great Mosque of Cordoba in the tenth century, VirTimePlace.

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