From the Blue Mosque of Istanbul to Sultan Qaboos from Muscat, from the Iman Mosque of Esfahan to mosque painted by Sarena Dzamija in Tetovo there are many examples of mosques that left me open-mouthed during my travels. The same happened in Cordoba, but with one fundamental difference: the Mosque of Córboba is now a cathedral.
In fact, the Mosque-Cathedral of Cordoba is a unique example of the fusion between Islamic and Christian culture - although the mixture seems strange. I'll try to explain.
A little history
It was the year of 784 when Abd al-Rahman I, Governor of al-Andalus, had the Great Mosque of Cordoba built. It was built on the then existing Basilica of San Vicente Mártir, having apparently like architectural model the Great Mosque of Damascus, in Syria.
Over time, to better respond to the demographic increase, the mosque underwent successive extensions - three in total - until it reached the present dimensions. The building was used as a mosque until 1236, year of Reconquest, at which point city of Córdoba was "in the hands" of King Ferdinand III of Castile.
Following this change in the status quo Andalusian, the central zone of the mosque would have to be converted into a space destined for the Catholic faithful. Over the years, more chapels and other Christian characteristics have been added, including the conversion of the former minaret into Torre Campanário.
The final transformation took place in the regency of Charles V, king of Castile and Aragon, who ordered the construction of an imposing central nave - still existing today - in the heart of the old prayer room of the once mosque. And the place became an amalgam of styles; something that I find to be extraordinary for historians but difficult to absorb into ordinary mortals.
Even though he had no wish to corroborate the king's statement - which, dissatisfied with the final result, will have commented that "they destroyed something unique to build something common" - there is no doubt that the interior of the current Cathedral of Cordoba is a mixture as fascinating as well as strange.
My visit to the Mosque-Cathedral of Cordoba
"The Monumental Site of the Mosque-Cathedral sums up our identity as few other buildings can do. The complexity of the story on display at the cathedral provides one of its most beautiful examples. It is a living building that visibly integrates the layers of history of different cultures and civilizations. ", the site official of the Mosque-Cathedral of Cordoba.
I arrived early, taking advantage of the time window in which the entrance is free. The queue had a few dozen people, and as soon as the clock ticked 8: 30, the entry was slow but quiet.
Inside, the first thing that impressed me was the overwhelming magnitude of the building - it was once one of the largest mosques in the world. And then the distinctive arches painted red and white, the mihrab beautiful and elegant, the various chapels - including the Major Chapel -, the light and shadow games provided by the windows. Everything is grand and beautiful!
And so I went to see and photograph, as delighted as cocktail religious, controlling the hours to see everything - or almost everything - before the forced stampede. Not surprisingly, a few minutes before 9: 30 the security guards started asking everyone to leave. I would have stayed longer to see the mosque in more detail and calm, I confess.
Before leaving the complex and exploring the neighboring Jewish quarter of Cordoba, I stayed in the Patio de Laranjeiras. I appreciated the calm surroundings surrounded by trees and in front of the elegant Bell Tower, once a minaret.
When I finally got out of the compound, my 8 day tour in Andalusia. Worth it!
Impressions about the Cathedral of Cordoba
Maybe it's my implication, but the Mosque-Cathedral of Cordoba is a strange building. There is no doubt that it is beautiful and imposing, at the level of the best I have ever seen in terms of Islamic architecture; but the catholic temple "docked" in the center of the prayer room looks out of place. It is as if it does not belong to that place - and, in fact, it does not belong.
It is not easy, therefore, to find an architectural or decorative unit inside the mosque-cathedral. This unity does not even exist, nor is it supposed to exist. Too many layers of time, of decorative symbols at the service of different religions, and the result is, say, intriguing.
Honestly, I came to the idea that Catholic additions ultimately undermine Islamic architecture. Well worth it, but it was the impression with which I left the mosque-cathedral.
Yes, the Mosque-Cathedral of Cordoba deserves all the visits and compliments; but I left without definite conclusions about the mix of functions and styles.
See also text on Things to do in Cordoba.
When to go
Although theoretically it is possible to visit Cordoba at any time of the year, I recommend spring and fall. Only in this way will you avoid the more extreme temperatures of Andalusia (extraordinarily hot in summer and very cold in winter).
Tips for organizing the visit to the Mosque of Cordoba
Some additional tips to visit the Mosque-Cathedral of Cordoba without fuss:
- It is possible to visit the interior of the building free of charge. Daily, between 8: 30 and 9: 20 does not pay to enter the Mosque-Cathedral of Cordoba. This is an excellent time to do so, because in this period organized groups are not allowed. Do not think, however, that you will have the mosque-cathedral only for you. To achieve this, even for a few minutes, arrive at least 30 minutes in advance (in order to be the first to enter).
- For other times, buy tickets at website official. The visit to the interior of the mosque-cathedral costs 10 € (free for children under 10 years); the night visit costs 18 €; and the climb to Belfry Tower costs additional 2 €. I did not go up to the tower, but I think it would have been a good option.
- Go on foot.
Where to stay
Being a tourist city, Cordoba has a wide offer in terms of accommodation. More than the hotel, the important thing is, therefore, to choose well the area where to stay. In this way, you can explore the compact historic center on foot and thus avoid using taxis or public transport.
In particular, I recommend mainly the areas of Jewish Quarter and the so-called historical center, from Judiaria to Praça de las Tendillas (for a more historical experience) or, alternatively, near Avenida de la Republica Argentina and Paseo de la Victoria a more cosmopolitan experience, but close to everything).
In particular, in the most economical segment, Goldsmith's Patios it is a perfect choice; O Sightseeing It is simple but with excellent quality / price; while the Hostal Osio one of the best hostels of Córdoba (for young travelers of spirit). Moreover, among large hotels, the Maciá Alfaros is one of the cheapest and most popular.
Being able to pay a little more, the beautiful Hotel Madinat is a risk-free bet, just like the inspirer Sightseeing. In any case, you will find the best hotels in Cordoba (for all tastes and budgets) in link below.
A World Nomads offers one of the best and most complete travel insurance recommended by National Geographic and Lonely Planet. Other excellent and cheaper option is IATI Seguros, which has no age limit and allows multivariate insurance (including long-term travel) to any destination in the world. It's the insurance I use in my travels.