Monday, September 26, 2011

La Mezquita

one of the 19 doors of the Mezquita
For our summer holidays, we decided to continue with the Spanish theme which started back in June in Madrid. This time around we went south to explore Andalusia and what better way than to start with Cordoba.  

Cordoba, (along with Granada, but this is a subject for another post), has always seemed to me to be a place of myth and legend, not to mention history.  During Roman times, Cordoba ruled the Andalucian province and its wealth was legendary. Little surprise then that the Muslim invaders chose to invade Cordoba in 711. From then until the 11th century, Cordoba was the capital city of Muslim presence in the Iberian peninsula.  At its peak in the 10th century, Cordoba was famed for the peaceful and harmonious co-existence of three religions--Islam, Judaism and Christianity.  It had the best universities, libraries and mosques, the most dazzling of which is the Mezquita.

Here one enters into a magical place, a forest, if you will, of pillars topped by red and white arches. A forest but one filled with space and lightness.  And while I am one of the hundreds of visitors traipsing through its halls, it doesn't take away the feeling of being somewhere hallowed.   Everywhere I turn I see  a different play of light among the pillars and the effect can be overwhelming.  But imagine how luminous it must have been when all of its 19 doors used to be open.

Emir Abd ar-Rahman founded the Mezquita in 785 on the grounds of a Visigothic church but his successors extended the Mezquita until it stood as one of the biggest mosques of its time. Imagine it used to have 1293 columns, of which 856 remain today. The  mihrab or the prayer niche indicate the direction of the Mecca and its wall is gorgeously and richly decorated with "1600 kg of gold mosaic cubes". 

The mihrab portal
After the Christians captured Cordoba,  a cathedral was constructed in the middle of the Mezquita.  And strange as it may seem, the two structures co-exist beautifully. Somehow the pillars and arches of the Islamic Mezquita magnificently set-off the Catholic retablo.  This peaceful co-existence of two religions structures within one is a good lesson for all of us to learn.

The retablo is composed of jasper and marble
Here one can see the juxtaposition of the church on the mosque

One of the halls
Returning to the bright outside world can be a bit disorienting.  So its a good idea to linger a bit in the Patio de los Naranjas  (Courtyard of the Orange Trees) before setting off to explore the charms of the medieval quarter the surrounds the Mezquita.


  1. oh thanks for this wanderlust-inducing post!!! i am fascinated by mosques and medreses and that stone forest looks magical! reminds one of that song "Arabic streets of Seville, Oranges roll in the gutter..." one of my dreams is to explore the Alhambra. :) i also like seeing buildings that have been houses of worship to different religions.

  2. Ohh, the South of Spain is so deilghtful - thanks for taking us on the journey!

  3. Beautiful and well-written post pinkprincess! :) You wrote it so well that I felt like I was on the tour with you!