Date: Dec, 2014
Location: Cordoba, Spain
The Mosque-Cathedral of Cordoba (proclaimed a World Heritage Site in 1984) is arguably the most significant monument in the whole of the western Muslim World and one of the most amazing buildings in the world in its own right. It was the most important and one of the largest Mosque of it’s time, and the complete evolution of the Omeyan architectural style in Spain can be seen in its different sections, as well as the Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque styles of the Christian part.
The site which the Mosque-Cathedral occupies has been used for the worship of different divinities since ancient times. Under the rule of the Visigoths, the Basilica of San Vicente occupied this site. It was rectangular in shape, and for a while was shared by both Christians and Muslims. Later, after the Muslims bought part of the land, a primitive Mosque was built. As the Muslim population increased, the ruler Abd al Rehman I acquired the whole site and demolished the basilica to make way for the first main Mosque of the city. Some of the original building materials from the Visigothic basilica can still be seen in the first section of the Mosque built by Abd al Rehman I.
A surprising feature of the Mosque is that it was built facing south, just like the Mosque of Damascus. Several possible explanations have been given for this fact, but the most likely explanation is that the sandy ground around the River Guadalquivir made it impossible to build the Mosque facing Mecca. The main focal point inside the Mosque is the mihrab (prayer niche) where the Imam lead the prayers.
The great Mosque is made up of two distinct areas, the Orange Tree courtyard, with its porticos (the only part built by Abd al Rahman III), where the minaret stands (now encased in the Renaissance bell tower), and the prayer hall. The area inside is made up of a forest of columns with a harmonious color scheme of red and white arches.
The use of horseshoe arches was borrowed from Visigothic art, but it later became a trademark of Islamic architecture. The rows of arches dividing each nave are on two levels: on the lower level, a horseshoe arch, and above that, a semi-circular arch. The alternating stone and brick work gave the Mosque its characteristic two-tone appearance and set a model for future Islamic buildings. The double arches provided that the ceiling was higher and the interior was better lit. It is believed the idea may have been adopted from the Roman aqueduct of Los Milagros (Mérida).
In the early 16th century, Bishop Manrique got the permission from Carlos V (Charles V, King of Spain) to construct inside the Great Mosque. Both, the Bishop and the King, agreed that the expansion made under the rule of Alhakem II should be respected and preserved.
In 1523, the construction of the Cathedral began under the direction of the Spanish architect Hernán Ruiz I. After many discussions, they decided to insert the Cathedral in the very heart, which meant tearing down the center of the Mosque. After the death of the architect, his son, grandson and Juan de Ochoa continued the work.