on January 12, 2009
This would possibly be one of the most interesting religious buildings I have ever seen. The scale, the architecture and the history all combine to make a visit here very memorable. Today the structure is a Christian cathedral but for 400 years it was a grand mosque and the wonderful edifices of the two faiths have been miraculously incorporated into one.The site was originally home to the basilica of San Vivente which was constructed here in the 6th-century. Following the Islamic invasion of Cordova, construction of a mosque on the site of the church was commenced. This would eventually become the most important sanctuary of Western Islam in the world. The original construction was inspired by the Mosque of Damascus with its ablution courtyard and hall of prayer. The first additions to the basic structure were carried out within the first one hundred years. The courtyard and the aisles of the prayer hall were extended and the minaret that is now embedded in the tower of the cathedral was added. Later a major expansion occurred with the help of the Christian emperor Niceforo Focas. He sent Byzantine artists to the site and also provided the beautiful mosaics used in the area where the imam lead prayer.When King Ferdinand III reconquered Cordova in 1236 work began on a Christian chapel within the vast mosque. In the 15th century, the original palm trees in the courtyard were substituted by orange trees that now give this area its name. Major work was undertaken from 1523 to build a main chapel, transept and choir. The result was a Latin cross shaped plan and an ingenious integration of the mosque structures within the Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque creation. The various side chapels were the result of people wanting to be buried in the cathedral. Of particular note are the plaster works in the Royal Chapel where Kings Ferdinand IV and Alfonso XI are buried, the Chapel of the Immaculate Conception which was once the baptistery and the Baroque Chapel of Saint Paul.There is so much of interest here that it is almost overwhelming. The size of the Muslim structure, the richness of the Christian chapels and the way the two have been combined all need some time to absorb. It is one of the few buildings I have visited where I have unable to identify my favourite part. You really need to take a guided tour of the building to get an understanding of how it has developed. Sure, you can walk around and admire the various sections but the unique history here should be properly understood.
©Travelocity.com LP 2000-2009