on July 11, 2012
Cordoba's greatest days of glory came after the Moorish invasion of 711 AD. It was around 780 that work began on the Mezquita, which - after many years of continual enlargements, became one of the largest Mosques in all Islam. The city eventually became the capital of the independent Moorish kingdom of El-Andalus in 929.In the 11th century it was one of the most important cities in Europe (in fact it was more than twice as large then as now), with people of many different cultures - Jews, Muslims and Christians - all living together harmoniously and giving birth to many important philosophers, artists and men of learning - one of these was Ben Maimonides (112-1185), the Jewish theologian and namesake of our hotel.When the city was reconquered by the Christians in 1236, the new rulers were so taken with the absolute beauty of the Mezquita, that instead of tearing it down, they built their Cathedral slap bang in the middle of the rows of arches and columns. Thus they created the amazing, and unique church-mosque that stands there today.To say that the MEZQUITA is impressive is like saying Spain produces the odd bottle of wine. It's quite stupendous. It's the third-biggest in the world with and has been called the most beautiful and original building of all Spain. It's built in the Califal style, which combines Roman, Gothic, Byzantine, Syrian and Persian elements and all the Arabian-Hispanic architecture that followed was influenced by this building.You enter through the courtyard adorned with orange trees and resplendent with fountains and water channels - a peaceful oasis you might think, but not when it's invaded by thousands of chattering school kids. This courtyard is a bit of a sun-trap, but on approaching the entrance, we were met with a blast of ice-cool air from the building's interior - those Moors knew a thing or two about air conditioning.We were a little apprehensive of visiting the Mezquita as from our hotel we could see the convoys of day-trippers descending on the city, and we thought it might just be a little crowded. True, it was busy, and there were large numbers visiting, but the place is so incredibly huge that it really didn't matter. Also, because of the large number of pillars and arches - it's almost like a petrified forest - everyone seems to have their own space.It's hard to describe the magnificence of the architecture, it's simply breathtaking.I thought the Mezquita might be interesting, but nothing can prepare you for the splendour and the sheer, awe-inspiring grandeur of it all.To give you some idea, right in the middle of this forest of columns and arches lies a Cathedral which would be mightily impressive in its own right were it situated in its own space, but it somehow seems insignificant within the massiveness of the Mosque. It's not insignificant, far from it.After the reconquest, the Christians consecrated the Mosque to be a Cathedral and the Royal Chapel was added. In 1523 the Church and the Crown decided to build the Cathedral inside the original Mosque. This took 234 years, so the style transforms from Gothic to Baroque and Renaissance. One of the criticisms of the construction is the fact that most of the doorways of the Mosque were blocked up making it a far gloomier place now than when in its original state. However, the Cathedral IS an imposing building - it's just dwarfed (though not in height) by the Mezquita.Unusually for Spain, the Mezquita remains open all day (10.00-19.00), foregoing the traditional siesta.
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