Architecture / Interior /

Mosque and Mass: Mosque–Cathedral of Córdoba

By Anton Adianto

Córdoba’s period of greatest glory began in the 8th century when the Moorish conquest and 300 mosques, palaces and public buildings were erected to rival the grandeur of Constantinople, Damascus and Bagdad. The Mosque-Cathedral of Córdoba or also known as the Mezquita (Spanish for “Mosque”) is a breathtaking and intriguing building that designates the many religious changes Córdoba has encountered over the centuries. Now, the Mezquita is officially the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Assumption, but the vast majority of its art and architecture is the work of Islamic architects, who built it as a mosque, 13 centuries ago.

Before the mosque was constructed, the site has long been a sacred space that was host to Roman temple devoted to Janus, and a Visigothic church dedicated to St. Vincent of Saragosa.  When Muslims conquered Spain in 711 AD, the church was first divided into Muslim and Christian halves. In 784, Christian half was acquired by Emir Abd ar-Rahman I who then demolished the entire structure and built the grand mosque of Córdoba on its ground. The mosque held an original copy of the Koran and an arm bone of the prophet Mohammad under Abd ar-Rahman II. Abd ar-Rahman III applied a new minaret in the 9th century, while Al-Hakam II expanded the plan of the building and added the mihrab in 961.

In 1236, Córdoba was captured from the Moors by King Ferdinand III the Saint. The Great Mosque was converted into the Cathedral and the Catholic Church elements were added inside the mosque in the early 13th century when King Alfonso X attached two chapels. Enrique II reconstructed the chapels while Carlos V built a nave, the main body of the church. One Baroque choir was allocated in the middle of the mosque by Charles V circa 1520. Artists and architects continued to add to the place of worship structure until the late 18th century, forming the Mezquita an impressive architectural phenomenon. In 1984, the Córdoba’s historic center, including the Mosque-Cathedral of Córdoba, was added as one of UNESCO World Heritage site. This building is also the most important monument of the entire Western Islamic world.


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