Cordoba – the city of tolerance
Three main tendencies used to characterize the destiny of our ancestors´ heritage: destruction, desertion or replacement.
Few are the constructions which were preserved during times of conquest and which can testify to the culture of their people.
The city of Cordoba has one of those rare buildings that has the heritage of two cultures preserved. But the city showed us more than its famous attraction.
The meeting point of two cultures
It´s unclear whether a Christian church or some sort of Visigoth building was on the place where the Mosque of Cordoba is standing today, but it is well known that the construction of the Great Mosque of Cordoba was ordered by Emir 'Abd al-Rahman I and the work began in 784. It took about two centuries to build the mosque and the minaret and by the end of the first millennia it reached its current size.
The mosque was converted into a Catholic cathedral after King Ferdinand III of Castileconquered Cordoba in 1236. Due to this change today the Mosque is also referred to as the Cathedral of Cordoba or the Mosque-Cathedral of Cordoba.
From the outside the construction is surrounded by old, tall walls that carry the traces of the centuries they witnessed. The facades are simplistic, only the gates have some Mudejar style architecture.
Entering the gates we arrive to the orangery, a huge square with orange trees. Under them benches are aligned in a long row, and by noon they have a good shadow where you can take a rest between visiting the mosque and climbing the minaret.
The interior of the mosque offers a spectacular view. The jasper, onyx, marble, and granite columns are amazing. Though not altogether in a row, when you look at them from the edge, they look perfectly aligned.
The double arches which allow the ceiling to be higher was a new design invented by the architects who constructed the mosque.
After the Reconquista, Christian elements were built in the mosque and today the Cathedral blends together Muslim and Christian ecclesiastical design. The interior is so large, and has so many paintings, statues and architectural elements that remained both from the Muslims and the Christians, that it takes hours and several rounds to check them all. It´s particularly beautiful how the combined design elements of two cultures create a unique place, and experience for visitors.
Fun fact: there are several windows which color the walls and the floor. You will get colored if you stand in the light of the window.
The triumphal gate of Cordoba
From the Mosque we went to the monument of San Rafael archangel and the Gate of the Bridge which are only a few steps away.
This gate is replacing the old city gate, and though its construction began in the 16th century, due to the supposed debt of the city, it was only finished by the beginning of the 20th century.
It was meant to be the official entrance to the city of Cordoba and is placed at the beginning of the Puente Romano.
The arcades over the Guadalquivir
The Roman bridge of Cordoba crosses the river Guadalquivir. It was built by the Romans in the 1st century BC and was reconstructed by the Moors in the 8th century.
The current design contains mostly the Moorish architectural influence and it has 16 arcades. The Gate of the Bridge (Puerta del Puente) is on one end of the bridge, the Islamic Calahorra Tower is on the other.
It is reserved to pedestrians and offers a beautiful view of the river Guadalquivir which has several islets. On one of them is the Molino de la Albolafia, an old mill which initially served for water irrigation and later as a flour mill. In 1492 Isabel la Catolica ordered the mill to be dismantled as she couldn´t bear the noise it produced.
Columbus meeting Isabella I and Ferdinand II
Near the mosque and the Roman bridge is The Castle of the Christian Monarchs, Alcazar de los Reyes Cristianos. It was built in the 14th century and it functioned as the residence of Isabella I of Castile and Ferdinand II of Aragon in Cordoba.
Not much is left of the interior of the Alcazar. The two towers Torre de los Leones and Torre de Homenaje are still standing and can be visited. From there we get a beautiful view of the Courtyard of the Moriscos (Patio Morisco).
In the middle of the garden a statue is immortalizing the moment when Christopher Columbus met Isabella I of Castile and Ferdinand II of Aragon while preparing for his first journey to the Americas.
The fountains in the garden are beautiful and by noon the sunshine falling on the water drops is forming rainbows.
The Synagogue exceeding the limits
In the Jewish quarter of Cordoba you can visit the Cordoba Synagogue. It was built in 1315 and it comprises of a courtyard, an entrance hall, the prayer hall and the women´s section.
The Synagogue is smaller then the mosque or the other Christian churches, due to the limitations imposed on the Jewish community by the Catholic church in the 14th century.
However, the construction is still impressive due the Moorish design comprised of latticework and floral patterns and its unusually tall ceiling that defied those restrictions. The walls are decorated with verses from the Psalms.
Tap the bulls head
Close to the Synagogue in the Jewish Quarter is the Bullfighting Museum (Museo Taurino Cordoba) open to the public in its current form since 2014.
The museum presents the life of the bull and the matador and has the intent to show bullfighting as an expression of intelligence winning over the physical force.
The desire of opening a museum originates from the fact that Cordoba has had a tradition of bullfighting for centuries and locations like the Plaza de la Corredera, Plaza de la Magdalena, Campo de la Merced and the current Coso de los Califas (Caliphs Bullring) were and are still hosting the event.
All these sights are really close to each other and you can visit them in one day.
The Mosque is special for it wasn´t destroyed as other Moorish constructions after it was taken over, and today it blends the heritage of two cultures, which fought each other for centuries and are still in contradiction.
Therefore, it can be seen is a symbol of agreement, tolerance, creativity and peace.