The history of the Mezquita de Cordoba is typical for this region of Spain, Andalusia. Many centuries ago, there was an ancient Roman temple on this site; then a Visigoth church; and in 785, the great mosque, Mezquita. This mosque became second in the world in significance, and the hegira to Cordoba was as important as the hajj to Mecca, canonical for every Muslim.
During the Reconquista in 16th century, the Christian church was constructed or to be more exact built right into the mosque. When Charles V, the King of Castile and Aragon, visited it, he said his now famous phrase “They have taken something unique in all the world and destroyed it to build something you can find in any city.”
Of course Mezquita/Cathedral de Córdoba became one of the “must see” points of our travel list. We even decided to stay in Córdoba for several nights instead of in Sevilla. Reasons? A number of attractions around Cordoba.
Irina, my wife, instructed us (I travelled with my son) to enter Mezquita right after the opening time, at 8:30, to avoid the tourist groups which usually arrive around 10:00, and to feel the sacral atmosphere of the ancient place of worship in seclusion. We did it, but we entered the inner garden of the mosque along with 200 other visitors. I don’t know if they were tourist groups or not, but they immediately took over the whole mosque and buried our dreams of silence, seclusion, sacral atmosphere, and tranquility.
However, Mezquita didn’t lose anything. Moreover, it has nothing to lose! It is so dim and dark inside that even an additional hundred shadows wandering around the numerous identical columns with striped arches can’t change the picture.
The poor illumination which barely prevents your forehead from the meeting with a column creates a mystical twilight which can hardly be associated with the forces of light. If anything, it feels like you have just crossed the Styx (the river in Greek mythology that formed the boundary between Earth and the Underworld), said thanks to old Charon for the transport, and entered the kingdom of the dead.
I attempted to shoot the most vivid fragments of Mezquita for you:
However, there is a bright place, the Christian insertion, in the middle of the mosque.
Your Majesty, with all due respect, the Christian fragment here is the only thing that made Mezquita interesting for visiting. Please, dont take this the wrong way, Islam is no worse that Christianity or vice versa. Just from an architectural point of view, the Christian part of the temple is executed much more finely than the Islamic one. Nevertheless such a combination of two temples in one is unique. There is nothing like it in the world, and probably this is the second reason why the Mezquita of Cordoba is worth visiting.
“The vast inner garden of Mezquita is planted with exotic flora,” we read in the guide. Really?! These “exotic” plants grow on every corner of Cordoba or Sevilla and in Andalusia in general (the most southern region of Spain): palms, orange trees, and cypresses.
A patio of the Mezquita de Cordoba.
Okay, okay, probably the rich collection of exotic plants from different corners of the world was concentrated here once upon a time, but these times are long gone, together with the best times of Mezquita. Although its minaret (now the bell tower) is gorgeous and photogenic, it’s much like every bell tower in Europe.