In every city there is one attraction that is deemed a ‘must-see’. For the city of Cordoba, Spain most people cannot draw a breath without listing the Cathedral of Cordoba, or the Mosque of Cordoba among the ‘must sees’. They are the same building you see; this undisputed holy ground also has two histories.
The present day name of this building is the Cathedral of the Assumption of Our Lady. It is indeed a functioning Roman Catholic Church and a Cathedral since 1236. The Cathedral of Cordoba is unlike any other church we have seen thus far on our little ABC (Another Blessed Cathedral) tour. It is half Catholic altar and half Mosque. It is filled with Mosque like arches and with paintings of Catholic Saints. It is walked through in hushed tones and in silent prayer because one does not know which way to go first but surely in this place, unlike anyplace else on this earth, no matter what you call him, God is listening.
From the beginning of modern time this land has held a church. First a Roman Catholic Church from 1 AD to 600 AD, which is when the church was lost in a military campaign by the Visigoth Kings and taken by the Muslims. The city of Cordoba was then ruled by and a fair and incredibly wealthy Caliph and he saw no problem with both religions using the building for prayer. He did however begin the construction of a Mosque on and around the Church.
Construction of the Mosque began in 784. Construction ended in 987. As is always the way construction was begun by one ruler and various changes, improvements, new adornments and new ideas were tacked on by other rulers of the area over time.
It must be said that a respect for both religions is undeniably visible inside this holy place. Even during the construction of the Mosque the Roman columns from the Catholic Church were incorporated into the construction. Most striking on entry is the 856 columns and double arches of the Mosque construction.
In 1236 the city of Cordoba was once seized as a spoil of war and this time it was King Ferdinand III of Castile who turned the building back into a house of worship for the Catholics. He did not however tear down or destroy the Mosque. He further added to its design and turned the minaret into a bell tower which still stands today. At the top of the bell tower he placed a statue of the archangel St. Raphael, patron saint of Cordoba.
The incredibly stunning Renaissance nave was purposefully built-in the center of the structure beginning in 1523 and it incorporated the caliphs gothic, renaissance and baroque creations into its design. This was not the end of the construction however and chapels and other adornments were continuously added up until the 18th Century.
Built around the outer walls are 45 chapels to various saints. Each chapel is unique in design and adornment. The chapels were built by believers as their final resting place. Each is dedicated to a patron saint.
The Mosque of Cordoba; the Cathedral of Cordoba is today a World Heritage site. The cost to enter is 6 euro’s. There is no time limit for your visit. Our visit lasted three hours. The flyer we were handed on entry says welcome to the Cathedral of Cordoba.
This is a house of worship with a long and turbulent history. It began as consecrated holy ground and a roman catholic church. After the city of Cordoba was seized in war the building was added to and used as a mosque; it remained a mosque for almost 500 years until such time as the city of Cordoba was once again conquered and became a spoil of war. Leaving the mosque intact but adding a royal chapel it was converted back into a catholic church this time adding 45 chapels and a nave created in its center. Layer upon layer of history has been added to this building but in all cases the original building was never torn down and destroyed. Every conqueror of the city of Cordoba has simply added to the structure.
Did each conqueror of Cordoba mean to keep constructing around the building before it? Why did no ruler destroy or demolish completely the structure they found standing? The Cathedral of Cordoba is striking because it is unlike any other Cathedral in the world today. No other building that I am aware of has incorporated so much of two religions into its standing structure.
Calling this building the Cathedral of Cordoba, or the Mosque of Cordoba, does it an injustice. It is not either one, but both. It is the epitome of what all religions preach; love thy neighbor as you would love thyself.