Mosque and Cathedral create Spanish Masterpiece

By Cathy Portas


We are in Spain, walking through the Hall of Columns in the ancient Mezquita mosque in Cordoba, yet I cannot stop weeping quietly. No words are needed to explain my emotional reaction to being here within the magnificent unique Moorish architecture, dappled as it is in soft light. Etheral church music floats through the space creating a rare moment of silent, spiritual reverence.

We have come a long way to find this place.  From the moment I picked up a little book in the Art and Architecture series “ANDULASIA” by Brigitte Hintzen-Bohlen Konemann at our local bookshop in Port Elliott, South Australia, I began to dream and plan our trip.

In 785 Abdal Rahman 1st began constructing a new mosque on the site of a Roman Temple and excavations here unearthed Roman mosaics dated from the third century. Later, it became a Christian Basilica. The beauty of this place is that his successors continued to expand the mosque until 988.

It wasn’t until the 16th Century when the Christians conquered Cordoba, that the church fathers built a massive Cathedral in the middle of the mosque, leaving the original structure still standing around it. It is easy to see where the cathedral is joined to the original building;  it encapsulates the unique charm of their architectural masterpiece.

We are deeply affected by the physical and spiritual beauty of the mosque. Against the side wall of the Hall of Columns there are many ornate prayer niches, but it is the exquisite mosaic-covered ‘Mihrab’ or prayer niche with it’s tiled horseshoe arch,  which faces directly to Mecca. Above it is a spectacular dome topped by a magnificent cupola (main picture) and when we look up, the sight takes our breathe away.

The Columns surround the very middle of the space where we find the double-height Cathedral, where everything is very bright, and quite different in architectural style and, consequently, feel.  It is also beautiful to the eye and ornate, but I feel it is a tad ostentatious and intimidating after the simplicity and warmth of the mosque. I spare a moment to be grateful that the mosque was left, at least in part, for us to enjoy centuries later, and not destroyed completely.  Could it be that this structure reflects an era where the two religions co-existed happily and importantly respected places of worship over the centuries?

We sit and linger, so entranced by the beautiful columns that we find it hard to leave.


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