I texted my mom as soon as I got back in the Land of WiFi to tell her that we were definitely going back when she comes to visit this summer.
La Mezquita is truly indescribable.
But because I’m a journalist and stubborn, I never say never so I’m going to try.
La Mezquita is the product of a few thousand years of construction and re-construction by architects of multiple religions and the representative of religious coexistence.
For those of you who aren’t quite up-to-date on Islamic traditions, mosques are usually (read: 99.999% of the time) built to face Mecca. However, every single Andalucian mosque is built facing due south (read: not towards Mecca). Our guide said that no one has any firm idea why, but some historians think it’s in honour of the African origins of the Moors who conquered so much of Spain and introduced Islam in the country.
The Mezquita is actually several layers of religious sites:
First, a Roman temple (note: I know our guide said this and I have it written several times in the notes on my phone, but nowhere on the internet can I confirm this so do with this little tidbit what you will).
Second, a Christian Basilica (la Basilica de San Vicente) was built. Soon after, a mosque was built on the same site and the two religious buildings shared the space until a Muslim ruler tore it down to create the finished mosque that exists today.
The mosque was built using Roman materials. So the columns you see in these pictures are made from Roman marble (The marble you see is original and has never had to be replaced). The red and white of the arches is brick and stone respectively. Just like in Alcazar, the Mezquita represents an Arabic fascination with nature. The 800 columns are rightly called a “forest.”
Carlos V gave permission to the Bishop in Córdoba to build a Cathedral on the same site as the mosque, however, both agreed that it was important to preserve what was already built. That quickly went out the window as construction started and some smart architect said, “Hm, yes, I think the perfect place for this cathedral is right in the middle of the mosque. No other place will do.” He started building, and by the time Carlos V found out, it was too late to stop construction. (This is another story our guide told us that I cannot verify. But I like it so here it shall stay).
So that kind of sucks for the builders of the Mosque, but it’s great for us history nerds because it created a rich history of the site and a gorgeous sight. Here are some pictures where the Christian and the Muslim worlds meld together in the Mezquita.
If you ever find yourself in Spain, make. time. to. go. to. Córdoba. The End.