Under the arches, Cordoba cathedral

The mosque of Cordoba (Mezquita de Córdoba) or the Great Mosque of Córdoba is a medieval Islamic mosque that was converted into a Roman Catholic Cathedral.

Within its imposing walls is a unique blend of Moorish and Christian religious styles, reflecting the altering fortunes of the city as it was conquered and re-conquered throughout the years.

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The building is most notable for its incredible prayer hall, with 856 columns of jasper, onyx, marble, and granite that stretch out as far as the eye can see.

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These were made from pieces of the Roman temple which had occupied the site previously, as well as other destroyed Roman buildings, such as the Mérida amphitheatre.

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The focal point in the prayer hall is the famous horseshoe shaped, richly gilded prayer niche or mihrab.

A mihrab is used in a mosque to identify the wall that faces Mecca—the birth place of Islam in what is now Saudi Arabia.

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In 1236, Córdoba was conquered by King Ferdinand III of Castile in the ‘Reconquista’, and the mosque was converted into a Catholic church.

Whereas the Islamic mosque is characterised by its lack of imagery, the Catholic cathedral is sumptuously decorated with religious iconography, gilded paintings and cherubs singing to the skies.

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The most significant alteration was the building of a Renaissance cathedral nave right in the middle of the expansive structure.

This airy white structure that seems to throw itself open to the heavens is in marked contrast to the darker, almost gloomy forest of columns that surround it.

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The kings who followed added further Christian features, such as King Henry II rebuilding the chapel in the 14th century. Here’s the ornate paint work on the Chapel of Sagrario’s roof.

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The minaret of the mosque was also converted to the bell tower of the cathedral. It was adorned with Santiago de Compostela’s captured cathedral bells.

It is set in the Patio de Los Naranjo (courtyard of the orange trees) the beautiful courtyard at the entrance to the Mezquita.

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