If there is something I’ve learned in my time in Andalusia (the southern coastal region of Spain) is that it was a very wanted area by the Moors, Jewish and Christians, everyone fought for it, had control over it, and ultimately 2 of those groups lost it.
One of the most visited sites in Córdoba is La Catedral-Mesquita, a current Catholic cathedral that was once a mosque. When Córdoba first became a town, it was populated by Catholics, and therefore there was a basilica in the center of the town. The Basilica Visigoda de San Vicente… But in the 8th century, when the Moors took over Córdoba, they built a mosque over the basilica. The moors were known for building at a different ground level than Catholics, their structures were higher up from the ground than the basilica was, and because of that, we can still see some of the remains of the basilica. In the middle of one of the wings of the mosque, there is a glass on the floor which allowed us to see the remains of the basilica.
The Moors were in Córdoba for over 3 centuries, and in that time the moorish population expanded immensely, this forced the rulers to expand the mosque, which lead to it becoming one of the biggest mosques in the world. This mosque is full of impressive architecture, having a literal forest of double arches, which were built with stone and brick, and giving it a beautiful color which makes for great pictures. The moor population grew so much that this mosque had to undergo 3 different expansions, having over 25 wings.
After the Spanish reconquered Córdoba they needed to build a cathedral, a central part of a Catholic town. The mosque was so big that the Spanish weren’t able to tear it down, and therefore decided to place the cathedral in the middle of the mosque, leaving parts of the mosque around the cathedral but becoming a place of only catholic worship… this seems a little troubling and strange to me since it’s such a symbol of dominance over one another. Islam and Catholicism are two completely different religions, with different beliefs, cultures, etc, so building a cathedral( a place of worship) in the middle of another place of worship seems a little aggressive, but I guess to each his own. FUN FACT:When I came back home and told my host parents about my trip, my host dad told me that some of the extremist Muslim groups in the area are asking the Catholic church to let them pray and worship in the mosque, but the Catholic Church has refused all petitions since they own the site and it’s a place of Catholic worship.
Despite this expression of dominance and superiority that I didn’t really appreciate, it was amazing to walk around these Arabic structures. One moment I was looking at arches and curls typical of Arabic architecture, and then all of a sudden BOOM! a beautiful white and gold wall, full of images I was familiar with appeared… Once we entered the cathedral area I was amazed to see the detail in every area of it, the ceilings were amazing, and although it had a completely different look than the mosque, it was pretty cool to see how they were able to incorporate such a different and detailed structure into such a big mosque.
Finally, after visiting the Catedral-Mezquita we made our way to the Alcazar de los Reyes Cristianos, a palace built for the Spanish royalty in the 1300s. Although the architecture of this palace wasn’t as impressive as the one in the Alcazar de Sevilla, at this Alcazar we were able to go up the towers from which the soldiers usually kept watch, which was pretty cool. The gardens of this Alcazar were also beautiful, and they had a great view of the city.
This week my class at Universidad de Sevilla starts and I’m super excited!!