Córdoba was the largest city of Roman Spain and due to its strategic importance as the highest navigable point of the River Guadalquivir, it became a port city of great importance, used for shipping Spanish olive oil, wine and wheat back to Ancient Rome. The Romans built the bridge crossing the river, now called "El Puente Romano". Córdoba was however the capital of the Moorish kingdom of El-Andalus, and this was when work began on the Great Mosque, or "Mezquita", which – after several centuries of additions and enlargements – became one of the largest in all of Islam and the most beautiful in all of Spain. When the city was reconquered by the Christians in 1236, the new rulers of the city were so awed by its beauty that they left it standing, building their cathedral in the midst of its rows of arches and columns, and creating the extraordinary church-mosque we see today.
Córdoba’s charming treasures include the Alcazar, or Fortress, built by the Christians in 1328; the Calahorra Tower, originally built by the Arabs, which guards the Roman Bridge, on the far side of the river from the Mezquita, and the ancient Jewish Synagogue, only 3 survive in all of Spain, which is now a museum. A Mudéjar construction dating from 1315 the interior includes a gallery for women and plaster work with inscriptions from Hebrew psalms. Córdoba’s medieval quarter, once the home of the Jewish community, is called "La Judería" (The Jewry), a labyrinth of winding, narrow streets, shady flower-filled courtyards and picturesque squares such as La Plaza del Potro. . In early May, homeowners proudly festoon their patios with flowers to compete for the city’s "most beautiful courtyard" contest.
The Mezquita dates back to the 10th century when Córdoba reached its height under a new emir, Abd ar-Rahman 111 who was one of the great rulers of Islamic history. At this time Córdoba was the largest, most prosperous cities of Europe. The development of the Great Mosque paralleled these new heights of splendour. It’s entrance is via the Patio de los Naranjos, a classic Islamic ablutions court which preserves both its orange trees and fountains. When the mosque was used for prayer, all nineteen naves were open to this court allowing the rows of interior columns to appear as an extension of the tree with brilliant shafts of sunlight filtering through. A first glimpse is something really special. The architect introduced another, horseshoe shaped arch above the lower pillars. A second and purely aesthetic innovation was to alternate brick and stone in the arches, creating the red and white striped pattern which gives a unity and distinctive character to the whole design.
The Mihrab - This traditionally had two functions in Islamic worship, first it indicated the direction of Mecca (therefore prayer) and it also amplified the words of the imam, the prayer leader. At Cordóba it is particularly magnificent. The shell shaped ceiling is carved from a single block of marble and the chambers on either side, are decorated with exquisite Byzantine mosaics of gold. The Cathedral - In the centre of the mosque squats a Renaissance cathedral which dates back to the early sixteenth century while, to the left is the Capilla de Villaviciosa built by Moorish craftsmen in 1371.
Population: 326,609 (2016)
Area: 1,253 km²
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