British author Gerald Brenan wrote about this impressive Arabian mosque, the third-biggest in the world with a surface area of more than 23,000 m2, calling it one of the most beautiful and original buildings in all of Spain.
The Mezquita brought life to the Califal style, combining Roman, Gothic, Byzantine, Syrian and Persian architecture and was the starting-point for all Arabian-Hispanic architecture for centuries to come, right up to the Mudejar-style of Arabians living in a Spain re-conquered by the Christians.
Caliph Abderraman I built the colossal hall, containing of 11 naves and consisting of 110 columns, the capitals of which were taken from old Roman and Byzantine buildings. Above, there is a second row of arcs (then an architectural novelty) that created a unique ambience of light and shadow.
Abderraman II added 8 more arcs in 833 with columns of white marble taken from the Roman amphitheater of Merida.
In 961 Alhakem II built the minaret Mihrab and the Kliba with its cupola of entangled arcs, both being amongst the major attractions today. The most recent and important enlargement was made in 987 by Caliph Alamanzor, which doubled the original size of the mosque, adding columns of blue and red marble. As the enlargement could be made only towards the West, the river Guadalquivir in the South and the palace of the Caliph in the East being very close, the mosque of Cordoba is the only one that doesn’t have the Mihrab as its central point. The other pecuiarity is that it is not orientated towards Mecca, but towards Damascus – perhaps because of nostalgic feelings of Abderraman I, who expressed in his poetry how much he was missing the mosques of his home-town.
Around the Mezquita
In its interior there rests the palace of the epoch of the Goths which later became Alcazar Califal, palace of the Arabian Caliph. This palace was abandoned when the court changed to Medina-Azahara, but served again as a residence for the Kings of Taifas.
Puerta del Puente
This door was originally part of the Arabian walls, but later modified in the Renaissance style.
A Roman bridge over the Guadalquivir river consisting of 16 arcs and once forming part of the Roman Via Augusta. In the central part of the bridge a monument to San Rafael was added, the town’s patron in the 17th century.
Torre de Calahorra
An Arabian fortification at the Southern end of Puente Romano, originally consisting of two towers and connected by an arc to which a third tower was added by the 14th century.
Along the river there are Moorish mills, the most important of which is the Mill of Albolafia, which pumped water up to the gardens of the Alcazar. Vis-a-vis there is a Baroque monument to San Rafael of 1781.
Alcazar de los Reyes Cristianos – The palace of the Christian Kings
Built in 1328 by Alfonso XI, this was the main residence until the reconquest of Granada.
The Moorish Caliph Boabdil was held prisoner here. In the interior of the palace there are remarkable Arabian baths, Roman mosaics and a sarcophagus of of marble from the 3rd century. Originally there were four towers at the corners of the Alcazar, three of which can still be seen today: the Torre de Los Leones, the oldest, which forms the entrance to the palace, the octagonal Torre del Homenaje and the round Torre del Rio. The fourth tower, Torre de la Vela, was destroyed in 19th century.
The Jewish quarter, going back to the time of the Romans and Goths, was always an important cultural and intellectual center. Monuments remind to the most important sons of Cordoba: Roman philosopher Seneca , Arabian philosopher Averroes and Jewish philosopher Maimonides.
Here you can find also one of the few synagogues existing today in Spain, this one built in 1315. Close to it there is the Bullfight-Museum. In the Zoco you can find traditional artisany and in summer watch Flamenco performances.
Further attractions are the Chapel of San Bartolome in Gothic-Mudejar style, the Casa del Indiano and the 11th century minarets which today form part of Iglesia de San Juan and Convento de Santa Clara, respectively. In Calle de Comedias there are old Arabian baths.