Day Trip to Cordoba
I take the high speed train from Seville to Cordoba. Leaving the station I walk the two kilometres to the Mezquita. I do not immediately enter but instead continue to the Guadlquivir and cross the Roman bridge which spans it.
I am standing on the southern side of the Guadalquiver, in the warm Andulasian sun, over-looking the Roman bridge. In my view also lies the Roman Gate and the Cordoba Mezquito. The bridge dates from the 1st century BC but has gone under many modifications, including a major restoration in 2006. The gate was the gate into a walled Roman city.
To my eye the exterior of the Mezquito does not look very impressive. "Is it really the architectural wonder that I travelled from Seville this morning, in the high speed train, to see?" To discover the answer, I walk back over the bridge and into the Mezquito.
Is the Cordoba Mezquita a mosque or a church? How many other places in the world do people say "I am going to the Mosque to attend mass?"
The Visigoth Basilica of San Vicente occupied the location when Cordoba was conquered by the Muslims in 711. The church was divided into a Christian half and a Muslim half. When the Christian half was purchased by the Emir 'Abd al-Rahman I in 784 the structure was demolished and the Grand Mosque of Cordoba built in its place. Its construction continued for the next 200 years, until the completion of the orange tree patio. When Cordoba was conquered by the Christian King Ferdinand III of Castile in 1236, the central area of the Mosque was converted into a Catholic church.
The Mezquita can be regarded as a cathedral surrounded by a mosque or a mosque with an internal cathedral. Cost of entrance, is 9 Euro. An optional auto tour can be purchase for 3.50 Euro.
Upon entering the prayer room the first thing to strike me was subdued light and the rows and rows of marble columns arranged linearly in every direction. Of the original 1293 columns, 856 still remain. The wall separating the patio from the prayer hall did not exist in Islamic times. As the salvaged Roman columns were not high enough to support the ceiling at the required height double horseshoe arches were used to increase the height. Alternate red and white bricks increase its asthetic appeal. Horseshoe arches were common in Visigoth architecture.
Ceiling supports are a combination of Roman and Visigoth styles. There is a small Visigoth Museum in the prayer hall.
In most Mosques the mibrah, a niche or mark in the wall which identifies the qibla, the wall which points in the direction of the Kbaal in Mecca. Muslims kneel to prayer in this direction. Mecca is south-east of Cordolba but the qibla points south. The reason for this is not really known. One explanation is the qibla follows a previous Roman road; another is the the Umayyad Ruler, exiled from Damacus, wanted it to face the same direction as the qibla in Damacus.
Another function of the Mibrah is to amplify the voice of the Imam leading prayers. Here acoutics are also enhanced by a shell-shaped ceiling carved from a single block of marble. The mibrah area is decorated with Byzantine mosaics of gold.
Cathedral of St Mary of Assumption
The current cathedral dates from the Renaissance period, between 1523 and 1599.
Patio and Bell Tower
The bell tower, built on the site of a previous mineret, is 93 metres high.
After spending several hours inside the Mezquita tells me: "Yes, it is the the architectural wonder that I travelled from Seville to explore"
Alcarzar de los Reyes
Alcarzar de los Reyes was a bonus visit. A gift of the long summers day. An Andulasian summer's day reminds me of summer days on the plans of New South Wales around Wagga-Wagga coupled with the long Tasmanian summers day. It was fairly late when I arrived. In winter, it would have been sunset.
The Visigoth and Moor, have occupied the site. However in spite of its Islamic appearance the current structure was built after the Christian conquest of 1236. Though it was once a palace, today it is not very palatial. Only the Roman mosaics are of interest.
The castle, 4100 square meters and square, was rebuilt in 1327 by King Alfonso XI. It had towers at every corner. Today three remain, connected by battlement protected walkways. Many views of Cordoba can be seen from the walksways; the Romain Bridge and Water Wheel; the Royal Stables and the Castle Gardens.
Highlight of the Alcarzar de los Reyes, for me, is the 55000 square meter gardens. It has a wide variety of trees such as lemon, palm, pine, orange and cypress. Fountains are located at path intersections. However the sense of relaxation is provided by sound, the sound of jetted water hitting water in the long ponds. I could sit for hours, in a semi-trance, listening.
Originally some of the water to the castle was supplied by the Albolafia waterwheel. Queen Isabella did not like the noise it was making and had it disassembled.