Is the Cordobla 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 Cordobla 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 Cordobla built in its place. Its construction continued for the next 200 years, until the completion of the orange tree patio. When Cordobla 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.
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. Salvaged columns were not high enough to support the ceiling at the required height. Column height was increased using a double horseshoe arch. 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 meter high.