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December 27, 2015

Spain: Córdoba, Catedral y Mezquita de Córdoba


The inside of the Catedral y Mezquita de Córdoba looks like a mosque...

The inside of the Catedral y Mezquita de Córdoba looks like a mosque…

It is not unusual for a cathedral in Andalusia to be constructed on the foundations of a Moorish Mosque. Indeed, post the Reconquista, the Spanish symbolically reasserted the supremacy of Catholicism by rebuilding mosques as churches. The Moors, as they occupied Iberia, had done the same thing: early Christian churches were recast as mosques when the Moors took control in the 8th Century.

Today many older churches in Iberia retain vestiges of their life as a mosque. In Seville, for example, the belfries of numerous churches were originally constructed minarets for mosques. Often it is easy for visitors to miss the details that indicate that a church was once a mosque. But this is not the case in Córdoba. The elaborate Cathedral of Our Lady of the Assumption sits architecturally juxtaposed in the middle of the extensive prayer hall of what was once Córdoba’s Great Mosque.

...and a cathedral.

…and a cathedral.

The Catedral y Mezquita de Córdoba is the central church of the Diocese of Córdoba. It could easily be used as a mosque also. The prayer hall is largely intact and the mihrab is in place on the wall facing Mecca. And there is precedent for sharing a religious building at this spot between the two religions; for 73 years after the Islamic conquest both Muslims and Christians worshiped in Córdoba’s original basilica.

For the now it is unlikely that proposals to share the Cathedral-Mosque of Córdoba between the Christians and the Muslims will be accepted. It is not merely the contentious times. There’s another very powerful force in the mix: the Mezquita de Córdoba is the second most visited tourist attraction in Spain. The Mosque–Cathedral of Córdoba functions today more as a tourist attraction than as an active church.

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The mihrab (left) and a Moorish arch (right)

The mihrab (left) and a Moorish arch (right)

Catedral y Mezquita de Córdoba is included as part of UNESCO’s Historic Centre of Cordoba World Heritage listing.

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The Bell tower from the Court of Oranges

The Bell tower from the Court of Oranges

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The prayer hall

The prayer hall

Inside the synagogue--Córdoba's historic Jewish quarter is adjacent to the Mosque-Cathedral.

Inside the synagogue–Córdoba’s historic Jewish quarter is adjacent to the Mosque-Cathedral.

The Puerta del Puente or "Gate of the Bridge"

The Puerta del Puente or “Gate of the Bridge”

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