Aleteia logoAleteia logo
Aleteia
Friday 24 September |
The Blessed Virgin Mary—Our Lady of Walsingham
home iconTravel
line break icon

The incredible mosque turned cathedral in southern Spain

CATHEDRAL OF OUR LADY OF THE ASSUMPTION

Michal Osmenda | CC BY 2.0

Inside view of cathedral

V. M. Traverso - published on 05/04/18

The combination of Western and Islamic architecture makes the “Mezquita” one of the most distinctive religious structures in the world.

The Cathedral of Our Lady of the Assumption, a Catholic cathedral in Córdoba, a city of 320,000 people in Spain’s Andalusia region, is the largest Catholic church in the country and one of the most fascinating places of worship in the world.

Click “Launch the slideshow” in the image below for an up-close look: 

Featuring a blend of  Visigoth, Roman, Byzantine and Moorish architecture, this 5.9 acre church stands as a testament to the diverse history of this part of the Iberian peninsula.

It is believed that the first building to be erected on its site was a Roman temple dedicated to the god Janus, which was later turned into a rectangular church by the Visigoths—a Germanic tribe who converted to Christianity after seizing Rome—when they invaded Cordoba in 572.

In 748–750, the Umayyads, a Muslim dynasty that ruled the Umayyad Caliphate, was overthrown by a rival family, the Abbasids. The last Umayyad ruler, Prince Abd al-Rahman I, fled to Southern Spain and gained control of much of the Iberian peninsula, setting up the kingdom of “Al-Andalus” that would eventually include Portugal, Southern France and the Balearic Islands.

Abd al-Rahman I, also known as “The Falcon of Andalus,” choose Cordoba as the capital of the new territory and tried to recreate the grandeur of his Damascus palace in the Spanish city. He ordered that the Visigoth church be transformed into a majestic mosque, with grounds featuring plants and flowers imported from Syria.

Between the years 883 and 987 the mosque underwent further expansion ordered by Abd al-Rahman’s successor, including the creation of a new minaret and the completion of the orange tree courtyard and the external naves.

In 1236, King Ferdinand III of Spain seized control of Cordoba as part of the “Reconquista”—a campaign led by Christian states to take back territories occupied by Muslim rulers—and turned the “Mesquita,” as the mosque was called, into a Roman Catholic church.

However it was not until the 16th century that new “Christian” elements were added to the existing Islamic structure. In 1523, Bishop Alonso Manrique ordered the construction of a cathedral within the mosque featuring Western elements such as Baroque altar vaults and Renaissance domes. The minaret, a tower used in mosques to call the faithful to prayer, was enclosed by a squared bell tower.

This combination of Western and Islamic architecture makes the “Mesquita” one of the most distinctive religious structures in the world.

It is composed of a large prayer hall, an external courtyard surrounded by a covered walkway and a gorgeous orange grove.

The internal prayer hall features a series of red-and-white arches made of stone and red brick standing over 856 twin columns, giving it a strong chromatic identity and labyrinth-like effect.

The main focal point inside the hall is a Moorish style horseshoe-arched “mihrab” (a niche that serves to indicate the point closest to Mecca inside mosques) which now serves as a prayer niche. The horseshoe arch is a one of the most distinctive elements of Arabic architecture and it features in multiple locations inside the mosque-church, including the lower tier of arches in the prayer all and the entrance arches.

The imposing “mihrab” is decorated with gold and glass tesserae that create a brilliant combination of blue, brown, and gold when light shines in. Above the arch stands an equally impressive dome made of a ribbed vault decorated in gold mosaic following a radial pattern—a forerunner of the Gothic vault style.

As architectural historian Nuha N.N. Khoury put it, Cordoba’s mosque-cathedral “lies at the crossroad between past and future,” combining influences from the ancient Umayyad tradition with new architectural elements that originated across centuries in the constantly changing cultural and religious paradigms of Al-Andalus.

Each year, an estimated 1.5 million tourists from all national, religious and cultural backgrounds visit this impressive landmark that stands as an architectural testament to the vibrant and diverse culture of Andalusia.

Tags:
ArchitectureChurch History
Support Aleteia!

If you’re reading this article, it’s thanks to the generosity of people like you, who have made Aleteia possible.

Here are some numbers:

  • 20 million users around the world read Aleteia.org every month
  • Aleteia is published every day in seven languages: English, French, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, Polish, and Slovenian
  • Each month, readers view more than 50 million pages
  • Nearly 4 million people follow Aleteia on social media
  • Each month, we publish 2,450 articles and around 40 videos
  • We have 60 full time staff and approximately 400 collaborators (writers, translators, photographers, etc.)

As you can imagine, these numbers represent a lot of work. We need you.

Support Aleteia with as little as $1. It only takes a minute. Thank you!

Daily prayer
And today we celebrate...




Top 10
1
SLEEPING
Cecilia Pigg
7 Ways the saints can help you sleep better at night
2
OUR LADY
Philip Kosloski
An alternative Hail Mary to Our Lady of Sorrows
3
Our Lady of La Salette
Philip Kosloski
How Our Lady of La Salette can give us hope in darkness
4
PRAY
Philip Kosloski
Pray this Psalm when you successfully recover from an illness
5
Tolkien
Philip Kosloski
Why J.R.R. Tolkien loved to attend daily Mass
6
ANMOL RODRIGUEZ
Domitille Farret d'Astiès
Attacked with acid as a baby, Anmol Rodriguez overcomes and inspi...
7
CHILDREN, PRAY, ROSARY
Aid to the Church in Need
What happens when a million children pray the Rosary?
See More
Newsletter
Get Aleteia delivered to your inbox. Subscribe here.