Basilical Hall - House of the Army
This building was the waiting hall for those people who were going to be received by the Caliph in Medina Azahara. It housed, according to some writings of the time, the offices of two important figures: Ziyah ibn Affah, senior equerry, and general Galib. For this reason, the most likely identification of this Basilical Hall is the House of the Army (Dar al-Yund), built around the years 955-960. With a basilical floor, it has five longitudinal naves -three in the centre, which are the main core, and two exterior ones on both sides- with an orientation north-south and a transversal nave occupying the width of the previous ones, with a small room on both ends. The axial nave has a triple horseshoe arch and the rest, a doble one, all of which constitute the access doors from the transversal nave. The arches are supported by capitals made in limestone, where there is an alternation of simple carving, red marble shafts (from Cabra), Arabesques, deep carving, with blueish grey shafts (marble from the mountains of Córdoba).
The only existing doors –of which only the jambs are preserved– are located in the alcoves communicating the further naves of the core with the transversal one, which shows the direct connection of the transversal nave with those in the main core and its isolation compared to the exterior naves. As for the decoration, we can highlight the absence of stone plaques, the cladding of the wall coverings with lime and sand mortar painted in almagrared and white (which were also used in the voussoirs of the arches), and the intention to pretend the use of bricks through a red plaster over the stone voussoirs.
The Basilical Hall was not attached to the wall, as there was a corridor separating and connecting the Northern Gate with an important house located in the northwest of the ensemble, which was used as the residence or reception hall for a senior official. From this house, we preserve in the northern side three rooms which are displayed perpendicularly to the wall, opening to a courtyard paved with blocks of stones, with galleries on the northern and western sides.
At the end of the Basilical Hall there is a large square, whose original pavement is not preserved, but we do preserve some remains of the blocks of stone in the centre of the northern side, where a trough for the horses was located. The square is surrounded, on its eastern and western sides, by an arcade gallery between pillars –transformed into a garden in 1960–, and on one of its sides –the one facing the main façade of the building– there are no remains of the jambs that might suggest the existence of doors entering the transversal nave from the outside. For this reason, we cannot think of the existence of an open gallery, as it is the case on the other sides of that square.
On the western side of the square, there is the entrance to the stables of Medina Azahara, displayed in the long space between the official and private sections of the palace, divided lengthways in two spaces by a gallery of pillars. The horses were arranged on the eastern side, with enough space to hold a maximum of twenty five animals. The hay loft was located in the higher part. The western half, at a lower level and steeper, is an open-air space targeted to cleaning chores in the facility. Finally, on the southern side of the terrace, there are remains of a big building arranged around a central courtyard paved with blocks of stone and surrounded by a gallery of pillars at least in two of its sides, although only one of them is still standing. Due to the pillaging suffered, there are barely any remains of the rooms and pillars, but we do preserve three solar clocks, which gave the room the colloquial name of Courtyard of the Clocks.
If you are wondering what to visit in Córdoba, a good option would be the archaeological site of Medina Azahara, choosing one of our guided tours. We will explain there a special chapter dedicated to the Basilical Hall or House of the Army. Choosing to do high quality sightseeing is choosing ArtenCórdoba.
Text: Jesús Pijuán.