After Fernando III the Saint took the city of Córdoba in 1236, it is well known that Christian re-conquerors looted materials from buildings erected by the Muslims in order to build their own civil and religious constructions. The so-called "New Córdoba", the Christian city, used as resources the ruins of the Muslim city, the "Old Córdoba" and used it as a quarry. This situation went on for centuries. Thus, in 1408, the city council (city hall) allowed Inés de Pontevedra to get materials supplied from a quarry in the Old Córdoba for the building of the convent of Saint Jerome of Valparaiso, in exchange for some fields bordering those ruins.
The first one to suggest that these ruins had historic relevance was the chronicler from Córdoba Ambrosio de Morales, in the 16th century, although he dated them in Roman times by mistake. In 1625, Pedro Díaz de Rivas, also from Córdoba, claimed that they belonged to the Muslim Córdoba, more specifically in times of Abd al-Rahman III, but without guaranteeing what monument they belonged to. It was in the 19th century, in the year 1853, when the remains found in the meadow of the “Old Córdoba” were identified as the old city from the times of the caliphs, called Medina Azahara, thanks to the scholar Pedro de Madrazo, great expert in the translations of Arabic texts that were being carried out in Europe, where they usually mentioned the palatial city. However, the excavation of the field identified by Madrazo did not start until 1911,with economic support from the Government, and the architect in charge was Ricardo Velázquez Bosco. In 1923 the remains were declared National Monument.
Although Velázquez Bosco’s work is praiseworthy, the “golden” times of the excavations in Medina Azahara can be considered the period between 1924 and 1976, under the order of the architect Félix Hernández Jiménez, who was helped by the Arabist from Córdoba Manuel Ocaña Jiménez. From 1976 to 1984 the restoration of Medina Azahara was led by architect Rafael Manzano Martos.
In 1984, the Junta de Andalucía (Regional Government), took cultural responsibilities and was in charge of the excavation and restoration works in the site, led by archaeologist Antonio Vallejo Triano. Currently, he has been continuing for more than twenty years an extensive research about Medina Azahara, which still holds many surprises.
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. Choosing to do high quality sightseeing is choosing ArtenCórdoba.
Text: Jesús Pijuán.