Medina Azahara, the "bright city".
Medina Azahara (Madinat al-Zahra) or the "Bright City", for Muslims, was built on the hillside of the mountain range of Córdoba (on the Chabdál al-Arus or "Mount of the Bride") in the northwest of the city of Córdoba. It is one of the most important archaeological sites in Spain, and it was commissioned by the first Caliph from Córdoba, Abd al-Rahman III, an-Násir ("The Victorious").
Medina Azahara was conceived as the new headquarters of the caliphate and as the residence for the Caliph. However, it was not only a palace, but a real city with a complex urban organization, inside which the civil and military administration of the new State was carried out. The palatial city also became a symbol of the independence of the Umayyad leader from the oriental Islamic caliphates, the Abbasid from Damascus and the Fatimid from Egypt. With its building, Abd al-Rahman III confirmed that he accepted the title of Caliph, which he deserved, and everything that it meant: in the year 929 he proclaimed himself the highest political and religious leader of Islam as prophet Mohammed’s successor and prince of the believers. As such, he deserved to rule and live in a monumental building according to the greatness and symbolism of his dignity.
However, in order to understand the importance of Medina Azahara, we need to understand that, although it is essentially an archaeological site, from an artistic point of view it is one of the most original monumental sites from Hispanomuslim architecture and Islamic art in general. This is due to the fact that neither its structure nor its decoration has been altered with later modifications. Therefore, the exhumed remains in the excavations allow us to have a very close idea of their look in the past.
Medina Azahara must, therefore, be considered one of the essential reasons why Córdoba should deserve to be appointed cultural capital in the year 2016 (although the Mosque-Cathedral should be enough reason), and this makes it necessary to focus on the promotion of the cultural heritage of Córdoba among the population of the city and also abroad. Apart from being "World Heritage City", Córdoba must prove its modernity when emphasizing its heritage to take the challenge mentioned for 2016. But this will only be achieved through the knowledge of our history and monuments.
Our aim is to provide the general public with knowledge about the historic and artistic heritage of the city in a pleasant, reliable and simple way both for the lay reader and for university students of Arts. Besides, we intend to provide with a great amount of quality graphic or photographic material, which is frequently present in research works whose access could be difficult for the readers or taken in situ.
Apart from this introduction, our explanation will include an approach to the history of the capital of the caliphate, "Córdoba in the 10th century". Afterwards, we will make a brief summary of the archaeological research about Medina Azahara. Next, we will include a general description of the site, followed by an analysis of the main remains found in the excavations, focusing on the most interesting artistic and archaeological aspects. Finally, we will provide important tourist information.
If you wish to know the palatial city of Medina Azahara, do not hesitate to hire one of our guided tours. We are experts in the interpretation of the historic heritage from Córdoba. If you have chosen to do sightseeing in Córdoba, choose a high quality option, choose ArtenCórdoba.
Text: Jesús Pijuán.