MOSQUE - CATHEDRAL

Door of Saint Stephen

On our way along the western side of the Mosque-Cathedral, we find the Door of Saint Stephen, which is probably the richest and most representative, as far as its artistic quality is concerned, that we still preserve from the Muslim period. A manuscript dated in the middle of the 18th century states the following: "…the next door, of Saint Sebastian, as it is opposite that hospital…". Miguel Salcedo Hierro, chronicler from our city, claims that the door was described in this way by Ramírez de las Casas Deza, that is, as the "Door of Saint Sebastian", obviously taking its name from the nearby hospital, but, due to a later mistake, it was called Door of Saint Stephen, as it is known today.

Through this door one could access the prayer hall of the Primitive Mosque, built in the times of Abd al-Rahman I and, therefore, from the 8th century. However, it experienced a great remodelling in times of Muhammad I, in the 9th century, who paid special attention to the construction of a new horseshoe arch, different to the previous one, and to the carving of decorative motifs, as well as the important inscriptions we will explain shortly. As we mention with the Door of the Deans, the layout is similar in all the doors, with a lintelled alcove over which there is a blind horseshoe arch with alfiz. In this case, it is crowned by a stone rood supported by round modillions and, over it, there is a series of stepped battlement.

If we focus on the arch, we will notice that the cutting of the voussoirs was made by alternating brick and stone, and they are decorated with symmetrical vegetable elements. It is interesting to see that even their inner part, the intrados, is decorated.

But if the artistic value of the Door of Saint Stephen is unquestionable, its historic value is probably higher, since an inscription in kufic characters, which goes along the intrados of the arch and the horizontal higher part of the lintel, goes as follows: "In the name of Allah, Most Graceful, Most Merciful. The Emir (blessed by Allah) Muhammad ben Abd a-Rahman commanded to build the… of this Mosque and its foundations (Allah’s mercy be with him and accompany him). And it was completed… the year two and forty one (241 of the Hegira and 855 AD) with Allah’s blessing and his fortunate protection". Its relevance lays in its date, the year 855, which means this is the oldest inscription in the building.

If you are wondering what to visit in Córdoba, the best option would be the Mosque-Cathedral, choosing one of our guided tours. This way, you will learn everything about the Door of Saint Stephen. Choosing to do high quality sightseeing is choosing ArtenCórdoba.

Text: J.A.S.C.

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