First extension by Abd al-Rahman II
During the reigns of Abd al-Rahman I’s two immediate successors, the mosque did not experience very significant changes, especially by Al-Hakam I (796-822). However, from the time of Hisham I (788-796) we still keep the courtyard door, called de los Deanes (of the Deans), with an old horseshoe arch, similar to those in the prayer hall. In the first part of the wall of the prayer hall he commanded the mida´a to be built, a pavilion with ablution fountains and humble latrines, which was used until Al-Hakam II demolished it to remodel that street. Besides, he commanded to build on the ceiling of the Aljama Mosque a protected enclosure to which access could be gained through stairs for the muezzin, the man in charge of summoning the believers to prayer five times a day. The courtyard or sahn was also completed. Finally, in the northern part, next to the courtyard, in a place which has not been archaeologically identified, the women’s gallery was erected.
But the most outstanding part of Hisham I’s intervention in the mosque was that, in the year 796, this emir finished the primitive minaret of the Aljama, whose location was marked on the courtyard by Félix Hernández. This minaret, probably the first built in Al-Andalus, was placed slightly on the right of the axis of the axial nave, it had only one stairway and a door and, according to Islamic sources, it was about 24 meters high.
The first important extension was carried out by Abd al-Rahman II (822-852) between the years 832 and 848. The directors of the works were the eunuchs Nasr, who started them, and Masrur, who continued them. The constructive system of arches and roofs was repeated, but with slight variations. Although the number of naves did not change, the size of the building was doubled –130 x 79 meters aproximately– and the number of columns in the hypostyle room reached 200. The wall of the qibla was moved south in 8 sections. From the wall of the old qibla, they preserved the pilasters in order to provide the arches with more support. The rows of arches were also considerably lengthened. After this extension, the prayer hall was 64 meters deep and it was almost square-shaped. The Emir wanted to highlight the central nave and the transverse wall of the qibla, which was done thanks to the decorations of the capitals. As for the galleries of the courtyard, only the west exterior wall remains. According to the sources, the side galleries rested on 19 columns each, while the one closing in the northern side had 23.
Patrice Cressier and Christian Ewert have proved how important the capitals were in the hierarchical organization of the individual elements in the prayer hall since the construction of the Primitive Mosque. In the original plan outlined by Abd al-Rahman I, the central nave of the mosque already constituted the symmetry axis for the distribution of the different types of capitals, of which some were reused for the building, especially those of the old Visigothic columns. However, in Abd al-Rahman II’s extension, they used Islamic copies of Roman and Corinthian capitals, yet their structure and construction were never classical. The shafts of the columns in this extension do not rest on bases. The columns of the macsura were carefully selected. Those columns have showy grooves, and the smaller ones in the mihrab had colorful marbles and beautiful capitals.
Muhammad I (852-886) finished the work of his father Abd al-Rahman II. In the year 865 the macsura was remodeled and between the years 855-856 the decoration of the façade was renewed. In 856 the decoration on the Door of the Viziers was finished. Also, probably during the reign of this emir, a new door on the central part of one side of the prayer hall was opened, as Félix Hernández discovered. According to what can be read on an inscription on the oldest remaining façade of the mosque, the director of the works was the fata Masrur, who was probably the same man who worked for Abd al-Rahman II.
Finally, during Al-Mundhir’s emirate (886-888), the Hall of the Treasure was built, and with his brother Abd Allah (888-912) the Sabat was erected, an elevated passage connecting the Andalusian Fortress (Alcázar) with the area of the macsura, of which there are only remains of the Door of San Miguel, through which the passage ended in the mosque. The Sabat was built to prevent the faithful from raising their eyes when the emir arrived and in order to protect him against potential attacks.
If you are not sure what to do in Córdoba, we recommend you visit the Mosque-Cathedral hiring one of our guided tours. We will explain there a special chapter of the extension commanded by Abd al-Rahman II. Choose to do high quality sightseeing with qualified staff. Do not hesitate, ArtenCórdoba is the best option.
Text: Jesús Pijuán.