The Mosque: Cultural Heritage of Humanity.
The declaration by UNESCO in 1984 of the Mosque-Cathedral of Córdoba as Cultural Heritage of Humanity, and its inclusion on the list of those deserving this privilege, are but proving a reality. This monument has become a symbol of the city of Córdoba, and one of a highly rich past. But, above all, it is the city’s distinguising mark in the world. Thus, one automatically and inevitably relates Córdoba with the current Cathedral. When hearing the word ‘Córdoba’, the first thing that comes to most minds is the Mosque.
And it is not only a reason for people from Córdoba to be proud of, but it also creates admiration in visitors due to its impressive ensemble, and the extremely rich beauty of its elements and decorations. Obviously, the building does not leave anyone indifferent, whatever their feith, and, of course, it raises both great respect and veneration in the Muslim world. It is, undoubtedly, the work that best symbolizes the creative genius of the civilization where “The Thousand and One Nights” appeared, and its monumental character and beauty can be compared to such genius.
Besides, the fact that the old Mosque has been working as a Christian Cathedral adds a very important value: we are facing one of the monuments with a more ancient history in Spain. This “longevity” makes the study of the building even more fascinating, especially if we take into account that, despite being currently in use, it does not cease to provide us with information, a topic which is not closed.
The utilization and reuse of the current Cathedral for centuries make its study more complex due to the numerous transformations that have been carried out throughout the years, although it has always had a relevant religious and worshipping function. In fact, first of all, it was the Basilica of Saint Vincent in Visigothic times; towards the middle of the 8th century it was reused as a Mosque by the Muslims; and it has been used as a Cathedral since the Reconquest of Córdoba by Fernando III el Santo (the Saint) in 1236. If it is complicated to study the monument in its Islamic period (after the Visigothic precedent), it is even more so to summarise its evolution as a Cathedral, with all the transformations implied in converting the temple to the Christian faith: Late Middle Ages, Humanist and Baroque periods, up to the 18th century and the beginning of the restoration of the Mosque-Cathedral in the 19th and 20th centuries.
For this reason, in the following sections we will try to provide a description as complete as possible of the historic and artistic evolution of the Mosque-Cathedral, where we will have to omit several interesting aspects, in order to achieve the necessary brief summary of these "pages". We are aware that we could be accused of this defect, although we will try to emphasise the more outstanding aspects without losing the whole perspective (from basilica to Mosque and, of course, to Cathedral). As an excuse, the architectonic and artistic richness of the building is so great that it is almost impossible to deal with all its elements and details in a summary. We believe that the numerous images that accompany the already complete information we include on the Mosque-Cathedral could be used as explanation and compensation for the unavoidable omissions.
After this brief but appropiate introduction, we have prepared a short analysis (under the title Historiography) about the different excavations and restorations carried out in the building, especially mentioning the architects and archaeologists who led them. Right afterwards, we will study separately the Visigothic, Muslim, and, finally, Christian constructions. In the case of the Visigothic one, we will especially mention the excavation led by Félix Hernández, which has provided a great amount of information that was unknown up to now. As for the Muslim construction, we have studied the meaning of the Mosque as a sacred Islamic temple and its meaning in the Muslim world. Furthermore, we have organized the analysis of the building starting from the Primitive Mosque, which Abd al-Rahman I commanded to build at the end of the 8th century, and going through the contributions by each emir and caliph. Next, we will have a look at the study of the building after the conquest of the city in 1236 by the Christians, describing the areas considered more interesting, and highlighting the Royal Chapel or the Cathedral Transept, in the heart of the Islamic building.
If you wish to visit the Mosque-Cathedral of Córdoba, do not hesitate to hire one of our guided tours. We are expert in the interpretation of the historic heritage of Córdoba. If you have chosen to go sightseeing in Córdoba, choose a quality option, choose ArtenCórdoba.
Text: Jesús Pijuán.