Orange trees Courtyard
In Muslim times, the courtyard of the Mosque was used very differently to Christian times. It was first used to teach, hold trials and, obviously, since it was opened to the exterior of the prayer hall, there was a closer relationship with the sacred place. When the Christians arrived, the prayer hall was closed as the chapels were opened on its northern side. The courtyard, demystified, started to have those characteristics of a square annexed to the Cathedral, and it was used as a garden, amusement place or even as a cemetery.
The oldest testimony of the courtyard being used after Fernando III the Saint reconquered the city dates back to the year 1263, when the Gómez de Alcázar family requested to be buried in "the cloisters of Saint Mary". Back then, each gallery was formed by horseshoe arches displayed in series, whose spandrels had small round-arched alcoves. Over the arches there was a decorated cornice and, at the top of the ensemble, a series of stepped battlement.
At the beginning of the 16th century, under the mandate of Bishop Martín Fernández de Angulo (1510-1516), Hernán Ruiz I, Senior Master of the Cathedral at the moment, remodelled the three galleries from Hisam I’ times (757-796). The façades facing the courtyard started to have a totally different plan, divided in sections with three elevated round arches and framed by alfiz, where each section was separated by a big buttress, which was semicylindrical and its lower part was poligonal at the top. Most of the capitals were reused, and many of the ones supporting the old galleries of the Muslim courtyard were used, or those belonging to the group moved from the Chapel of Villaviciosa. We should remember that, at this moment, Hernán Ruiz was going to carry out the first works of the new Main Chapel.
We have evidence of the existence of orange trees in the courtyard since 1512, although we do not know their initial distribution or number. At the end of the 16th century, Brother Gregorio de Alfaro wrote that the courtyard had "…a beautiful group of orange tress which captures the sight of everybody entering that sacred temple…". At the beginning of the next century, Bishop Francisco de Reinoso commanded some walls to be demolished in the courtyard and he restructured it, making it pass, as Nieto Cumplido puts it "…from orchard and farmyard to garden". We know its distribution at the end of the 17th century thanks to Tomás Fernández Moreno: "…everything made in small stone… divided in three very spacious sections (he is referring to the different plots) where there are nearly 80 orange trees, about 12 cypresses and 3 palm trees… There is also an olive tree and there are more being planted…". The current layout of the Orange tree courtyard is very similar to the Baroque, with the only variation being the number of trees.
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 Orange tree courtyard. Choosing to do high quality sightseeing is choosing ArtenCórdoba.