Third and last enlargement of Almanzor
At the end of the 10th century, the population of Córdoba had increased with the arrival of African immigrants and this made it necessary to extend the mosque again. The idea of extending southwards was ruled out as the river Guadalquivir was too close. With these works, Almanzor (976-1002) also wanted to clearly show the power he had as a dictator, but without undermining the authority of the caliphs. That is why he did not demolish the previous extension. For this reason, 8 naves were added along the western side of the building, including the courtyard. The result of the extension, where the architects copied the structure of Al-Hakam II’s construction, thus reducing costs and removing the unnecessary, made that part of the mosque become much more similar to a military construction, and gave it a useful feature, which reflects the Amiri dictator’s pragmatism and sense of discipline.
The shafts are made in grey jasper, in different degrees, but quite uniform. The capitals belong to the Composite order, although in the area parallel to Al-Hakam II’s extension, they are alternated with the Corinthian ones. The higher pillars strengthen the structure with round modillions with an intermediate stripe, and the arches separating them have stone voussoirs, although they pretend to alternate stone and brick by using a paint, as can also be seen in Medina Azahara.
The façade of the prayer hall was inspired in the one built by Abd al-Rahman III, but the thickness of the wall was reduced in a half, which caused the closer arches to be reinforced. Consequently, there is a double narrower section in this place, with a higher pointed and horseshoe arch, and the supporting arch has five lobes. This makes this building solution the most original of the whole extension. The qibla was plainly built, with only one wall with its corresponding exterior buttresses. Almanzor’s imitative intention was such that the resulting walls of the qiblas were unnecessarily copied from the previous extensions.
A sign of Almanzor’s pragmatic sense and his theoretical respect towards the continuation of the Umayyad title of caliph is the lack of inscriptions remembering the builders, although it is known that Abd Allah Ibn Muhammad was in charge. The only ones that are preserved are inside the prayer hall, where the stone carvers, most of them Mozarabic, carved their names on the shafts of the columns.
The connection between the old naves and the last extension of the mosque was through big arches opened on the old eastern façade. They are double horseshoe arches reinforced in pairs of columns with strong bases. The new eastern façade had 7 doors, inspired in those by Al-Hakam II, and the ones that are best preserved are those which were restored at the beginning of the 20th century by Ricardo Velázquez Bosco with the help of the sculptor Mateo Inurria Lainosa (1867-1924).
As for the extension of the courtyard, it is important to point out, first of all, that 4 doors were opened, one of which is in the same place as the street where the old eastern façade of the mosque was, and, finally, the construction of the famous square cistern, divided in 9 vaulted spaces.
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 Almanzor. Choose to do high quality sightseeing with qualified staff. Do not hesitate, ArtenCórdoba is the best option.
Text: Jesús Pijuán.