The Great Mosque of Córdoba

The Great Mosque of Córdoba, an architectural gem nestled in the heart of Spain, encapsulates the intricate tapestry of cultural and religious transitions that have shaped the Iberian Peninsula. Shortly after the Muslim conquest of southern Spain in the 8th century, Abd al-Rahman I, the Umayyad Emir of Córdoba, began construction in modest imitation of the Great Mosque of Damascus. Resting above a forest of columns, the double horseshoe arches, with alternating red and white voussoirs, create a striking visual effect. Exemplifying the artistic prowess of Islamic Spain during its cultural zenith of the late 10th century, al-Hakam II extended the Mosque and commissioned an ornate mihrab (prayer niche) decorated with floral, geometric, and calligraphic designs. Additional elements such as a skylight and maqsura (ruler’s enclosure) feature superimposed and intersecting polylobed arches that captivate the viewer with their rich complexity. Shortly after, the Mosque was extended yet again, transforming the space into one of the largest in the Islamic world.

However, as Christian forces reclaimed Spain, the fate of the Great Mosque hung in the balance. In 1236, Córdoba fell to King Ferdinand III of Castile, and the Mosque was consecrated as a Christian cathedral. Subsequent rulers integrated Christian elements into the existing Islamic structure, leading first to the construction of a cathedral nave and then the light-filled Renaissance choir and transepts.

In modern times, the site’s significance has become a focal point of debate and preservation efforts. Designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, its dual identity stands as a testament to the historical narrative of religious and cultural interactions that shaped medieval Spain.

The drawings on display were produced on site during a research trip to Córdoba in June 2022. Some artwork is for sale; contact for details.

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