While sites like the Sagrada Familia, the Alhambra, Santiago de Compostela, and the Guggenheim tend to dominate Spain’s tourism scene, attracting hordes of tour buses daily, our undisputed favorite was actually a bit of a surprise.
Found in Córdoba, a town of just over 300,000 people with a small town feel, the Mezquita is an ancient site of both Muslim and Catholic worship. Easily one of Andalucia’s most important historical sites, the surrounding city adds to the allure with narrow winding streets, preppy white and yellow painted houses, and an almost complete absence of cars in many of the neighborhoods. Criminally, few tourists visit this gem of a town, but those who do venture here are immersed in a city with an astounding amount of history.
The Mezquita has held importance as a site of worship since the 7th century and it’s influence as a Muslim Caliphate (government capital) helped Cordoba grow to one of the largest cities in the world. As a result, Cordoba holds the distinct honor of having been both a Roman provincial capital and a capital of the Arab state of Al-andalus. It’s importance in the Muslim world even rivaled Damascus during medieval times. Our visit quickly became a long term affair inside this amazing building, exploring its never ending rows of red and white Muslim arches and sitting in awe in the Cathedral’s pews where Baroque, Renaissance, and Gothic architecture intersect.
| Exterior with ornate Moorish doorways and Catholic belltower (via)|
|Roof line showing the elevated Cathedral (via)|
|Muslim details over a doorway|
|Original orange grove in the courtyard|
Worship on this site dates back to the Visigothic Church of St. Vincent in the 7th century, the remains of which are still visible via plexiglass floor sections inside the Mezquita. As well, many artifacts from the ongoing archaeological excavations are on display inside.
After the Muslim conquest of the Iberian Peninsula, the church was converted into a mosque beginning in 784 AD. Each subsequent ruler added his personal touch, enlarging the interior or adding a minaret, until it reached current size in 987 AD where it stood as one of the most important sites in the Islamic world until Cordoba was reconquered by King Ferdinand III in 1296.
|Remains of the Visigoth Church under the current site (via)|