“The Supreme Caliphate of Cordoba was set up in rivalry to the Abbasside dynasty of Baghdad and was so cultured, sophisticated broad-minded and fastidious a state that for a century southern Spain was the lodestar of Europe”, Jan Morris
Although the road was swinging encouragingly to the south it couldn’t keep us sufficiently ahead of the cloud and by the time we reached the city of Córdoba it was clear that we couldn’t outrun it and it beginning to overtake us.
It was still patchy as we parked the car but by the time we had set off for the centro historico its advance was relentless and it became quite gloomy, overcast and cold and we were all beginning to regret the lightweight clothing option that we had selected earlier. It was lunchtime so we looked for somewhere warm to stop and eat and came across a restaurant with a reasonable menu del dai at only €10 and we enjoyed a pleasant if not an especially spectacular lunch.
Outside the weather had not improved as we had dined and we were disappointed to find that one of the two principal attractions the Alcázar de los Reyes Cristianos was closed for the afternoon so we had to make do with the external views and move on to Córdoba’s Great Mosque.
Situated amongst a lattice work of narrow streets, patios and plazas in the city’s old Jewish quarter the Mezquita was once the second largest mosque in the world and at the completion of its construction this was the grandest and most beautiful mosque constructed by the Moors anywhere in Spain.
After the Spanish Reconquest, it was transformed into a church and today it is a Roman Catholic Cathedral and the main church of the diocese of Córdoba. This is the good things about buildings, when they are no longer required for their original purpose they can always be converted to some other use. All over Spain Mosques were converted to Christian Churches, Arab Alcazabas to medieval fortresses and more recently stately homes, haciendas and castles to modern Parador hotels.
It was getting even colder and there was a spot of rain or two so we were pleased to buy admission tickets and go inside in the warm for a while.
I think I can rightly say that the mosque of Córdoba is without doubt one of the finest buildings in Spain – the most original and the most beautiful. From the moment of entering the great court planted with rows of orange trees there was a feeling of peace and harmony which is quite different from the mood of religious holiness and austerity imparted by some Christian cloisters.
Inside it was immediately spectacular with almost a thousand columns of granite, jasper and marble supporting the roof and creating a dazzling visual effect. When the Cathedral was constructed in the sixteenth century some of these pillars and arches were removed which I suppose might be described as an act of vandalism but in actual fact, despite being a sort of cuckoo in the nest, the Baroque structure didn’t seem to be entirely out of place.
“To Cordoba belong all the beauty and ornaments that delight the eye or dazzle the sight.” – Stanley Lane-Poole – The Moors in Spain
Click on an image to scroll through the gallery…
It took some time to walk through the Mezquita and see all of the highlights and explore hidden dark corners and when we left and returned to the courtyard it had thankfully stopped raining and although it was still quite cold the temperature had thankfully risen a degree or two above zero. We walked for a while down by the river and crossed half way on the Puente Romano, which is an elaborate bridge that still sits on original Roman foundations and was used as another Game of Thrones location, this time the Long Bridge of Volantis.
On account of the weather we didn’t really see Córdoba at its best and the grey skies took the edge of the visit and because of that we walked back to the car stopping briefly for a drink and a warm in a café and then drove back to Carmona.
Once in the car there was a continual chorus from the back seat of ‘put the heater on’ and I had to agree that it was a bit chilly. We took the direct route back along the Autovia which confirmed that there were no tolls and as we drove west the weather started to improve and by the time we arrived back at our hotel the sun was breaking through again.
Across the square was a café bar called the Bar Plaza and later that evening, even though we hadn’t intended going inside, the owner spotted us in the street and shepherded us in through the doorway in a much practiced customer gathering round-up routine and before we had time to make our own decision he had taken drinks orders and provided us with menus and there seemed to be a sort of commitment to dine there. Actually it was rather good and we ordered a range of dishes and shared them between us.
When we left the Bar Plaza it was raining again so went straight back to the hotel where we had a last drink in the lounge and a hand or two of cards before going to bed at about midnight feeling a bit uneasy about the weather prospects for the next day.