The Mezquita of Cordoba is the world’s third largest Mosque and along with Granada’s Alhambra Palace is the finest example of Islamic Art in the Western world. It dates back to 785 when Abd ar-Rahhman I founded the Mezquita on the site of an ancient Visigothic church which had previously been the site of a Roman temple. The Caliph of Cordoba actually bought the land for the Mezquita from the Christian community. Previous to this both faiths had shared the building.
Abd-ar-Rahman II (822-52) greatly extended the building during the 9th century and under Abd-ar-Rahman III (912-61) Cordoba became the largest and most prosperous city in Europe. Development of the Mezquita continued under his son Al-Hakim II (961-76) who doubled its size and employed Byzantine craftsmen who built a new Mihrab which still stands today. The final enlargement came under Al-Mansour (977-1002).
In all it took some two centuries to complete the building and the Great Mosque which became the main place of worship in Cordoba, a city of over 100,000 people and 500 mosques. Córdoba was captured by Ferdinand III of Castile in 1236 and a Christian church was built within the walls of the Great Mosque. For nine centuries the Mezquita has served as a Christian cathedral yet there is no mistaking its Moorish history.
Highlights of the Mezquita
Patio de Los Naranjos: This is the classic Islamic ablutions court where worshippers would wash before entering the Great Mosque. Christian changes made in the 16th century mean that the original openness of the mosque whereby all the 19 naves of the Mezquita were open to the court making them seem like an extension of the orange trees is no longer the case.
Aljibe: This is the water source for the Moorish baths.
Christian Cathedral: The original design of the mosque directed worshippers to the Mihrab but the locating of the Christian cathedral in the very centre during the 16th century makes it the “new” focus of attention.
Sala de la Oración: Here you’ll find more than 800 columns built on a former Visigothic church.
La Sala del Mihrab: This is the beautiful prayer room built with marble walls and covered in mosaics. In Islamic worship it had two purposes: it indicated the direction of Mecca (and hence prayer) and it amplified the words of the Imam (prayer leader).
Mezquita Tickets & Tours
There’s no need to buy tickets in advance (unlike at the Alhambra where tickets sell out), just go to the ticket office on Patio de Los Naranjos to buy them when you arrive. The majority of visitors are happy to stroll around with the free written guide which is available in various languages when you buy your tickets. There’s also a cheap audio guide that you can rent which teaches you the history of the building.
Please note that the Mezquita is not open for tourism purposes during a mass.