THE CITY OF THREE CULTURES
For this day in Cordoba, I am accompanied by some friends I’ve met during my language course in Granada. Some of us take the bus and the other a rental car (that’s us). We leave Granada shortly after 9am to get in Cordoba around 11am. One day in Cordoba seems more than enough to see the main monuments.
When we arrive, we find a parking place near Guadalquivir River and follow it until we reach the Roman Bridge. The group formed by the Great Mosque, Guadalquivir river and the Roman Bridge is one of the most exquisite views of Cordoba. First erected in the first century, this 16 arches bridge was remodeled several times during its history, the most recent intervention dating back to 1876. On the right, we can see Calahorra Tower, a fortified gate built during the second half of the 12th century by the Almohads to protect the Roman bridge of Cordoba. This tower was declared a Historical Monument in 1931 and restored in 1951.
We have an appointment with the other people from the language school at the Alcazar, but we still take some time to admire the view from the bridge and take some pictures. The day promises to be sunny, what else do we need? Once at the end of the bridge, we are facing the Puerta del Puenta or the Bridge Gate.
It is located on the site of ancient Roman and Moorish gates that connected the city to the old bridge over Guadalquivir river. The construction of a new gate, wider and more modern was decided by the governor of the city Arteagale Alonso Gonzalez on February 15, 1572. The architect was Hernán Ruiz III. The structure has a central passage surrounded by two Doric columns on each side and topped by an entablature of classical style. We pass through the gate and make our way in the old town.
We finally arrive at the Alcazar and find our friends who took the bus and who have just arrived. Perfect, so we can directly visit the Alcazar of Cordoba.
At the same time palace and fortress with solid walls, the place holds much of the architectural evolution of Cordoba. Visigoth and Roman remains coexist with those of Arab origin on a majestic site that was the favorite place of the various rulers of the city. When Cordoba was conquered by Ferdinand III the Saint in 1236 the building, part of the old Califal Palace, was completely devastated. Alfonso X the Wise began its restoration which continued during the reign of Alfonso XI.
Construction is nearly rectangular shape, with long walls of hewn stone and flanked by four corner towers (those of the Lions, the Tribute, the Inquisition and the Doves). Inside, the various dependencies are situated around patios with beautiful exotic flowers, herbs and lush. The orange trees are especially beautiful at this time of the year!
Of the two patios, Mudéjar draws more attention for its beauty and its marble floor. The murmur of the water flowing in canals and ponds refreshes the mood and relaxes the tired visitor. The extensive surrounding gardens give an idea of monumentality and splendor, this is clearly my favorite part of the Alcazar.
Before continuing our tour inside, we enter a courtyard with a garden, a pond and many orange trees. Again, a wonderful view!
We are now entering inside the renovated part of the Alcazar and visit the various rooms and corridors. All have for ceiling Gothic vaults in stone and are decorated very simply with paintings and tapestries here and there.
Of all the rooms, a small baroque chapel stands out: the Mosaics Room in which are displayed Roman mosaics from the basement of the Corredera. Under this room are the baths of Arabic inspiration, divided into three vaulted rooms with star-shaped skylights. These communicate with the boiler located in the Tribute Tower.
Before leaving the Alcazar, we climb on one of the four towers and walk on a small part of the ramparts. From there, we can admire a great view of both the gardens of the Alcazar and the old town, including the mosque-cathedral.
After this visit, it is time to eat. After searching a few minutes, we decide to eat at a local Tapería. Unfortunately, no pictures or the name of the place, but the tapas are excellent and in sufficient quantity. After this meal, we head towards the Mosque-Cathedral!
The Mosque-Cathedral of Cordoba (World Heritage Site in 1984) is the most important monument of the entire Islamic West and one of the most surprising of the world. In its history is summarized the complete evolution of the Umayyad style in Spain, in addition to the Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque styles of the Christian construction. We enter the main patio covered with orange and palm trees and are buying our entrance tickets.
The place now occupied by the Cathedral Mosque seems to have been, since ancient times, dedicated to the worship of various deities. Under Visigoth rule, the Basilica of San Vicente was built on the same site, on which were built later – with the purchase of part of the land – the original mosque. For a time, Christians and Muslims have shared this rectangular basilica. When the Muslim population grew, the basilica was acquired in its entirety by Abderramán I and definitively destroyed to build the First Alhama Mosque or principal mosque of the city. Nowadays some constructive elements of the Visigoth building are integrated in the first section of Abderramán I.
The Great Mosque has two distinct areas, patio or Sahn and its porch where the minaret stands (under the Renaissance tower) – only intake of Abd al-Rahman III – and prayer room or haram. The interior space is organized in a harmony of columns and bicolour arcades of great chromatic effect. The enclosure is divided into five areas, each corresponding to the different enlargements which were made.
Even at the entrance price of 8 EUR – which may not be very cheap for some – a cathedral in a mosque (or the other way around, your preference) is something to see at least once! Both of the buildings are extraordinary, thanks to its size and the richness of its ornaments. What a pleasure to walk inside, a must-do activity!
Once our visit is complete, we are having a drink on a terrace before walking around the Juderia (Jewish quarter), towards squares and gardens through the main bus station. It is towards the end of the day that our two groups split up to return to Granada, after a wonderful day in Cordoba!