» 04/29/2004 Spain - Islam Cordoba's Mosque-Cathedral (profile)
The magnificent and austere mezquita gathers together both Christian and Muslim tradition, conferring upon it a fascination and unique testimony to each other's history.
In 785 the first Umayyad emir of Cordoba, Abd ar-Rahman I, conquered half of a church which dated back to the Visigoth period. He then built a mosque in its place.
Cordoba's increasing population pushed both Abd ar-Rahman II and Al-Hakim II, respectively in the 9th and 10th centuries, to expand the mosque and orientate its position toward the south (not toward Mecca).
The mosque's mihrab an octagonal niche where the Koran is read and prayer led, is prefectly preserved in its original Mecca-orientated position in the western wing of the cathedral.
In 1236 Ferdinand III of Castile won back Cordoba and transformed the mosque into church dedicated to the Assumption.
In 1523 a Renaissance-Baroque cathedral is built, tearing down the additions constructed by Muslims over time.
The first changes made by Christians were very limited, while in the 16th century the center of the mosque was demolished to allow for the construction of the Capilla Mayor and choir loft.
Of the 1300 pillars built by Cordoba's artisans, there are only 850 left in the building. The courtyard used for ablutions was changed into an orange grove and the minaret into a bell tower.