Córdoba was our next stop, home to the exquisite Mezquita de Córdoba, the Great Mosque. Actually it’s a Roman temple turned Mosque turned Cathedral, a common occurrence in Spain. The layering of history and events in each place in Spain is remarkable, especially in Córdoba. The original Carthaginian city was conquered by the Romans in 206 BC, who formed a Roman settlement there. The famous playwright Seneca the Younger was born there just before the birth of Christ. I forget sometimes that Rome was an empire – you expect famous Romans to have been born in Rome, but this was not always the case. The Roman provinces provided many philosophers, writers and even emperors.
Córdoba was later conquered by the Muslims in 711 AD. It grew in prominence until the 11th century, eventually becoming the capital of the caliphate of Al-Andalus, the Arab name for southern Spain. It was the most populous city in the world in the 10th century with 500,000-1 million inhabitants and a center for learning and culture. It was reconquered by Ferdinand III of Castille in the 13th century and converted back to Christianity.
The Old Town and the Jewish quarter have been maintained, and we wandered through there on our way to the Mosque.
Our local guide has his PhD on the history of Córdoba and authored 5 books on the topic. He was much as I imagine the Bruce would be if he lived in Spain and gave tours for a living. Something to think about for retirement. We started our tour of the Mosque in the Court of Oranges – the stately, ordered garden designed to emulate the structure of the adjoining mosque. You can see the Bell Tower-minaret from across the courtyard.
Then we went into the Muslim Prayer Room with its candy-cane-striped arches. The immensity and detail in this place is distracting.
Title quote: Seneca, born in Córdoba in 4 BC.